Microsoft announced its gains in mindshare with 15,000 developers building apps for its recently launched Windows Phone 7.

The number of developers signing up with Microsoft reveals an 80 percent increase in mindshare compared to 13,000 developers in September. Windows Phone 7 currently flaunts a list of 3,000 apps.

However, Microsoft has a long gap to bridge as its competitors Apple iPhone and Android are way ahead in terms of captured mindshare. Apple boasts 300,000 apps while Android has around 100,000 apps.

Microsoft can easily score over Apple and Android on the strength of its existing troop of developers for its gaming console Xbox. Also, it has the ability to seamlessly transfer its Microsoft Office apps to Windows Phone 7.

While ubiquitous apps are fast becoming a measure of success of smartphone, tablets and OS platforms, the app developers themselves have certain criteria which guide their choice of OS platforms.

According to a report by Visionmobile which charts the overall trajectory of app developers from conception to deployment of apps, some key decisive factors that guide a developer are:

Choice of OS

The developer's choice of a platform is largely guided by commercial dynamics rather than technical. The report stated that 73 percent of respondents chose large market penetration while 54 percent chose the future potential of an OS to deliver revenue and 44 percent based their choice on technical reasons (quick coding and prototyping).

Number of platform users vs. Actual number of apps deployed

Developers just do not look at the installed base of an OS but rather factors in the number of apps that an app store currently possesses. The report cites stats from H1 2010 which suggests that Apple had 60 million mobile users with 225,000 apps while Java had the largest installed base of 3 billion yet has only 45,000 apps. Similarly Android runs on more than 20 million devices and has 72,000 apps.

Learning Curve

Another facet that developers vouch for is the ease of developing app building skills on a platform. The report stated that the easiest platform to master is Android with duration of 5 months required to gain finesse while Symbian was  most cumbersome, requiring 15 months gestation period. iPhone was placed next to Android followed by Java ME.

Technical elements

For developers, the main technical aspects that embody a good platform are the ones that offer quick coding and prototyping, great UI and low-cost of developer tools. Android and Flash scored on the quick coding and prototyping front while Apple and Flash scored for UI and Android and Java ME for low-cost developer tools.

Marketing

The primary channels to market apps available to developers are via app stores, direct downloads and commissioned apps. The mode of marketing apps depends on platforms. According to the report, the time-to-market (measures the time taken to submit an application to an app being available for purchase and the length of time it takes to sell the app and retrieve the payments) an app through an app store is 58 days, through direct downloads it is 73 days while through customers it takes 112 days. The IOS platform is the fastest to reach a market while Symbian and Java ME are the slowest.

Though the app market is booming and considerable excitement surrounds the future of smartphones, apps do not necessarily translate into quick cash. As the report said that only 5 percent of the developers said they had crossed their projected revenues while 37 percent saw their chances of meeting their projections promising. However, 24 percent said their performance was poor.

As the smartphone mill chugs along and new platforms continue to hit, the town the apps market will continue to evolve as the market place for apps is fast maturing.