Google's Android platform has lost some allure for software developers still smitten with Apple, while Research In Motion and Microsoft have fallen further behind the two leaders, according to a survey on what devices new apps are likely to be developed for.
Developers seem to have tempered their enthusiasm for the onslaught of tablet computers being launched to try to rival the runaway success of Apple's iPad.
Both Android for tablets and RIM's just-launched PlayBook have faded, the survey, released on Tuesday, showed.
Developer intent is a useful indicator of broader interest in a platform as consumers are drawn to devices that can perform specific tasks such as checking news or stock prices, tracking how far you've run or finding nearby restaurants.
Apple's iPhone has the attention of more than 90 percent of developers surveyed by research firm IDC and app platform Appcelerator, while 86 percent intend to develop for the iPad and 85 percent are "very interested" in Android phones.
It's a tough sell after that, even for Android's tablet software at 71 percent, which has developers fretting about fragmentation and the subdued interest in products, such as Motorola Mobility's Xoom, actually using it.
For developers, "it's becoming problematic to really put a foot down on Android tablets and know that you're standing on terra firma, at least as of today," Appcelerator's Scott Schwarzhoff said.
Microsoft's tie-up with Nokia would likely have the biggest impact in chasing down Apple and Google, the survey showed, while RIM's decision to support Android for its PlayBook tablet will help the BlackBerry maker.
Interest in both Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 and BlackBerry for phones fell from near 40 percent to below 30 percent, with Microsoft's shallower descent putting it slightly ahead.
RIM's PlayBook, which uses a new platform RIM plans to eventually migrate to its smartphones, dipped to 20 percent after heavy promotion among developers had piqued interest in the previous quarter's survey. PlayBook was launched in the United States and Canada after Tuesday's survey was conducted.
Schwarzhoff said a rival company's best bet would be to offer a unique experience Apple can't easily match, such as tight integration with business processes, or to make sure it is not a hassle for a developer to move programs to the platform.
"You have to really think about compatibility and migration layers between the top tier and your own operating system," he said.
The survey questioned 2,760 developers, about 40 percent each from Europe and North America and 20 percent from elsewhere.
(Reporting by Alastair Sharp; editing by Peter Galloway)