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Who, What, How, and Why: software development laid bare

Bill Ray · July 30, 2015

Every six months we ask developers around the world those four questions, to see how the industry is evolving. Now in its 9th edition the VisionMobile Developer Economics survey reached out to 13,000 developers, from 149 different countries, and the results are available in our biannual report: State of The Developer Nation Q3 2015.

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Who

94% of our 13,000 developers are male, showing a gender imbalance which needs to be addressed if the industry is going to reflect society as a whole. North America is making some progress here, but even in the land of opportunity only a tenth of developers identify themselves as female, and the figures of the rest of the world are much worse.

It’s perhaps surprising that Africa is next best in terms of equality, while Europe is positively embarrassing with only 4% of developers ticking the box for the minority sex. South America offers the greatest imbalance, but nowhere do developers reflect the proportion of women in the general workforce.

What

Cloud is increasingly important for developers, and cloud developers the most likely to be generating revenue (67% of them are bringing in more than $500 a month). But there’s no rush to the public offerings such as AWS or the Google App Engine, despite all the media attention: 44% of cloud developers are creating apps in private, for use on private clouds.

The Internet of Things is also getting a lot of developer attention, though more a quarter of IoT developers (26%) don’t know who their eventual customer will be. Half of those developers are making applications, rather than hardware or firmware, reflecting the evolution of the IoT industry.

When it comes to mobile the two dominant players (Android and iOS) are squeezing out the competition and 37% of mobile developers are targeting both the leading platforms. Interest in creating apps for Windows Phone has dropped slightly since we last asked, from 30% to 27%, but developers are understandably nervous of Windows 10 and the uncertainty over Microsoft’s commitment to mobile.

How

Across the developer community the most-popular development language is now a combination of JavaScript and HTML5. The evolution of web languages has imbued them with functionality, while cross-compilers and packaging tools can make them indistinguishable from native applications. That’s been enough to attract 71% of developers in North America, though only 58% in Asia where old-school languages such as Java and C retain their presence.

Learning a new language is always a challenge, though the growth in Apple’s Swift shows that developers are willing to invest in their education. Swift is, perhaps unsurprisingly, attracting a good proportion of self-taught developers (27% of those primarily using Swift consider themselves self-taught), while Java, C#, and Objective C, all appeal to degree holders (around 60% have degrees) who prefer a more-formal learning environment (around 17% are self-taught).

Why

Not all developers are motivated by money, in fact many professional developers are hobbyists or amateurs in another field. More than half of our mobile developers, for example, are also mucking around with IoT – some professionally, but mostly just to see what it can do, and what they can do with it. Developers are predominantly young, with an average age of around 30, and have both the time and the motivation to explore new areas. Many are involved in open-source projects: 11% tell us that Linux is their primary desktop target platform, despite the fact that the open-source OS accounts for less than 2% of desktop installations.

In mobile the path to revenue, if not riches, is clearly selling products and services, in the manner of Uber or Just Eat, rather than downloads and booster packs, in the manner of Candy Crush and Minecraft. Only 10% of mobile developers are chasing e-commerce revenue, but almost a fifth (19%) are taking more than $100,000 a month – a figure that only 6% of those reliant on advertising can match.

The State of the Developer Nation

The whole report, complete with graphics and figures, is a free download, and packed with more insight and analysis from Vision Mobile.