Google fights iOS developer advantage with new Android classes

Google’s Android OS (s goog) is a runaway success with consumers, but for developers, it’s still not packing the punch its outsized market share would suggest. But the company has plans to make Android the leading platform for developers, something Google chairman Eric Schmidt said could happen within six months.

In an effort to make that prediction a reality, Google has announced a new set of Android developer classes aimed at helping developers through a series of lessons. “Android Training,” as it’s called, contains more than 30 lessons on topics such as Battery life optimization, Improving layout performance and Designing effective navigation. One important topic, Monetizing your app, only has one lesson on mobile advertising.

Initial offerings look fairly basic, but it’s just the start, said Reto Meier, Android Developer Relations Tech Lead in a blog post:

Each class explains the steps required to solve a problem, or implement a feature, with plenty of code snippets and sample code for you to use within your own apps. We’re starting small and this is just the beginning for Android Training. Over the coming months we will be increasing the number of classes available, as well as introducing over-arching courses and sample apps to further help your development experience. Helping developers build great apps is what the Android Developer Relations team is all about, so we’re excited to see how you use these classes to make your apps even better.

This is a nice step, but there’s a lot more to be done by Google. Android is now up to 10 billion app downloads overall, at a pace of 1 billion a month, but it’s not the primary focus for developers, especially among those eager to make money. A Flurry report comparing iOS (s aapl) and Android earlier this week highlighted the challenges for Google. It projected that 73 percent of fourth quarter app starts will be by iOS developers, compared to 27 percent for Android. That’s consistent with previous quarters and and an improvement for Apple from the first quarter of 2011, when iOS represented 63 percent of app starts.

Apple’s 3:1 advantage is due in part to the fact that Android apps are earning 24 cents compared to every dollar made for the same app on iOS. It’s this disparity that makes it a no-brainer for many developers to start their efforts on iOS. And I’ve also heard that Apple provides better development tools, which also helps iOS attract developers.

One set of classes won’t change the equation in Android’s favor, but it shows that Google understands it needs to do more to gain developer interest. The platform is going to get plenty of attention just by its sheer size; Flurry estimates that 550,000 Android devices are now activated daily compared to an estimated 450,000 for iOS. But to really fulfill Schmidt’s vision and the potential for Android, Google will need to not only improve its developer tools and resources, but also make it easier for Android devs to make money. As long as that 3:1 revenue advantage exists for iOS, it’s going to be hard for Android to win over the hearts and minds of developers.