So, you have an idea for the next great mobile/tablet application. What platforms do you plan on developing it for? iOS? Of course, that’s the gold standard for app stores. Android? Well, yeah, the market share for Android devices is too big to ignore. How about Windows 8? What’s that? You don’t know much about it? Well, you came to the right place. In this post, I’ll cover whether or not ISVs, product companies and startups should even have Windows 8 on their radar and whether it is a worthwhile opportunity for app developers.
It’s been well-documented in some of my previous blog posts (here and here) that Microsoft often boasts to developers that Windows 8 will offer the largest opportunity, numbers-wise, for apps to succeed. I won’t touch on these projections anymore. We won’t know anything about actual growth until after launch.
So, instead, let’s talk about the things that Windows 8 apps do that make them enticing for the end-user, thus enticing for developers.
- Live content pushed to the user’s start screen
- A controlled app store with design standards, ensuring (theoretically) a high app quality threshold
- A variety of trial version options for apps
With the ability for cross-platform development with tools such as Unity or Xamarin MonoTouch, Windows 8 provides a great third ecosystem to publish your app without a whole lot of extra development work.
Windows 8 is not without its weaknesses. The primary one being that it has not drummed up enough support from developers to offer the number of apps that iOS and Android have. Microsoft promised 100,000 apps by the end of 2012, but those figures are bloated by the addition of Legacy app listings in the store and other “funny figuring” as Mary Jo Foley at ZDNet put it. No matter what the numbers say, it is plain to see that Microsoft is playing catch up in both the tablet and mobile phone ecosystem marketplaces.
Another weakness of Windows 8 is the overall brand confusion that Microsoft has created with the Metro snafu, the x86 vs. RT discrepancies, and the whole ticking off of hardware partners by developing their own tablet. This lack of organizational control could lead to an overall lack of faith in Microsoft by ISVs and startup app developers.
Whenever you invest resources into something that is in it’s infancy, you’re taking a risk. That’s the case with Windows 8 just like everything else. Developing and publishing an app is just part of the time and resources invested in app development. After that, there’s promotion, debugging, content updates, etc. So, yes, there’s a risk in developing for Windows 8, but you know what comes with risk…
If Windows 8 is half as successful as Microsoft is claiming it’s going to be, it should be worth your while to invest in development for it. Sure, Microsoft is late to the game and it’ll be hard to pull consumers and developers away from the already-established ecosystems of Apple, Google and even Amazon, but don’t doubt the power of the Redmond machine. They are betting the house on Windows 8 and offering developers a plethora of incentives to join the dev community.
Only time will tell if Windows 8 takes off like Microsoft hopes. In my opinion, the opportunity is too large, the risks too low and the potential rewards too great for Windows 8 to be ignored.
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