Developers ignore creating “Windows Store” Apps at great peril

Although the launch of Windows 8/RT is still a month away the number of apps in the Windows Store (aka “Metro apps” aka “Windows RunTime Apps”) is a worry.  There are somewhere around 2200 apps in the store now, probably an order of magnitude below where they need to be soon after launch.  And two orders of magnitude below where they need to be by the end of Windows 8/RT’s first year on the market.  Of course it didn’t have to be this way.  Both iPad and Android tablets benefited, and continue to benefit, by their ability to run smartphone apps on tablets.  That gave them decent sized application libraries out of the gate.  Then as the tablets gained traction, developers came up with tablet-optimized or tablet-specific versions of their apps.

Microsoft could have had most of the 107,000 Windows Phone 7.5 apps running on Windows 8 on day one.  It would have been a fairly (read VERY) easy thing for them to do.  It seems like arrogance on the part of Microsoft Windows Division President Steven Sinofsky is all that kept this from happening.  And it could prove to be a fatal mistake on his part.  But that isn’t what this posting is about.  Despite Microsoft’s possible missteps, developers would be quite foolish to ignore Windows 8/RT’s new “Windows Store” applications.

First let me address why I think the number of Windows Store apps is so low at this point, and it is quite simply because of how successful Windows has been in the past.  This is impacting developers on two fronts, coverage and business model.  Let’s start with coverage.

I have no idea what Microsoft’s expectations are, but I think all external observers believe that Windows 8 will represent the overwhelming majority of shipments in the first year of the Windows 8/Windows RT two-sided coin.  And Windows 8 can run all the legacy “Desktop” applications.  So how urgent is it for The New York Times to have a Windows Store app when you can always install the Times Reader 2.0 desktop app on your Windows 8 tablet?  Ditto for Sonos.  Ditto for Pandora.  Ditto for…just about everyone.  Sure those apps aren’t touch-optimized, but perhaps they are good enough for developers to take a wait and see attitude towards Windows 8 tablets.  Maybe developers will even tweak them to be more touch-friendly, without going the full Windows Store app route.

The second factor here is business model.  Despite its drawbacks most software developers have an existing business model built around Microsoft Windows.  They have a way to promote, sell, collect payment on, distribute, install, update, etc. their Windows desktop apps.  They might not have the reach of the Windows Store, its business model simplicity, its security and platform cleanliness, or its end-user friendliness.  But it works adequately enough. They have to maintain it for Windows 7 (and earlier) anyway.  And, for paid apps, they sit at a premium price point compared to where they’ll have to be with a Windows Store app.  They may even need to continue to offer new versions of the desktop app for enterprise and power users of Windows 8.  For many app developers doing a Windows Store app represents both an increase in costs and a potential decrease in revenue.  So the business guys must be taking a very close look at the potential rewards of a Windows Store app.  I think what they are seeing is that in the long run having a Windows Store app will be a big win.  But in the short run it is a lot of pain for little gain.

The problem with app developers taking the position that they can wait on a Windows Store app is that this is going to be another land-grab.  Windows 8 is going to grow like a field of weeds.  And I’m not even talking about Steve Ballmer’s 400 million Windows 8/Windows Phone 8 devices in a year claim.  Yes Steve, Microsoft may indeed sell a few hundred million Windows 8 devices, but they come with downgrade rights to use Windows 7 and that is what most businesses will actually run.  Still, it is good to get some perspective.

Some 16 million devices out there are running preview editions of Windows 8.  To put that in perspective that is slightly more than the number of iPad 1s that Apple sold.  Yes Apple is now selling that many iPads a quarter, but again this is preview editions of Windows 8 running on older hardware vs a third-generation refined tablet.  What’s going to happen when real Windows 8 hardware hits the market next month?  Even in a worst case scenario Windows 8 will blow by Apple’s non-smartphone platforms right out of the gate.  Combined iPad + Mac sales are running a little over 20 million per quarter.  The ill-fated, much hated, Windows Vista sold 20 million units in the first month.  In another metric, it took the iPad about 27 months to sell 100 million units.  Microsoft’s Windows 7 did that in 6 months.

This is important enough to repeat.  Even if Windows 8 is as poorly received as Windows Vista, it will blow the crap out of Apple’s non-smartphone sales volumes.  And Windows 8, the controversy over dropping the desktop Start menu aside, is no Windows Vista.  It is a fast reliable operating system that works well on a broad array of both legacy and state-of-the-art hardware, has great app compatibility, and lots of user added-value.  None of that was true for Vista.

I’ll take it one step further.  Even in a Windows Vista-like debacle Windows 8 will blow away combined Apple and Android non-smartphone unit volumes.  Let that sink in.

Of course the place where having a Windows Store app matters most is in the narrower category of “tablets” rather than the broader market that includes classic PC form factors.  Here we have far less data to go on, but I won’t be going out too far on a limb by claiming that Windows 8 will almost immediately blow by Android to take the number two position in tablets with screen sizes of 9″ or more.  I’ll justify that prediction in a moment.  I also think it isn’t far-fetched for Microsoft to take the number two position in tablets overall (which I’ll categorize as anything from 7″ up in order to leave “phablets” out of the discussion) within a year.  And it is plausible for Microsoft to challenge Apple for the number one position.

The reason for my apparent optimism is simple, I believe there is great pent-up demand for so-called convertible or hybrid tablets.  These have been around since the dawn of the Tablet PC a decade ago, but have always required too many tradeoffs to achieve significant usage.  Of course the biggest issue in the past was that Windows and Windows Apps weren’t really designed for tablets, a problem solved by Windows 8.   But the hardware was also just not up to snuff.  Now look at the excitement surrounding the Microsoft Surface and how much of that is focused on the Touch and Type covers.  These are pure tablets rather than convertible/hybrid tablets, yet Microsoft has struck a nerve by providing a notebook-like input/navigation capability on a tablet capable of running full Microsoft Office (as well as, in the Surface Pro, all desktop apps).

Last week one of my cousins, a national sales manager for a large distributor, mentioned that he was growing to hate his iPad.  On further investigation it turns out that he finds himself forced to carry his notebook around with him everywhere in addition to the iPad since he can’t get his work done on the iPad.  But he does like the convenience of watching movies, etc. on the iPad when he is on the train, flying, etc.  He was totally unaware of what is happening with Windows 8.  I described the Surface Pro, HP Envy x2, and similar devices.  He asked me if they ran the full version of Microsoft Excel and I said yes, resulting in an immediate response of “that’s my next computer”.  Anecdotal sure, but I see his exact scenario everywhere I look.  I still see far more notebooks than iPads in Starbucks.  I still see business travelers carrying a tablet and a notebook (and sometimes an eReader too).  I still run into a lot of people who classify the iPad as a toy (even if a very good toy) and, like my cousin, could be wooed to a merged tablet/notebook device.  Satisfying this pent-up demand could easily result in quarterly sales volumes that exceed those of the iPad.

You may observe that many of these aren’t really driven by tablet usage scenarios, they are primarily driven by notebook usage scenarios and thus will be satisfied by desktop apps.  I think its more of a 50/50 split over which is the primary usage scenario but let’s not quibble over the exact percentages.  These devices will all be used as tablets part of the time, and the tablet experience will be the long-term driver of customer satisfaction.

Because of the convertible/hybrid scenarios there are quickly going to be tens to hundreds of millions of devices in which Windows Store apps make a lot of sense.  There will be hundreds of millions more Windows 8 devices where the suitability of Windows Store apps is far more debatable, but they dramatically increase the Total Available Market for an app developer.  Back to the convertibles/hybrids, when someone goes to use the device as a tablet they are going to be looking for apps that are truly optimized for that tablet.  Desktop apps aren’t going to cut it in most cases, though tablet-optimized versions of those apps could be made available.  If they are using a enterprise-managed device they may find (that for security purposes) they aren’t allowed to install arbitrary desktop apps but are allowed to install Windows Store apps.  With tens to hundreds of millions of people searching for good Windows Store apps a land grab will indeed be under way.

Let me use another anecdote.  A few weeks ago I received mail from a friend saying he was done with Pandora and had signed up for Spotify’s Premium service.  Why?  He got tired of waiting for Pandora to release an app for his Windows Phone.  Now Pandora can be forgiven for not wanting to spend its resources helping Microsoft solve the chicken and egg problem of Windows Phone’s small sales volume.  But they lost a paying customer who used Pandora across a wide-set of devices because they didn’t support one important to him.  My patience with Pandora is running out too.  Guess what, Spotify works with my Sonos just like Pandora.  It works with my Windows 7 desktops just like Pandora.  It works with my wife’s iPad and iPhone just like Pandora.  But it also works with my Windows Phone.  And once I switch to Spotify, does Pandora really have any leverage to get me back?

Extend the Pandora/Spotify situation to Windows 8 and it’s tremendously higher volumes and you find failure to support Windows 8 could have more dire consequences for app developers.  Now I have no idea what Pandora and Spotify’s plans are around Windows Store apps, so I’m not saying that this scenario is going to play out specifically for them.  I’m saying that for any app developer there is great risk that by failing to jump on the Windows Store app bandwagon they will very quickly find themselves losing customers to those who do.  And as previously claimed, Windows 8 volumes are going to be so staggering so quickly that being left behind could be fatal.

We have examples from the past that are instructive.  Most of the leading app vendors in the MS-DOS era lost their market share and became irrelevant precisely because they did not jump on the Windows GUI bandwagon quickly enough.  Sure you could run the MS-DOS versions of Lotus 1-2-3 and Wordperfect on Windows, but Microsoft’s native Windows versions of Excel and Word eclipsed the competitor’s MS-DOS products and established a leadership position on the new platform that Lotus and Wordperfect couldn’t dislodge when they finally launched Windows products.  Keep in mind that this wasn’t some scheme by Microsoft to give Excel and Word an advantage over the competitors.  Microsoft was urging competitors to support the Windows platform, and but they took a wait and see attitude towards the new platform.  Seeing any eery parallels to today’s situation with Windows Store apps?

I am positive that within the first few months of Windows 8 GA I will make a decision on a new primary financial app to use.  That is, some app for tracking my investments, getting financial news, etc.  Not only will it become my long-term preference simply due to familiarity, once I go through all the trouble of entering portfolio information there will be strong incentive not to go through that again.  Basically as soon as I find a Windows Store app that meets my needs they will “own” me as a customer for a long time.  I can repeat this kind of example for at least a dozen apps that matter to me.

Another example, I use both Yelp and Trip Advisor pretty heavily but I write lots of reviews for the former and few for the latter.  Windows Store apps, or lack thereof, for those two services could either increase my participation on Yelp (i.e., if they have a good Windows Store app) or shift more of my attention to Trip Advisor (i.e., if they have a good Windows Store app but Yelp doesn’t).  I scan multiple (digital) newspapers on a regular basis, but already find I most frequently read those with good support for my devices.  I pay for both the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times digital subscriptions.  Not only would lack of Windows Store apps change my reading habits (and thus the advertising potential) amongst various (paid and free digital) newspapers, but it will affect my willingness to pay for subscriptions as well.  Neither the WSJ or NYT are cheap, and if I find myself not making adequate use of the subscriptions well then….  I also get a few magazines digitally through Zinio.  The lack of a Zinio Windows Store application would either lead me to an alternative (if available) or even to drop subscriptions to the lower priority magazines.

And what of Windows RT?  It more obviously succeeds or fails on the basis of the quantity and quality of Windows Store apps, and in particular on consumer excitement over the new platform.  It doesn’t get much, if any, boost out of the Windows legacy.  They shouldn’t have even given it a Windows family name.  So I don’t see Windows RT as being a near-term primary justification for a Windows Store app.  But I do see it as a place where the land grab will be even more dramatic, because no one can fall back to their desktop app.  So for the first year or so consider sales of apps on Windows RT as a bonus.  Sure once the app library is big enough Windows RT volumes will explode and, particularly for consumer entertainment-oriented apps, it could become a huge focus.  But in the first year I think that the Windows 8 convertible/hybrid market is the real revenue driver for Windows Store apps.

The bottom line for me is simple, it is perilous for application developers to ignore or take a wait and see attitude towards Windows 8 and particularly Windows Store applications.  The volumes of Windows 8 devices will be staggering by any standard, even in what most people would consider a failure scenario.  Land will be grabbed.  Leadership will be established.  Entire cross-platform ecosystems will rise and fall on the basis of how well they support Windows 8.  Betting against Windows 8 is simply foolish.

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61 Responses to Developers ignore creating “Windows Store” Apps at great peril

  1. Dan Shelly says:

    You make some compelling arguments for supporting Windows 8 Hal. If I were doing “Line of Business” Apps this would be a No Brainer! Yet having been out on an iOS Dev forum just last night, I can tell you that there are a large group of iOS Game App developers who feel so “burned” by their previous loses of both time and resources suffered from supporting Windows Smartphones that they are not about to “jump right in.”
    (Hence some of the reason for the pitiful numbers in the store today)

    I too believe that Windows 8 will be a much different experience, but I am also facing the reality of weighing costs associated with delaying a new iOS casual game now under development vs. catching that Windows 8 train right out of the gate. Having lived through the death spiral of DOS Apps that refused to move to Windows 3.x, this is something that no development shop wants to experience. In that particular case those who watched 3.0, wised up and came on board by version 3.1 were hurt not too badly. However, the installed base numbers look quite different today. Developers who think they can compare these 2 events and wait on the next release to come on board may find themselves sadly mistaken…

    Your “land grab” analogy may be right on the mark.

  2. Tom Speake says:

    I’m on the same train (figuratively speaking) with your cousin. Maybe we should call these new laptop/tablet hybrids “laplets”.

    • A says:

      I think that will be fine for many. Most of my problem using a table for “real work” is the form factor. I can get good Office programs on my phone or iPad. I could do it with my Palm almost 10 years ago actually.
      It wasn’t the “touch optimized” issue either.
      For some reason, no matter how good, a Bluetooth keyboard on any tablet seemed more combersome to manage than a Mac Air for example.
      I’ll still get Windows 8 eventually, but I do think it’s almost tricking people selling them on how functional it will be on the go, when the main limitation to doing “real work” is the very same tablet form factor the Surface has.
      I think if someone needs to do real work on the go they’d be better off investing in a nice ultra book and tablet, knowing them for what they are. It will be a breath of fresh air after trying to manage the moving parts of a tablet, keyboard and mouse.
      Laptops really are meant for your lap very well, they just need to be smaller.
      Right now, I have Win8 preview, UNIX/OSX and Ubuntu Linux on my Mac Air. It’s almost the size of the iPad, and loads more convenient to use anywhere, and being a real computer, has no mobile limitations except deciding how many and what OSes I want to fun.
      People seem to have lost sight to how convenient a tablet form is for tight spots and browsing, but how much better a small notebook is for others. The surface form is the former. It’s still a cool tablet PC.

      • halberenson says:

        That’s why I think the Convertible/Hybrid form factor may be so attractive to people. You can use them primarily as a notebook and then pop out the tablet portion when you prefer to use one. But that depends on their being designs that don’t make people feel like they wish they just had an Ultrabook. And ideally that the tablet itself doesn’t feel like a compromise. It’s a tall order for the hardware guys….

      • A says:

        I’ve already tried that form factor and know what it’s good for, for me.
        They’ve already showed how they did it, and that form factor just has no advantages over what I have.
        I was just hoping people thought through the “all in one” hype first, and realized laptops are already the all-in-one firm factor and the current limitations are mostly form factor based.
        I understand the geeky allure of docking your tablet PC and potential here.
        The all in one mantra is confusing to others who don’t understand it’s still a tablet firm, RT versions aren’t the same thing and will be only tablet OS and only phone/tablet App capable, and you will have the same issues juggling the keyboard and mouse on your lap if you need a “real PC to do real work” on the road.

  3. Windows Store is currently overpriced. Half your post-tax profit to get through a locked door which did not previously exist? Part of me feels that developers should be resisting this model until Microsoft’s cut becomes more reasonable (like 5-10%).

    • halberenson says:

      Microsoft’s cut is in line with the competition. And certainly what Apple charges has not prevented developers from embracing the App Store.

      Sent from my Windows Phone ________________________________

      • jimbostar says:

        And what marketing was viable for those Apple app developers before the App Store? If you really need to have a new partner that takes 50% of your profit, this store thing is fine. But what I’m doing with my marketing works for me – and I stopped coding from the kitchen table years ago. The store’s T&Cs (all of the App Stores) are highway robbery. I won’t go down that road – but only because I don’t have to.

  4. Paul says:

    Thoughtful and insightful, as usual. You definitely opened my eyes on a few points. One thing I didn’t quite understand though was the Sinofsky comment. What would be his motivation for not supporting those apps if it was relatively easy to do so?

    • halberenson says:

      answer coming in the next blog post

    • fluxman says:

      While having 100K phone apps available on Day 1 for Windows 8/RT would seem to be a nice plus, I feel that it would just destroy the user experience and would noticeably look something that was just tagged on, whether the apps are scaled up to the screen or not.
      The “emulator” would have to provide a software back button to accommodate the phone navigation model. Plus the phone apps won’t support any of the charms (Search, Settings, Share). Being those are signature elements of the Windows 8 user experience, I think 100k apps that don’t support them could make one too many bad first impression

      • Jaime Bula says:

        In that same line of thinking, we should support Office, SAP, Visual Studio, Auto CAD, most ERP, CRM, Accounting Software… all the effort put on those apps just because they don’t look nice. Sorry fluxman, can’t simply agree.

      • fluxman says:

        @Jaime Bula
        Did you miss a “NOT” in your reply? Otherwise, it makes no sense.
        In any case, traditional desktop apps are welcome in the Windows 8 desktop mode, not in the Metro environment, where WP7 apps would have resided if they were made compatible. My point is that Windows Store apps integrately deeply with the OS. Tagging on WP7 apps which have a different navigation model will just make for a broken user experience.

        • Jaime Bula says:

          It has been several months, I really think that Windows 8 is consumer oriented and not enterprise ready. Id like to share our current scenario. We tested Win8 with some users, there where many complaints, the one that really catched my eye, was that users were not getting application notifications. It made sense! y metro apps, you do miss notifications, and the matter gets worse with desktop apps needing attention. The second issue was Touchscreens, our tests showed that users can’t point at their screens anymore! They can’t go and say, hey look at thi…. damn I pressed something. and touch screens are always glossy (I might be wrong). Not good for work. App migration? we’ll let them sit on Silverlight and WPF, we can’t make use of metro, it’s like programming with silverlight 3, and we can’t just upgrade all of our PC’s, this can take at least two years. (Don’t get me started with Win2012 licencing and Direct Access). It simply seems that we don’t have any real enterprise offer from microsoft anymore. They went fully consumer this time. I’m not saying that we are going Linux, but we aren’t making any big invesments or projects soon until all this dust settles.

          My two cents.

          And, yes, there should be a Silverlight 6. Our best apps are Silverlight based. Or ar least MSFT should make it Open Source.

  5. long2know says:

    It sounds like these are the things you want to happen… in terms of Win8 being successful on both the desktop and tablet front. Personally, I have no vested interest in MS’s mobile platforms success or failure. I think it will be interesting to watch unfold, though.

    If some of the leaked pricing for tablet hardware is remotely accurate, it is going to be a tough fight for all but enterprise users/buyers, imho.

  6. Kishor Gurtu says:

    Whose peril? Microsoft’s?

  7. I was wondering if the app count is low also because of the fact that W8 is needed for development and not everyone can get it. Further more most developers will need to dedicate a computer to W8 and considering at work the environment is still Windows 7, its hard to convert existing machine. And in such a scenario most will wait to buy a new computer once new hardware is out instead of existing one.
    Not all developer have luxury of MSDN and extra machines.


    • halberenson says:

      If all the name apps from the large players were in the store but there was a dearth of apps from small developers, then I’d attribute it (at least in part) to this. But it is the name brand apps that are so noticeably absent.

    • I agree somewhat in that I have an MSDN account. But I just installed Win8 on an SSD I added and can now dual-boot. It at least didn’t require a new machine, although I’d gladly pay to add an ARM tablet for testing…if one was available today!

  8. B. Woo says:

    “Microsoft could have had most of the 107,000 Windows Phone 7.5 apps running on Windows 8 on day one. It would have been a fairly (read VERY) easy thing for them to do.”

    Praytell, what sources, and information, led you to this conclusion ? On a technical basis: why would this have been “easy” ? I’m surprised you didn’t also say there was no reason all existing Win 7.x phones couldn’t have been retro-fitted to run Win 8.

    The question I’d ask would be: why has Microsoft been so dumb that they did not do whatever it took, including lowering the tariff on MS store sales to half of Apple’s Store’s, to mobilize the developer community.

    And, my answer would start with this statement: MS is not a monolith with centralized control and well-integrated and broad agreement across groups on technologies, goals, and values: it is a group of feuding tribal fiefdoms: the WPF Tribe is extinct, the SilverLight Tribe is extinct, the Windows Forms tribe will continue to live in the Enterprise space (the great cash cow for MS) for years, however, as will Win Server products with no touch, and no dumbed-down let’s-get-rectangular sliding interfaces.

    It’s just too early in the game to speculate, on both MS Win 8 hardware, and software. And, I question the assumption that the sheer number of applications on a company store is the right metric for evaluating the “richness” of a platform’s range of applications.

    This article is one vast collage of fantasies because there is simply a great lack of verifiable information concerning ;Win 8 Surface, UltraBooks, Win 8 RT on ARM, etc. Extrapolation from your past adventures is unwarranted I believe because a qualitative change (yet another) is happening in personal computer use, perhaps a change as important for the future as the change from terminals displaying ASCII hooked up to mainframes to personal computers on the desktop.

    This qualitative change is linked to a shift of storage from local to Cloud, enabling you to log-in from anywhere and work in your individual “computing space,” the ubiquity of the web, and the soon to come changes HTML5+CSS3+JavaScript+jQuery, etc. will bring.

    The handwriting is on the wall, but nobody, yet, has deciphered the alphabet 🙂

    Meanwhile, enjoy your dreams, while you can.

  9. Very well-reasoned post. I think you’re right to say that developers in general simply haven’t recognized the large amount of revenue available from Windows App Store apps even if Windows 8 is the flop that its biggest haters hope it will be. I just wish I could think of a killer app to develop and had the time to develop it in the next couple of months!

    • Jaime Bula says:

      Developers don’t want to get ditched again as it happended with Silverlight. You are still safer with .NET, and target no only Windows 8.

  10. I think the market for tablets is over saturated and that a new untried platform is going to struggle. Also the comparison with “DOS to Windows” transition with “no store to store” transition seems a bit strained. And there’s always Steam. I’ve never seen such negative reviews of an OS before its launch as Windows 8. I believe their failure on the desktop will sully their reputation on the tablet. As for their Zune and WPhone, they’ve already done a lot of damage on their own. I expect a Windows 8 failure but it’s not up to me, we’ll see after the October launch. But the world really doesn’t seem to need more tablets or a desktop OS that was badly mangled to support them.

  11. Windows RT or whatever the name of the Windows 8 API is doesn’t work for the type of client/server applications we are developing.

    Unless Microsoft starts providing some kind of individualized Windows-Software-Store deployment support, so that ISV’s customers have a one-stop shop for their Windows 8 software and at the same time RT caters for on-premise (once called “intranet”) applications, or applications that for one reason or the other do not fit the touch-and-ran paradigm (think long-running finite-element-calculations or machinery-control-software) we will not re-investigate.

    • Jaime Bula says:

      I totally agree, WinRT can’t be used yet for LOB apps. You have to hack or do workarrounds to accomplish this.

  12. Jason says:

    I like the comment about “hating my iPad”. Had just the thought last night as I was trying to get some real work done. Nearly impossible on the iPad. If MS Surface can actually help me be more productive then I think it will be my next “laptop”.

  13. Jaime Bula says:

    I have said it, and will say it again. This mess starts with microsoft ditching Silverlight for WinRT / HTML 5 + JS. The answer is simple, roll out Silverlight 6, re enable all the 100.000+ existing aps to be easily ported to the new screen resolutions.

    The ones that could really build theese apps where the silverlight and WPF developers/companies who got burned or had their invesments trashed. The incentive is supposedly to be revenue, but with what happended with Silverlight… I’m no getting on that boat again.

    • Tim says:

      Maybe I’m not the average SL/WPF developer (I develop LOB apps for internal needs at my company), but I don’t feel burned at all by WinRT. Actually, I’m pretty excited because for the first time I’ve got a great distribution channel for any idea(s) I might come up with. And my existing XAML skill translates well to WinRT.

      • Jaime Bula says:

        Good point, but you have to recognize that WinRT y far behind of what silverlight 5 is. And with the Windows Blue strategy, it’s probable that they break and have to be mantained on a yearly basis.

  14. Martin Plamondon says:

    For me Windows has always been an open platform on which you could get and install applications from everywhere without relying on Microsoft for a delivery channel (as well as giving them a share of your sales), I’m not comfortable to go that route and didn’t on other mobile platforms.

    Also, Windows Store apps will most likely not sell to anybody with a bigger than 11″ monitor if they can’t run any other way than fullscreen…

    • halberenson says:

      The problem is that the market for that totally open platform is pretty darn saturated.

      You are confusing monitor size with usage pattern. I addressed this in an earlier post. There are many people, in fact most people by my observation, that always run applications full screen no matter what the monitor size. Occasionally they run two windows in order to take reference information from one while they enter data in another.

  15. jimmyfal says:

    “”Windows 8 volumes are going to be so staggering so quickly that being left behind could be fatal.””

    I think some forget that it’s still Windows, desktop and all. And Windows always sells. You hit the nail on the head. I wonder how many Netflix, Instagram, Amazon Video, Angry Birds, and simply the basic “go to” apps will be available on launch day.

    I mean when you think about it, Office, and a bunch of go to apps are mostly what matters on day one. For the “well, I just need to check my email, type some letters, and search the internet”, crowd.

    I think Win 8 is being massivley underestimated. I guess time will tell. I do know there are a LOT of folks like myself. I don’t care about the exact release date, I don’t even care about the price, when Surface is available for order, or pre-order, I will be picking my credit card up off of the floor because I whipped it out of my wallet so fast.

    • fluxman says:

      I think no one disputes that Windows 8 will sell a lot. The question is will Windows 8 users also become Windows Store app users. As you say Windows 8 is still Windows, and users in a mouse-and-keyboard environment can easily choose to ignore Windows Store apps altogether. It will be the touch-first users who will drive Windows Store adoption.

      Another question is will the name-brand apps come? Many name brands (e.g. Bank of America, Starbucks, Facebook, Delta Airlines, Target, Yelp etc.) were perfectly fine serving the Windows market with a website. Now they have to create an app for them as well? Will the promotion of touchpad-and-keyboard dock accessories make them think that a website should be good enough for Windows RT/8 users? Will they put their Windows Store app in the same lineup as their “mobile” apps? Is Windows RT/8 mobile? Mark Zuckerberg didn’t consider the iPad mobile at first.

      As a side note, among name brands, eBay is already in the Windows Store. eBay seems to be unique among name brands in its availability in all major mobile platforms. They’re even in the Mac App Store.

      A number of name brands totally ignored Windows Phone. (Chase is just launching its app this week.) I think the availability of these name brand apps will definitely be critical to the sales of Windows RT devices.

      • Jaime Bula says:

        Yeah, vista also sold a lot, still was a mess that single handed a huge maker share to Apple. Guess we will be expecting a lot of PC and mac commercials with Justin Long.

      • Tim says:

        “It will be touch-first users who will drive Windows Store adoption.”

        I’m not sure about that. Have you used Windows 8 yet on a desktop? I have – for a few months now. I can easily see desktop users turning to the app store. I’ve already installed a few and find it quite natural to use a touch-first app alongside the normal desktop apps.

    • fluxman says:

      @Tim I use the Windows 8 Enterprise Eval on my desktop. I don’t disagree that Desktop users can grow accustomed to Windows Store apps. I just thought that developers have to see that there’s really a need to create such apps because there’s there will be a market of touch-first (primarily Windows RT) users.

      Consider if there was no ARM-based Windows RT. Windows 8 remains tied to x86 devices (desktop, notebook, convertible, slate). What will motivate somebody like Bank of America to make a specialized app for Windows 8, when the website was just fine for Windows 7 users, and should still work just as well for Windows 8 users? I think it’s the size of the touch-first user base that will motivate name brands to create such apps. And that may be the role of Windows RT, since most ARM devices will be touch-first.

  16. Walt French says:

    TFA wrote, “Sure those apps aren’t touch-optimized, but perhaps they are good enough for developers to take a wait and see attitude towards Windows 8 tablets.”

    I can’t think of a much better way to kill the Modern interface market than to highlight how inappropriate it is for mobile devices.

    Charlie Kindel has made some good points recently about how hard it is to excel in hardware, but allow me to make the point that it’s also hard to excel in software when you have a one-size-fits-all development model. Yes, there must be shared libraries for developers to leverage their skills, but a clunky tablet experience will only reinforce the notion that only Apple provides a viable user experience for tablets.

    I’ve seen suggestions that Microsoft will pull out the stops if the Modern app library doesn’t expand, and fast. But what could be more amazing, than the notion that the world’s most widely-used OS developer, is timidly trying to establish a toehold in a critical market that others are threatening to dominate?

  17. Al says:

    I have to argue about why Microsoft didn’t do what it took to get existing Wp7 apps working for Windows RT. The main problem I have with that is screen resolution. Right now all Windows Phones have the same 800 x 480 resolution. Because of this many developers have gone with the lazy path of specifying absolution size values for UI elements in the app. When moved to a larger Windows screen all those buttons, images, etc would look outstretched and pretty bad. This happened to Android devices when tablets first started coming out. And I believe there was something like this with iOS apps when the iPad came out (can anyone elaborate on that?). At least by forcing a different set of technology on developers, they know when they’re creating something for different screen sizes and can adjust for it.

    • The same could be said of most iPhone apps running on an iPad. Apple only offers a 2X zoom that can often make the app look pixelated, esp. with Apple’s and some developers’ emphasis on skeumorphic design. A smart XAML designer will use vector graphics and attributes like VerticalAlignment=”Bottom” in a grid to accomodate resizing. What makes it hard to run Windows Phone apps in Win8 are the things that have already been mentioned – no back button nav and no access to the Charms.

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  19. I’m still a little confused by Microsoft’s strategy here. I’m no luddite; I work with Windows every day. I even run a tech centric blog. But I’m still at a loss to explain the difference between Windows 8 and Windows RT (what does RT stand for again?). I may have read the explanation countless times online, but it always seemed too technical to be interesting.

    IMHO, MS has done a horrible job of explaining to its customers what the heck is exactly going on. I bet you’re going to have a lot of confused (read: unhappy) customers once Windows 8 hits the shelves.

    • halberenson says:

      (Keep in mind that I’m not a Microsoft employee)

      The Windows port to the ARM architecture does not support the classic Win32, aka “Desktop”, applications that have long been the primary type of application Windows on x86 (and x86-64) processors. In order to distinguish from variations of Windows that can run these older style apps and the variations of Windows that can’t run the older style apps Micropsoft changed the name of the latter (Windows on ARM) to Windows RT. The name (seems to) comes from the Windows RunTime that replaces Win32 for the new “Windows Store” (aka Metro) style of app. I think they would have been better off not calling it Windows at all, but that is water under the bridge. You can’t actually buy Windows RT, you can only by a device (right now that is limited to tablets) with Windows RT preloaded. Thus consumers buying “Windows” itself shouldn’t have a problem, they’ll always run Windows 8. But when you go to buy a tablet you are going to see tablets capable of running Win32/Desktop apps (“Windows 8”) sitting right next to tablets that can’t run Win32/Desktop apps (“Windows RT”) and it isn’t clear to me how there aren’t going to be consumers who buy a Windows RT device and then get home and discover it won’t run their apps.

      • fluxman says:

        On one hand, nobody buys a “Windows Phone” and expects to run Windows desktop apps on it. On the other hand, as you said, Windows RT devices will sit next to Window 8 devices showing the same Metro Start screen.

        Maybe the decision to launch Surface RT three months before Surface Pro, was partly a concession to OEM partners and partly because of the need to educate consumers about Windows RT.

      • A says:

        I think that’s whete the “all in one” hype and past compatability breaks down. Win8 is all about forcing touch focus to leverage Metro, or Modern UI. That’s why desktop mode seems like an afterthought and people should know some are “just tablets” with docking accessories or options you can get with Android or iPad tablets too.

  20. One thing to write app for Win 8 and the other to be published on the Store.

    My company didn’t ignore Win8 – we are managed to port relatively big and complex application from Silverlight to WinRT. It was surprisingly easy from the technical point of view – most of the code work without changes and most of the xaml just required few tweaks. The platform is very solid for v 1.0.

    Application was ready a month ago. We passed technical certification without problems but still not listed in the apps store.
    It’s insane – I never seen this level of bureaucracy.
    Despite the fact that we are MS Gold Partner it tooks almost a month(!) to open Windows Store account and verify our identity and we still waiting for tax form approval to be published in the store.
    And there is lot of silly pre-conditions. For example, we had to mark our application 16+ to pass certification. (It is diagrams and flow charts designer named Grapholite – primary for business users but also often used in schools. God knows why they think that we can’t show it to children. Our local MS representative told me: “Just set that it 16+ to pass to the store”)

    • halberenson says:

      I wonder if your experience is common, and if so does that mean that there is a large backlog of apps in process?

      If Microft hadn’t already had the expereince of doing the Windows Phone Marketplace they could be forgiven for still being at the start of the learning curve for how to do an app store. But having done it once you’d expect them to have handled things more smoothly the second time. I certainly hope they clean this process up quickly.

    • It’s funny to read your post since I had also been optimistic about creating my first
      Microsoft app just a few weeks ago. After I had enjoyed my first experiences with Windows 8, I had looked forward to opening my Windows Store account (even though the upgrade from XP to W8 seemed to have wiped out nearly all of my installations). I couldn’t have been more wrong about it. It was a horrible experience, and I backed out when I heard the phrase “fill out forms in front of a public notary”. It still gives me the chills to think about it. I wrote about it on my blog for those of you who relish schadenfreude.
      Even though Windows will be a dominant force in the enterprise for years to come, they have a hard time adjusting to the changing world around them. PC sales are slowing, and devices will continue to become more of a presence. We all know of Microsoft’s success with devices, so they’re probably not going to win on that front. After my experience with their app store, it was clear that this particular distribution model was completely foreign to them; the sheer bureaucracy of it was stifling to the point of suffocation. It’s true that if you’re big enough, you can keep making mistakes for a while…but after long enough, they will eventually add up. And then you’re out the door.

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  22. So long and thanks for all the fish says:

    Let a Windows developer tell you why Windows 8 was our signal to dump the platform: In releasing such a half-hearted OS which doesn’t know if it’s a desktop or tablet OS (and ends up being lousy at both), Microsoft have spooked users and developers. Users don’t like it. Yeah if they buy a PC and it’ll get forced down your throat, and that’s why software like Vista managed to sell, but this time there is a choice: tablets. Plus developers don’t like Microsoft suddenly building a Berlin Walled Garden around the Windows ecosystem. No royalties was the best thing about Windows, and a big reason they succeeded over all their commercial rivals. We’re in no hurry to give Microsoft a cut of our application sales. Android has no walled garden which makes it attractive. Apple does have a walled garden, but they compensate for it with high sales. Microsoft offers us a walled garden with uncertain sales. Why waste the time investing in that? So our company took Windows 8 as the signal to switch to tablet development. Microsoft has alienated its desktop users and developers.

  23. Daniel Quest says:

    Very thoughtful article. Only problem is that it is probably exactly what Microsoft is thinking… Microsoft is a bit like Mitt Romney, they have this ‘aura of inevitability’. Well, I have news for them, it is not inevitable. I have not used windows in 3 years. I have not missed it a bit, in fact, THANK GOD! Our entire unit of over 60 developers has only 1 windows box at this time. Windows boxes in our institution seam to be reserved for administrative assistants, managers, and people that are just not technology people. But who do these people go to when they have a technical question? — that’s right technology people! And what will my buddies and I say to them? You would not have that problem if you got rid of Windows! Windows is in a slow death spiral. They just don’t know it yet. I was quite exited when I saw the surface. I was willing to give windows a third chance. However after using one for an hour or so, I realized that Microsoft did not hit a home run as I had hoped. Microsoft needs to listen to what technology people really want and build competitive products for them if they want success.

    • Jaime Bula says:

      Hi Daniel,

      Great insight, true, with Microsoft going all the way HTML 5, they became irrelevant as a platform. Their offering became Windows 8 only or bust. If they are going to force me to develop on something, we can very well look at other places to get things done. Microsoft has become impossible to work with.

    • halberenson says:

      Gee, isn’t focusing too much on what technical people want what got Microsoft into trouble in the first place?

      • Jaime Bula says:

        Please elaborate

      • halberenson says:

        Every release of NT-based Windows before Windows 7 (which itself was consumed by hygiene work) put more focus on requirements coming out of various technical communities (enterprise IT system management, developers at all levels, power user Information Workers) than on Consumers. Things like App marketplaces, touch, etc. all were on the back burner. Even things like the long product cycles are driven by enterprise issues with rolling out frequent releases. That left Microsoft ill-prepared to respond when Apple changed the game by ignoring those communities in favor of the broad consumer market.

        • Jaime Bula says:

          Hal, I really liked your reply. No one denies that Microsoft needed a change, but the change has been poorly executed. One morning in 2012 we found ourselves finding out that their “strategy has shifted”, and that the new offering is way behind of what they already had. They killed many (really good) products in their own entropy (mess) and trying to bring every one on it.

          As an extra note, Got an 500 amazon gift card. Surprise that I couldn’t buy nor a windows phone, nor a surface with that. But at apple (which you know is expensive) I could buy an iPad mini, and Apple TV and an Otter Box with money to spare. Can’t help think that there something very wrong with Microsoft.

          Just a thought.

          • halberenson says:

            Wait, you could have gotten a couple of Xboxes. Or an Xbox and a bunch of peripherals. Or a nice notebook (without touch). Or, at the Microsoft Store at least, an ASUS VivoTab RT with $100 left over for other things.

            Microsoft definitely has problems with having hot products with its own name on them at all the right price points. Which is why they are doing more hardware going forward.

    • jimbostar says:

      So if those “administrative assistants, managers, and people that are just not technology people”.didn’t have any issues, WTF would they need you for?

      Typical tunnel vision from somebody that thinks they know what drives technology (or rather, the need for it)… but Thanks For Playing.

  24. Charles says:

    I have to disagree. I was a Windows Phone 7 developer. The only reason I got into the gig at all was that I met a couple of Microsoft reps at an Android meet-up at SXSW (that was my first mobile OS) who gave me a Dell smartphone for free to try writing for Windows Phone 7. That certainly got me interested in at least trying to write for the platform.

    But I was disappointed after actually getting rolling. Microsoft’s infrastructure for developer support – at least at the time – was pretty lousy. And that’s even with e-mail addresses of Microsoft insiders in hand. Microsoft is tone deaf when it comes to listening to its customers, but also its developers. There were many occasions on which I’d write to someone with an issue and get a response back, but not a resolution. When you have apps on two other platforms (Android and iOS), you don’t have the time to run around, chasing someone for help.

    The final insult was when Microsoft trotted out Windows Phone 8. When I went to my developer’s dashboard, and looked at the line graph showing downloads, my particular app’s line went to zero at about the time Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 came out. And now that my one-year subscription has expired, I can’t even log in to check my statistics without coughing up another C-note.

    Microsoft has one thing going for it – it’s always going to be able to throw lots of money at something. It may take them months or years to get something right, but they’ll be able to make expensive mistakes in the meantime. Sadly, lots of us don’t have that kind of time to wait or cash to burn. When I hear through the grapevine that Windows 8 has solid developer support (and not just cosmetically pretty support) maybe I’ll get excited about getting back on the bandwagon. But in the meantime, gee-whiz numbers about Windows 8 potential with tablets and phones shouldn’t sway developers seeking new revenue. Wait for Microsoft to learn to LISTEN first.

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