Microsoft Build: Wooing Windows 8 developers

At the company's much-anticipated developer's conference, Microsoft works on expanding its universe of third-party apps.

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Some dangers to consider

There is, however, caution warranted. "It's important that developers look carefully at how their development strategy is converging (or not) on delivering for Windows tablets, or iPad," said Baxter-Reynolds. "We're no longer in a world where betting everything on Microsoft is a good idea. Individual developers and their sponsoring organizations need to take a holistic view of which technologies, techniques and processes they are using to deliver."

Another obstacle is the infancy of the Windows Store, Microsoft's answer to iTunes and the iOS App Store on the Apple platform. Just days after Windows 8's launch, the Windows Store had 11,226 apps, according to Wes Miller, a research vice president at Directions on Microsoft in Kirkland, Wash., and operator of WinAppUpdate.com, a website dedicated to tracking statistics about the number of type of apps for Windows 8.

Windows 8

Meanwhile, Apple and Google report about 700,000 apps each in their mobile stores, with Apple specifying recently that about 275,000 apps are designed specifically to work with its iPad tablet.

Developers interested in writing Windows 8 applications might also need to work on them on their own time, at least at first. "Enterprises may be sluggish to take up Windows 8 development," says Basu. "So expect to do this outside of your day job, unless things work out with your client."

Still, Basu said he remains optimistic about what Microsoft is offering with Windows 8. "The one ecosystem with the Windows Phone, Windows 8 and Xbox -- it only seems natural," he says.

Windows Phone 8 and its impact

Also less clear is the impact Windows Phone 8, Microsoft's latest effort to catch up with its rivals in the smartphone marketplace, will have on the company's fortunes.

As of August, the research firm Canalys reported that Windows Phone made up 3.2% of the worldwide smartphone market in the second quarter of 2012 -- and this was a healthy increase, percentage-wise, over previous reports.

Even Ballmer himself admitted to less than stellar momentum on this front. "Windows Phone is a small-volume player," Ballmer said in Tuesday's keynote. But the company is clearly hoping that the entry of new Windows Phone 8-based handsets from HTC, Samsung and Nokia, as well as the common code base that both the smartphone and the main PC operating system share, will fuel demand.

"If you want the best experience with your new Windows computer, you will own a Windows Phone. If you want the experience that is the most personal, you'll buy a Windows Phone," said Ballmer.

Decision time for developers

Some developers are keenly aware of the new opportunities Windows 8's release is bringing. David Shadle, a user experience designer and developer and former Microsoft employee, has been working on an app idea for a while, but put the effort on hold because of time constraints.

"With the launch of Windows 8, I have become very inspired at the opportunity to reignite this effort," Shadle said. "The design principles that Microsoft have put into place align well with the experience that I have been experimenting with. I am excited at the opportunity to build the application once and have it appear across multiple screens, which I always considered but was intimidated at the task."

Milton said he is currently writing a Windows 8 app and that what he learned at the conference was a key influence in his decision. The sheer numbers, he says, are reason enough. "[You] can't argue with the fact that if Windows 8 fails as badly as Vista, that's still 70 million customers," Milton said. But "it won't" fail, he said, being as confident as others here about the eventual success of the Windows 8 operating system in the marketplace.

Jonathan Hassell runs 82 Ventures LLC, a consulting firm based out of Charlotte, N.C. He's also an editor with Apress Media LLC. Reach him at jhassell@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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