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3/20/2013
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Microsoft Seeks Windows 8 App Wave

As Microsoft works to attract developers to Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8, does $100 app bonus encourage quantity over quality?

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Microsoft has begun offering developers up to $2,000 to create applications for Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8. The incentives could stimulate needed growth in Microsoft's app market, which offers fewer titles than any of its major competitors and has failed to make waves with consumers. But the program also suggests that Microsoft is eyeing quantity above quality, sending mixed messages about the software giant's priorities and intentions.

Microsoft is now paying developers $100 for each of up to 20 apps published before June 30. Programmers can submit no more than 10 apps to a single platform, so only those who write for both Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 will be able to max out the payment. The incentives are also limited to the first 10,000 qualified entries. Microsoft quietly began the program on March 8 but publicity has only picked up over the last few days.

Though still the dominant player in the lethargic PC space, Microsoft has struggled with its newest platforms to loosen iOS and Android's stranglehold over the mobile market. In that sense, incentives can be seen as Microsoft's pragmatic acknowledgement that it is playing from behind.

[ MS Office now comes with a little something extra. Read Microsoft Office 2013 Gains Free Bing Apps. ]

Microsoft recently has made several efforts to engage developers, including releasing new videos to get programmers started, hosting a variety of hackathons, and partnering with developer feedback site PreApps. It's too early to say for certain but the gestures appear to be having an effect; according to MetroStore Scanner, this month's Windows app store launches have averaged 247 per day, which is not only a 74% upsurge from February's average of 142 but also the first time since Windows 8 debuted that monthly developer activity has increased.

Microsoft might also feel encouraged by the success BlackBerry achieved with its own incentives program. The longtime enterprise staple appeared left for dead only a few months ago but it now boasts a BlackBerry 10 marketplace of 100,000 apps and a CEO bold enough to take swipes at the iPhone. Skeptics aren't convinced BlackBerry's progress will translate into market share, but 100,000 apps represents rapid growth, especially given that Windows 8 hasn't yet reached half that number.

That said, BlackBerry's pitch to developers is meaningfully different than Microsoft's. It restricts incentive eligibility to apps that earn between $1,000 and $10,000 during their 12 months in the app store. After a year, developers collect the difference between $10,000 and the app's total gross. As a result, any BlackBerry 10 programmer whose app earns at least $1000 is guaranteed $10,000 for his or her efforts, via either app store revenue, an incentive payment, or both.

In addition to offering bigger max paydays than Microsoft, the Company Formerly Known as RIM also distinguishes itself by encouraging developer investment. Microsoft's approach could allow shoddy apps to earn their creators $100 a pop. BlackBerry's earnings-based eligibility threshold, in contrast, discourages developers from even bothering with such half-hearted efforts. Microsoft's app catalogue will certainly grow during this campaign, but a big marketplace is valuable only if it includes "must have" titles. Such apps have so far been in short supply on Windows 8, and It's hard to know if $100 is enough to motivate developers to give their best if they aren't already doing so.

Indeed, former Windows Phone manager Charlie Kindel raised similar concerns in a blog post written last September, warning that developer incentives not only project desperation but also impede lasting commitments between platforms and programmers.

Microsoft has traditionally opposed paying for developer submissions, and one can only guess whether the new program would have been instituted if Windows president Steve Sinofsky hadn't resigned. It's certainly possible that Microsoft is offering some developers guidance in addition to money, and that the seeds for delightful and productive apps have already been planted. It's also possible that Windows Blue, which is expected to unify development across Windows platforms, will address concerns.

But many users are already content with iOS and Android devices. The allure of a touch-oriented tablet that also runs Microsoft Office hasn't yet proven itself strong enough to turn heads, so if Microsoft wants to make strides, it will need to offer a competitive overall experience, not merely a competitive number of apps.

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Yosm
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Yosm,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/23/2013 | 4:11:15 PM
re: Microsoft Seeks Windows 8 App Wave
check out the latest Windows 8 twitter app.. www,windows8web.com/twitter-app-fo...
MarkJones
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MarkJones,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/21/2013 | 10:41:49 PM
re: Microsoft Seeks Windows 8 App Wave
My daughter also has a Lumia 920, and I agree with your ideas about the quality of both the hardware and the OS software. However, products can technically be the "greatest" (or at least clearly superior), and yet their manufacturer can still go under.

I was closely associated with both Microsoft and IBM in the 80s, and I witnessed IBM almost sinking under the waves. You and I both know what they are (and are not) today. Neither Nokia nor Microsoft are immune from the same drastic effects of ignoring the new world technology paradigm. I hope, for personal reasons, MSFT does not suffer the same fate. But I'm afraid it's entirely possible in the long run, unless they drop over-confident smugness in all areas of their business. For one, they must take some more tangible steps to demonstrate that the new-world app developers are one of their most important assets and do what is needed to attract them to the MSFT platform. Giving away $100 per app is insignificant and will only encourage a lot of "junk" apps. This will not make their products more attractive to the world at large -- the consumer market that should be their bread-and-butter.
dhugos
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dhugos,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/21/2013 | 6:56:57 PM
re: Microsoft Seeks Windows 8 App Wave
The MarkJones comment was very informative.

Regardless of what you may think of MS, I hope some realism prevails. Google and Apple are hardly little underdogs anymore, and are not exactly laudable examples of propriety.

What I would say is that Microsoft and Lumia have indeed come up with a great phone that is very nice in just about every regard, when they released the Lumia 920. It is just flat-out sweet, the apps very snappy and attractive, the interface very natural, and the feel of it is great. I'm personally very satisfied.

As far as Microsoft goes, I think they need to get some AT&T salespeople to act as evangelists for the product in order to increase their sales trajectory.

I wouldn't say that if I felt it was a mediocre product - so far, everything's been great, including some things other phones don't have, like the charging system for instance, and the Nokia apps which have been excellent.
MarkJones
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MarkJones,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/21/2013 | 1:49:27 PM
re: Microsoft Seeks Windows 8 App Wave
My company is currently a one-man software development org specializing in mobile apps. I am targeting the Windows phone and tablet platform exclusively, for two primary reasons: 1) I have considerable past expertise in MSFT-related development; and (more importantly) 2) I believe the Microsoft technology platform has an excellent chance for the future. So in my thinking, their tiny market share in the mobile area is currently irrelevant to me.

That being said, I have a serious concern about MSFT at this point. While they currently have the technical and financial wherewithal to pursue this new market, much of their internal philosophy and therefore external actions reflect a gross over-confidence in their present position of strength. For example, they still approach the app-development community in the same way as they did when they were king of the desktop. Ergo, they charge a premium price for the development tools and developer support, and after much research I'm convinced that many leaders at Microsoft don't believe this past reality needs to change in this new world. I believe this is a grave mistake, which they must begin changing immediately.

MSFT has lost the loyalty of the development community at large, although die-hard Microsoft "cultist" developers will stick with them until the Titanic sinks. I am not one such developer. So although I'm pursuing their technology platform full-steam-ahead, I'm also standing on the foredeck watching for icebergs. Microsoft's old developer paradigm is a berg I've already spotted, but so far Redmond is not changing their course to avoid the impending collision. Based on their experience in this new market, they should have learned better by now.

The mobile marketplace tells us all we need to know about Microsoft's "rep" with developers, at least those serving the application needs of the consumer market (ergo, the world at large). We the people of the developer community have become interested in the consumer market on a mass scale, and the Apple/Google camp represents that market on their technology platforms. Thus far, Microsoft is effectively a non-entity.

What the MSFT demi-gods are missing in this equation is the "we could possibly fail" factor. They are smug, based on my personal experience with their views, and their old-school treatment of developers is only one evidence. And they are arrogant if they continue their current position of believing they will attract both the quality and quantity of apps to their platform they must have to survive, all the while attempting to milk prospective developers dry through the cost of MSFT development tools. If Microsoft commanded the market share Apple does, they could get by with such tactics. To say the least, they do not, and they cannot.

Regardless of the present size of their war chest, this particular brick is going to prove too heavy for Redmond to fly in the long run. Without removing the significant obstacle of development-tool costs in short order (i.e. without providing Visual Studio Pro free to all), Microsoft is placing an unrealistically heavy burden of commitment, or even interest, onto an already-proven-fickle dev community.

Let's briefly summarize the revenue reality for the thinkers in Redmond:

1) Current lack of market share deters many developers from being interested in the MSFT phone/tablet platform.
2) Current dev-software costs deter many other developers that are not already put off by the apparent lack of opportunity.
3) The consumer market represents the future of computing -- it will drive everything, including financial success.
4) Microsoft is in no position to behave as if the enterprise software market is all they need to care about; i.e., they either succeed in the consumer market or be consigned to becoming only a "niche" technology company, much as IBM now is (rewind to the 80s).
5) Providing great tools at no cost (such as VS Pro) is a significant incentive for developers wondering whether they should be at all interested in pursuing the paltry consumer-market portion Microsoft currently owns.
6) MSFT will recoup its initial investment in the app developer through:
a) 30% off-the-top pure profit on app sales
b) MSDN annual subscription purchases and renewals
c) Additional MSFT software-license sales on W8-based devices
d) Yearly fees for membership in the W7 Phone or W8 App marketplace
e) Serving and thus endearing the consumer app-dev community
f) Most important: gaining significant popularity in the new world at large
Johnnythegeek
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Johnnythegeek,
User Rank: Strategist
3/21/2013 | 1:42:55 PM
re: Microsoft Seeks Windows 8 App Wave
It would seem to me that with a Windows mobile market share of around 2 to 3% that this low percentage would be the reason why developers are not doing anything with Windows mobile.
I am not sure this amount of bribe money is going to go very far when you consider the lack of potential revenue with such a low user base. If Microsoft really wants to attract developers its going to have to start by increasing Windows mobile users and then hope developers will see this as a opportunity. My own feeling as someone who gave Windows 7 .5 mobile a try. Is that while Windows mobile is a OK OS on a phone. It has absolutely no real advantage over IOS or Android. In fact it very much reminds me of a second class OS. Something for cheaper bottom end smartphones none of which come close to competing with IOS or Android.
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