As Microsoft Corp. launched its Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 tablets last month, it was featuring Windows Store apps in demonstrations given to media and intrigued customers.
Whether it was a line of business app to make easy data visualization reports or a sleek media player app, Microsoft wasn’t shy about using third-party software to showcase the capabilities and features of its new tablets. It might seem logical to just show off a couple of great-looking apps, but you can bet this was a very planned tactic used by Microsoft to draw as much attention to the quality apps that are available through the Windows Store. Launched with the introduction of Windows 8 and the scaled-down Windows RT, promoting adoption of the Windows Store has been an uphill battle for Microsoft thus far.
Downloading software from a cloud-based digital storefront is a paradigm shift for legacy Microsoft users who may be more comfortable buying software in a box and stowing the disc away for safekeeping. Then there’s the monster-sized competition in Apple’s App Store and Google Play – both dwarfing the still-respectable 160,000+ apps available to download in the Windows Store from 45,000 different developers.
Strong money making potential
Consider the engagement numbers as well, laid out in a Forbes article in August. Microsoft claims the average user downloads 54 apps, which would put total Windows Store downloads at about 650 million.
Still, the new Windows platform and the Windows Store channel are appealing to many developers. After all, Microsoft may offer the most rewarding platform for developers in terms of revenue opportunity, offering an average of $0.154 per download compared to Apple’s $0.10 and Android’s $0.019, according to Forbes.
Here are thoughts from a couple of them about why it might be a good idea to get your business’ app in this digital storefront while it’s still in its early days.
Growing platform already has a huge user base
While the growth of Windows 8 has so far been largely driven by being packaged with new PC and device sales, it has still managed to reach 7.41 per cent of desktop share worldwide, says Peter Newhook, a consultant at Toronto-based Infusion Development. He’s presenting to a crowd at FITC’s Screens conference.
There’s two ways you could look at that number, he says.
“You could look at that and say that Steve Ballmer should be drawn and quartered for that,” he says, joking. “But this is the first time that Windows 8 has passed over the OS X install base.”
So consider there are now more Windows 8 users than Mac users, and that doesn’t include the reach you get when including Windows RT users. That’s the way Michael Lant, the founder of Yapagame, was thinking when he worked with Microsoft to become a launch parter with the Windows Store. He placed two apps in the store at launch – Yapagame a social organization app for sports fans that enables organization around sporting events, and ProjectYap, a business tool that combines agile project management with social media.
Lant saw the opportunity as a way to get in on the ground floor of a platform that was bound to see rapid growth. Plus, he would gain exposure in an app store not flooded with free apps.
“What I realized is being on a really popular platform is good, but it’s really challenging to be one of 700,000 apps in one of those stores,” he says. “Having people find you is a challenge that requires a lot of push and marketing.”
So far Lant has been surprised by the success of ProjectYap, which has seen three times the downloads of Yapagame. For a business-to-business targeted app, that is a big deal, he says.
Specific and clear design specifications
Lant’s development strategy is to only spend time developing for one platform natively, and then developing HTML5 Web applications that will be compatible with other platforms. One of the main reasons he chose Windows 8 is the path to get an app in the store is more transparent and reliable. As many developers will complain, Lant says submitting an app to the iOS store can leave a developer waiting for days or weeks to get approval.
“That can have some profoundly negative impact on your brand,” he says. With Microsoft, “the path I had to follow was actually clearer and easier in spite of the fact Microsoft has more specific standards.”
To describe the Windows 8 design aesthetic, Newhook says “think about it as iOS 7 without gradients.” He points to the Live Tiles and the ability to entice users into you app with new content on the dynamic shortcuts as a benefit unique to Windows 8.
The approach is to feature content over chrome, he says. Even context menus and navigation bars are hidden by default, swiped in from the edges of the screen by the user. Those bars are also optional, and developers can choose to skip them altogether.