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Windows 8 Developer Adoption: The Long-Term View


Early daze
It’s no secret that attracting app developers is crucial to the success of Windows 8, both in the short term and the long run. Windows 8 tablet and phone users especially depend on apps for entertainment, social, and productivity functions. A wellstocked app store is essential if Microsoft hopes to achieve the 12-month combined hardware sales of 400 million Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 devices predicted by CEO Steve Ballmer.1 And as the 2012 holiday season approached, Microsoft could boast some early success: Windows 8 launched on 26 Oct 2012 with 9,029 applications available worldwide,2 close to the 10,000 app minimum many pundits thought it needed from the get-go. By the second week of November, the Windows 8 app tally grew to 13,000, and at the current pace of 362 apps added per day, it’s likely to reach the 20,000 app mark by early December.3 That’s the short story. But how can anyone make long-term predictions regarding the app developer magnetism of Windows 8? The real figures fluctuate weekly, it’s a whole new direction for Microsoft, and even the original (Apple) App Store has only been in business for less than five years. There is no real “long term” in the app world just yet. However, perhaps we can muster some predictions based on historical comparisons with iOS and Android developer adoption, some recent stats, and the existing pros and cons Windows 8 app developers face.



What history can tell us
Again, the short answer is: Not so much. The Apple App Store had 500 apps as of July 11, 2008, one day after launch. Three days after launch, it had 800 apps4 (compared to Windows 8’s early growth of 500/day). Google Play (formerly Android Market) launched with 2,300 apps in March 20095; app figures were not available for the first days after launch. Windows 8 launched with 9,029, and is on track to grow by 10,000 per month. Looking at these numbers without context, it would seem that Windows 8 has a strong start in terms of app count and early growth. But in fact, Windows 8 needs to ramp up its app count considerably to reach par with Apple and Google’s historical growth.

Apple took about 4.5 years to reach the 700,000 app mark; Android took 3.5 years. At the current growth rate of 10,000 apps/mo, Windows 8 will take nearly 6 years (2018!) just to match their 2012 app count. Still, it’s highly unlikely that the app count for Windows 8 will remain so neatly static. In terms of the historical and present numbers, it’s way too early to signal Microsoft’s long-term success or failure in attracting developers.

In a survey of more than 5,500 mobile app developers jointly conducted Aug. 22-28 [2012] by Appcelerator and research firm IDC, only 33% said they were “very interested” in developing for Windows 8 tablets. iOS on the iPhone and iPad, meanwhile, garnered 85% and 83%, respectively, while Android phones and tablets collected 76% and 66%.6 However, developer headcount doesn’t necessarily indicate developer productivity. In August 2012 Forbes reported that “AppStoreHQ estimates there are over 43,000 Apple iOS developers and 10,000 Android developers”7 – yet both platforms currently claim 700,000 apps in the marketplace. One of the widely discussed obstacles to attracting Windows 8 developers is the uncertainty of hardware sales. Developers want to see “the large installed base of devices,

What some recent stats say
It’s only natural that developer adoption of Windows 8 would lag behind that of Android and iOS at first as developers explore the potential, but a recent sense check of developer intent didn’t bode well:

Launch dates Apple App Store Google Play (originally Android Market) 10 July 2008 Feb-march 2009

App count at launch 500 2,300

App count 1 year Current App after launch Count 55,000 30,000 120,000 at current rate of 10,000/mo 700,000 700,000

Windows 8 store 26 October 2012 9,029

Approx. 18,000



and thus users, necessary to create revenue opportunities.”8 Balancing the uncertainty, though, is the potential – “[the] enormous audience that could rise up around Windows 8. After all, there are 670 million Windows 7 users potentially upgrading to Windows 8 at some point.”9 Currently, the only official Windows 8 sales figures available show that the Windows 8 software was downloaded 4 million times in the first four days after launch.10 While that’s surely a good start, the few solid stats we can glean about developer intent and Windows 8 sales are inconclusive in light of determining Windows 8 developer attraction – shortor long-term.

create apps that could run afoul of Microsoft’s stringent certification requirements. Consider the rules regarding “adult content”: “’Your app must not contain adult content, and metadata must be appropriate for everyone. Apps with a rating over PEGI 16, ESRB MATURE, or that contain content that would warrant such a rating, are not allowed.’ And that’s the end of it. No Skyrim for the Windows Store, unless of course the developers go back and remove all the PEGI 18-rated content. That’s 2011’s Game of the Year, banned from the Windows Store.”11 But while Microsoft has restricted the distribution system, it has actually opened the payment system – something Apple’s closeddistribution App Store doesn’t allow. Any developer can use a non-Microsoft payment system, which allows them to skirt another Windows Store con: the 30% commission Microsoft takes from each app sale (up to $25,000 in sales, when the commission bite drops to 20%.) Most third-party commerce platforms give more flexibility in the business models that developers can adopt (eg time-limited trials, subscriptions etc) charge

considerably less. For example, Lotaris (declaration of interest: we’re writing this article so we’ll stick to the facts) charge 9.85% and a 35¢ transaction charge on each app sold. In addition to the permissive open payment system policy, Microsoft allows developers to program in C++, C#, Visual Basic as well as web development languages such as HTML, CSS or JavaScript. By comparison, iOS only supports Objective C and Android only supports Java.9 But according to CIO: “The ultimate promise of Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 is seamless compatibility across multiple platforms. Apps will run on a PC, a tablet and a smartphone, allowing developers to reach an army of users. Such versatility will make Microsoft unique among its competitors.”9 The potential to make apps more profitable based on an open payment system (or Microsoft’s tiered commission policy), plus some essential programming conveniences, may or may not result in increased developer recruitment. So far, the pros and cons simply don’t point to definitive division among developers (although it’s probably safe to say diehard

Reading into pros and cons
The big con for many developers is Windows 8’s closed distribution system; developers may only sell apps through the Windows Store. It’s the first time in PC history that Microsoft has taken complete control of the software created to integrate with its operating system. The closed software ecosystem of the Windows 8 app store has especially alienated developers who



fans of Linux-like open distribution may never be convinced).

Closing tea leaves from Forrester and others
At least one respected thought leader has a firm prediction regarding Windows 8: “Forrester predicts that 2014 will be the year that Windows 8 gains firm market traction in conventional and touch devices, and by 2016 it will gain almost a 30 percent share of tablets.”9 An unbiased prediction of steadily growing hardware sales may convince some wary developers to flock to Windows 8. And Microsoft’s BUILD conference in early November this year revved up momentum for Windows Phone development, with

“an average of 1,500 new developer registrations every day since the conference, and more than double the Windows Phone 8 SDK downloads in the first 8 days compared to the 7.1 SDK. That works out to a 17% increase in the total number of Windows Phone developers”.12 Incremental advances and fluctuating statistics may be all we have to base predictions on for some time to come. But if the wishywashy nature of long-term developer predictions leaves you unsatisfied, consider the worth of a confident prediction made by Steven Ballmer in an interview with USA Today in 200711: “There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance.”

About Lotaris
Lotaris gives application developers, vendors and distributors an alternative way of managing and monetising their mobile applications. The Lotaris platform allows apps to be licensed according to the behaviours and preferences of their users, maximising both the usability and profitability of the app. Major customers include Symantec, SEGA, Capcom, and Digital River. Find out more at


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