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Is Windows 8 development worth the trouble?

Paul Rubens | April 15, 2014
Microsoft pays some companies to produce Windows 8 versions of their products. Without this type of financial assistance, or various other incentives, is Windows 8 and especially Windows Phone development worth the effort?

This may seem to make little commercial sense given the tiny numbers of Windows tablet and phone users, until you understand the economics behind the decision. "Microsoft said, 'We will fund the effort,' and paid us a significant amount to do the port," Portela explains.

The end result: Hospitals that want to use the system have to upgrade to Windows 8 computers with touchscreens, while physicians can still use their choice of iOS, Android and Blackberry devices - and, now, Windows mobile devices, should they wish to.

Paying Windows 8 Developers Potential 'Bottomless Pit' for Microsoft

Microsoft paying for the development of Windows Store apps is certainly one way to boost the Windows 8 app ecosystem until it reaches a critical mass - but this approach is not without its dangers, Miller warns. It doesn't matter what you pay a company to build an app for your platform if customer's won't use it and the app gets abandoned, he says. "For Microsoft, this could be throwing money into a bottomless pit."

Last spring, Microsoft tried a slightly different strategy, offering developers $100 for each new Windows 8 or Windows Phone app published in their respective stores.

If you're a developer, and Microsoft isn't paying you to develop Windows 8 apps, then you face two awkward facts: Windows 8 tablets have just 2 percent of the tablet market, according to Gartner, and Windows 8/8.1 represents less than 11 percent of total Windows installations, compared to 47 percent for Windows 7 and nearly 30 percent for Windows XP, according to NetApplications.

Given that, why should you bother developing for Windows 8 at all?

O'Brien has two answers. "Some app stores have thousands and thousands of apps, so some developers struggle to differentiate themselves," he says. With fewer apps in the Windows Store, you face less competition, in other words.

In addition, if you choose to make Windows 8 applications, you can make versions that look similar on PCs and mobile devices. "We believe that the next generation of app experiences will be PC, tablet and phone experiences," O'Brien says. "We compete with Apple and Google, but they treat the tablet and phone as completely different from a desktop or laptop device."

This might be more significant were it a simple matter of developing once and publishing to desktop, tablet and phone - but O'Brien admits that that isn't the case yet. "You can reuse the skills and code. It's not easy today, but it will be," he says. It's also not clear that many developers are sold on the benefits of producing similar applications for PCs, mobile devices and phones.

Windows 8 Development Incentives More Than Cold, Hard Cash


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