Why Windows 8 is a compelling platform for app developers

Why Windows 8 is a compelling platform for app developers
Microsoft's Ballmer at Microsoft Build 2012

Shifting 4 million Windows 8 upgrades in three days gives Steve Ballmer a good way to appeal to developers at the Build conference this week by emphasizing the large number of users that they can sell Windows 8 apps to, as well as commercial terms that give you 70 or 80% of the app purchase price.

He thinks that adds up to a compelling platform. "You can do better apps, you can put those apps across multiple devices including Windows Phone, you can have what I think are the best commercial terms on the planet. This is a market where you can do your best work, your most creative work and you can make money."

Ballmer showcases what WIndows 8 apps are capable of

Ballmer showcases what WIndows 8 apps are capable of

Ballmer's demo of Windows 8 features and apps in the opening keynote showcased features of the platform that apps can take advantage of.

"The apps you deliver on the Windows platform will be better than apps you deliver on other platforms," he claimed – as long as developers remember to use the new features like roaming settings and files through a Microsoft account, letting users pin specific features inside an app right to the Start screen and supporting the search and share charms.

Live tiles and share charms

Live tiles give you a completely different way of thinking about productivity, pointed out Tim O'Brien, general manager of the developer platform group. "Notifications barely scratch the surface of what live tiles are capable of. You can create productivity scenarios that don't involve running the app; think about that. I can make the user productive without even clicking the tile."

The share charm can have unexpected benefits too. The Dodo GoGo game in the Windows Store lets players share their high score using the charm, which worked as very effective free advertising. "After they launched the game it went viral. At one point they were getting two thousands downloads a day, and it turned out the sharing charm was the thing that made it go viral," explained O'Brien.

Re-use code for apps running on Windows 8 and Windows Phone

Windows 8 isn't the only platform Microsoft is wooing developers for; "Windows 8 and Windows Phone now share a common programming model that will help you develop faster," points out Kevin Gallo, the director of program management for Windows Phone.

Windows Phone 8 uses the Windows kernel, it has familiar Windows concepts like file format associations and a number of APIs are common to both platforms. That means you can build components that will run on both Windows and Windows Phone 8; developers will need to create separate apps with different interfaces, but reusing code you already have speeds up and simplifies creating applications for both platforms.

That gives Microsoft a chance to attract a much wider range of developers, says O'Brien. "Developers that have been writing on Microsoft platforms for years, C++ programmers who have been writing against Windows since 95. You can come forward to Windows 8 and write Windows Store apps using those languages right away. I don't know how hard it is to learn Objective C in a weekend but being able to take these skills means you can participate in the opportunity today.

"And the developers who haven't been writing for Microsoft, who are more Web centric or are thinking about dynamic languages… The decision to make HTML5 a full fledged application platform in Windows 8 is something we bet on three years ago as part of the Windows 8 product planning. To get the kind of reach and scale; I'm not sure I would ignore that as a developer even if I was making a lot of money on iOS."


Mary (Twitter, Google+, website) started her career at Future Publishing, saw the AOL meltdown first hand the first time around when she ran the AOL UK computing channel, and she's been a freelance tech writer for over a decade. She's used every version of Windows and Office released, and every smartphone too, but she's still looking for the perfect tablet. Yes, she really does have USB earrings.