Badly in need of luring more big-time apps to Windows Phone 8, Microsoft has released a new app development kit aimed at expert and novice developers alike.
Microsoft’s new Windows Phone App Studio, now entering public beta, lets just about anyone create an app, since no programming code is required, according to Todd Brix, Microsoft’s general manager for Windows Phone apps.
“Windows Phone App Studio is a free, web-based app creation tool designed to help anyone quickly bring an idea to life by applying text, web content, imagery, and design concepts to any one of a rich set of customizable templates,” Brix said in a blog post.
“Getting started is easy — just create a Microsoft account, choose your template, and begin adding your content. Windows Phone App Studio does the rest. When your app is ready to go, you can download the app to your phone, or share it with others by publishing it to the Windows Phone Store.”
Where Are the Major Developers?
But to boost its competitive standing vs. Android and iOS, what Windows Phone 8 really needs is to attract not merely more apps, but more of the apps that users crave most.
In fact, Nokia, Microsoft’s hardware partner for Windows Phone 8, has been pressuring Microsoft to do just that.
“We are releasing new devices frequently and for every new device, if there is an app that somebody cares about that’s not there that’s a missed opportunity of a sale,” said Byran Biniak, vice president of Nokia, in a recent interview with the International Business Times.
“People rely on applications for their day-to-day life and if you don’t have something which I use in my day-to-day life I’m not going to switch. It’s not just about the hardware, it’s about the tools that are on the hardware. You can’t sell a phone without the apps, you just can’t.”
Indeed, Windows Phone offers only 63% of the top 100 iOS apps, according to a list recently compiled by Infragistics, a Microsoft development partner (Windows 8, by the way, fares even worse at 54%).
Microsoft, of course, is keenly aware of this dilemma. Business Insider and Bloomberg both report that Microsoft has been offering developers up to $100,000 to produce apps for its phone platform.
A Sprinkling of New Apps
Meanwhile, there hasn’t exactly been a deluge of news over the past few months about new apps for Windows Phone 8. It’s been more like a sprinkling.
In July, Nokia announced that Twitter is developing a Windows Phone 8 edition of its Wine video creation and streaming app.
Microsoft’s new template-driven Windows Phone App Studio is certainly likely to spark app development by beginners. Who knows? Windows Phone 8 might even serve as the launch pad for some absolutely fascinating new apps.
Chicken and Egg
Yet, will it help spark big developments to move to Windows Phone 8? Quite possibly; porting apps to Windows 8 has been no trivial matter. Between iOS and Windows Phone 8 for example, there are differences in user interface (UI), input handling, packing, app stores, and so on. Microsoft’s new development kit should ease the process.
At the same time though, Microsoft needs to incent developers by continuing to gain traction in sales of Windows Phone 8 devices. According to a recent report by research firm Kantar Worldpanel, Windows Phone 8 showed stronger growth over the past quarter than any other mobile OS, stepping from a 2.9% share of US sales to 4%, ahead of BlackBerry’s dismal 1.1%.
On the other hand, Android captured 51.5% of the market, and iOS grabbed 49.3%. Trite but true, this is a case of the chicken and the egg.