Windows Phone has been lagging behind in the smartphone market, but it’s far from dead. Microsoft has seen small but steady growth with from its mobile platform since its release. The same is true for the Microsoft Surface line of tablets, which are closer to slimmed-down laptops than they are to the average slate.
The biggest obstacle has been app support. The same held true for Android in its infancy, and proved to be a major downfall of the now seemingly-doomed BlackBerry brand. Understandably, developers are weary of investing time in an app for a platform with so little market penetration. This feeds an unfortunate cycle. No devs means no apps, which means no customers, which means no devs.
Microsoft has been trying a different approach to lure developers in to its surprisingly fast-growing app store. Instead of offering monetary incentives, it’s simply making things a heck of a lot easier. Until now the once #1 company has been relatively sedate about pushing this angle, but that looks to be changing.
Making things easy
The best demonstration of the wisdom behind the simplicity approach is Dominic Williamson, the creator of Gym PocketGuide: one of the most downloaded WP fitness apps. At a Sydney round table event for developers, Dominic informed us that he had begun work on the app just 6 months in to a computer programming degree with absolutely no prior coding knowledge. “If you’d asked me what C+ was I’d probably have said something to do with music,” he joked.
A few months later he had a fully working app, and a few after that he was at over 100k downloads. That figure is now in the millions for the free app, and the PocketGuide Pro paid version is apparently doing quite well, too.
That’s the story for past Windows Phone app development. Dominic’s story started a couple of years ago and now things are getting even easier. Our favourite new tid-bit is what Microsoft is doing with cross-platform support.
Always cross the platforms
Cross-platform app support is something that Apple, Google and Microsoft have been promising for years. To some degree those promises have been fulfilled, but rarely to the extent we’ve been led to expect.
What Microsoft has done is build a template within the dev kit itself for making a product that syncs across mobile and PC without requiring the construction of two entirely separate apps. The template makes coding a cross-platform experience easy enough for enthusiastic amateurs to create their own multi-device service, which is great news for anyone following in Dominic’s footsteps.
A developer can then either offer the app for free on one platform, like mobile, if you’ve already purchased it on PC. Alternatively, if the PC version were more in-depth then that could be priced at a higher rate than the mobile app.
Microsoft can’t actually make developers use these tools any more than it can force them to start making apps for Windows Phone in the first place. What is needed is a reason to go with Microsoft instead of the competition. If potential customer base won’t do it in the short-run, then perhaps a lighter work load will.