By: Jason Carter
Windows 8 is an odd OS.
I’m not talking about the initial “Who moved my cheese?” shock of the new user interface. You get used to it. After the initial week or two of daily usage, you learn to be just as productive as before.
No, what I’m talking about is Windows Store apps. Windows Store apps are the full-screen apps that launch from your Start Screen tiles when you first log in to Windows 8.
I like Windows Store apps, even though the full-screen experience can be a bit disorienting when you are used to the Windows desktop. The name Windows Store is a bit of a misnomer, because the apps in the store don’t have any actual windows. Even after several months of Windows 8 being my primary OS, I still get a bit of vertigo every time I enter full-screen land.
However, the design and typography of full-screen mode makes for a beautiful experience, especially when reading articles. And I expect that once I replace my laptop with a device that has a touch screen, the touch-friendliness will be even more appreciated.
In fact, the only gripe I have about Windows Store apps is that there aren’t more of them.
So here is my unabashed plug why You the Company® and You the Individual Developer® should build your own Windows Store apps.
1. Huge Windows Market Share
Even though Windows Store apps run on Windows 8 tablets, they also run on PCs. This is way different from the fragmented worlds of Apple iOS and Mac OS X.
Windows Store apps don’t have to rely on the sales of Windows tablets or phones to be successful. Windows already constitutes over 90% market share of all desktop OSs, and over 70%-80% of all device OSs, including mobile!
And while Windows 8 is still a new operating system, it is already selling well and achieved significant buy-in from hardware manufacturers and even the US Department of Defense. Trust me, it will sell, and will attain market dominance in the next three years.
From a consumer standpoint, I like to have access to my apps on whatever machine I’m using. Windows Store apps run natively on both Windows 8 PCs and tablets, without having to wait a year for a company to come out with mobile version of its software.
From an economics standpoint, Windows Store apps are great, because you just develop the code once, and then you automatically get access to markets for both Windows 8 PCs and tablets.
From the standpoint of a developer, I like being able to develop something once and be done. With software, less code not only means less work, but it also means fewer bugs.
With a well-engineered software package that separates the user interface design from the code that does the heavy lifting, you can use the Shared Core feature of Windows Phone 8 to get your Windows Store app to run on Windows Phone 8 with just a little extra UI design work.
And if portability is really your thing, you can use Portable Class Libraries to share your core code with normal .NET applications (including ASP.NET, Windows Forms, and Windows Presentation Foundation programs), Silverlight, Windows Phone 7, and even the Xbox 360.
3. Standing Out
The first thing most people do once they understand how apps work on the Windows 8 Start Screen is open the Store app and start poking around.
Right now, the Windows Store is so new that many of the big name companies haven’t yet ported their mobile apps to it.
While this is disappointing from a consumer perspective, this presents smaller businesses and individual developers with amazing opportunities to establish their own branding with fewer competitors.
Windows Store apps are just full of misnomers. Not only do they not have windows, but you don’t even need to distribute them through the Store.
Microsoft System Center 2012 and Windows Intune come with a feature called the Self-Service Portal, which enables businesses to develop their own private Windows Store line of business apps, and then deploy them in-house without ever touching the Windows Store.
The Self-Service Portal also allows you to personalize which apps are available to which user groups, lock down apps on stolen or lost devices, and even revoke privileges to apps entirely once employees leave the company.
As an added bonus, there is no premium account fee for distributing in-house apps to Windows 8 Enterprise devices on your domain. Apple charges $299 for the privilege of bypassing their store.
5. Worldwide Marketplace
Windows enjoys almost universal market share in the world’s emerging markets of Asia and South America, where the post-PC age is still hampered by economics and infrastructure. Windows 7 has achieved rapid adoption there, so Windows 8 should have little trouble being accepted as well.
Windows Store apps are perfect for reaching lucrative world markets, since the Windows Store is already available in over 120 countries worldwide.
6. Individual Developers Pay Less
Individual developers pay only $49/year for an account that can distribute apps to both Windows 8 tablets and PCs.
While this can seem like a lot of money to tinkerers used to the one-time Google Play store fee of $25 for developing Android apps, it is still much better than the Apple developer account fee of $99/year for iOS and $99/year more for OS X.
It is easy to justify $4/month for the right to publish your software to the ecosystem that is on the start screen of every Windows 8 device out there. Since Windows 8 sold over 60 million licenses in the first month and a half it was out, it shouldn’t take long before the cost-to-audience ratio for Windows 8 becomes more lucrative than for Apple iOS.
So now you have all the reasons you need to justify making a Windows 8 Store app. Do it. Do it now.
About our Author: Jason Carter is a Microsoft-certified senior software developer with DLS Software Studios and a lover of all things geeky. He spends most of his free time reading, tinkering with new technology, and playing games. He is a father, a husband, a former Peace Corps volunteer, a gardener, a back country outdoors-man, and a black-belt in Bujinkan budo taijutsu.