Developing a Windows 8 Metro App Part 1: Why Would You Want to Develop a Metro Application for Windows 8?


This post kicks off another blog post series on developing a Metro application for Windows 8.  But, before I spend the rest of this series describing HOW to develop, let me devote one post to WHY you might want to develop a Windows 8 application and publish it in the Windows Store. 

One of the things that I’m most psyched about for Windows 8 is the Windows Store.  This is an online marketplace where developers can publish applications and all end users of Windows 8 can download them.  The Windows Store will be the primary mechanism for distributing Metro apps (although you can roll out Metro apps to enterprises internally without going through the Windows Store, using sideloading…there is a blog post that describes this at http://blogs.msdn.com/b/windowsstore/archive/2012/04/25/deploying-metro-style-apps-to-businesses.aspx). 

So, as a developer, why might I want to publish my app in the Windows Store?  Here are the top 5 reasons:

  1. Market Opportunity
  2. Designed for discovery
  3. Flexible business models
  4. Uber-transparency
  5. Best economics

Let’s dive into each of these. 

Market Opportunity

I probably don’t have to convince you of the global reach of the Windows operating system.  It is available in over 100 languages and over 200 markets.  But I don’t think people truly grasp what a huge market opportunity this is.  Look at it this way…you may have heard stories of how a developer made a ton of MarketSizemoney selling an iPhone app.  Let’s compare the market sizes (data is from Dec 2011):

  • Windows 7: 500M devices
  • Android phones:234M devices
  • Android tablets:13M devices
  • iPhone:112M devices
  • iPad:40M devices
  • Mac:30M devices

There are over 500 million machines running Windows 7 today (and note that this number is JUST Windows 7…if we included all of the Windows XP and other Windows machines still out there, the number is easily over a billion).  Any machine running Windows 7 will be able to run Windows 8, in terms of hardware requirements.  So there is a huge potential market here.  If you add up all of the Android devices, iPhones, iPads, and Mac computers, that total number is still far less than the number of machines running just Windows 7!  

From a sheer business perspective, crunching the numbers, it’s smart to think about writing an application for Windows 8. 

Designed for Discovery

The Windows team has done a lot of work to ensure that applications in the Windows Store can be easily found. 

  • They’ve done work around search engine optimization, so the name of your app in a search engine should return its listing page in the Windows Store. 
  • The Windows Store will appear as a tile in the Start Menu of every Windows 8 user. 
  • Within the Windows Store, there are a lot of ways to surface great apps, such as the Spotlight section where great apps are highlighted, recommendations for you based on your past downloads, browsing and filtering capabilities (based on categories, price, and ratings), a “new releases” section where you can see newly-launched apps, a section where you can see the top downloaded apps, and of course search. 
  • IE10 deep links – you can add two lines of markup to your website, and any end user running the Metro version of Internet Explorer 10 will see an app button within the browser that promotes your app.  The app button on a Windows 8 PC takes you to the app listing in the Store (if the app is not installed) or directly launches the app (if it’s installed).  You can see the app button in the below picture on the bottom left (the button between the back button and the URL).  Here’s a (made-up) scenario: I am a huge fan of xkcd.  I may visit their website regularly, but not think to look in the Windows Store to see if they made a Metro app for Windows 8, which may have a richer experience.  With this button, when I visit the xkcd website, I see right away that they have a Windows 8 app, and I would immediately download it. 

EvernoteWebpage

 

Flexible business models

Next, there is a lot of flexibility in business models.  You can make free apps or paid apps that cost money.  You can enable trials, which can be time-based (example: expire after 30 days) or feature-based (example: you can play the first 10 levels of my game for free and then you buy the app to unlock the rest of the levels once you’re hooked).  You can have in-app purchases, which can be done through Microsoft or a third party.  (In-app purchases are a way for users to buy additional products or features from within your application.)  You can have advertising support in your app, which can also be Microsoft advertising or third-party.  And on and on…

Uber-transparency

First, go read the Windows Store blog post on Making Customer-Focused Decisions with Adoption Reports.  It details the amazing analytics that are provided for your published app in the Windows Store.  One example is the App Summary page, which shows download trends, ratings breakdown, and quality overview for your application. 

Secondly, there is mega-transparency in the application submission process.  When a developer submits an application to the Windows Store, at any time, you can log into your developer dashboard and see what the steps of the process are, how long each step usually takes, and exactly where your app is in the process. 

Third, there is a tool called the Windows App Certification Kit (or WACK) that allows you to take a step out of the feedback loop.  Instead of submitting to the Windows Store and waiting to find out if you passed or not, you can run the WACK locally before you submit your app and test for major issues.  There is “how-to” information on this at http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/windows/apps/8AA27AB1-2743-42A2-923B-74FABE8DEB34.aspx.  This same series of tests is run during the Windows Store application submission process, so it’s better to run it locally first and make sure everything passes there before submitting.  This may eliminate some steps from the “submit, wait, receive failure, fix, resubmit…” cycle that is so much fun.   

Finally, documentation has been published with all of the Windows Store policies.  It’s kind of dry reading, but I’ve found answers to lots of questions in these documents. 

 

Best economics

Besides going back to reason #1 (huge market share), there are other economic reasons for building a Metro app for Windows 8.

You, as the developer, control the pricing.  There are some constraints (min and max prices, and tiers), but you have a lot of flexibility to choose a price that accurately works with the laws of supply and demand.  Remember that you can publish free apps too. 

You get up to 80% revenue share.  Like our competitors’ stores, you will begin by receiving 70% of the revenue share for your apps sold in the Windows Store.  But, Microsoft goes beyond that.  Once your app has earned $25,000 USD, you will receive 80% of the revenue on that app.  So essentially, you are rewarded for writing great apps!  I love this. 

 

In conclusion, some final useful resources are the Windows Store blog and the article on Making money with your apps

OK, are you psyched to make crazy money with the Windows Store?  :)  Tomorrow, we’ll discuss how to get started!  

 

Other blog posts in this series:

Part 1: Why Would You Want to Develop a Metro Application for Windows 8?

Part 2: Getting Started

Part 3: Metro Design

Part 4: My “Reveal a Picture” Algorithm and Basic Code

 

Comments (21)

  1. Wound says:

    So,

    I write software for a company that makes scientific instruments, of which we sell a few hundred a year. The software is useless unless you own said instrument, or perhaps unless you have one on your local network. It seems to me that the windows store is useless to us, and I can't see me ever wanting to distribute software this way. Many of the PCs we ship with our instruments will never be connected to the internet because of data security requirements, and without a way for us to install software directly onto those PCs we will never write metro apps (even if Metro wasn't too ugly for words). This is the first time in nearly 15 years that I've not been desperate to jump on board the next version of Windows.

  2. Soulice says:

    @Tom  I think you missed this point: "Metro apps to enterprises internally without going through the Windows Store, using sideloading…there is a blog post that describes this at blogs.msdn.com/…/deploying-metro-style-apps-to-businesses.aspx). "

  3. lmkz says:

    So… There are 500M Windows 7 PCs out there… NONE of which can run Metro apps… Epic fail.

    As a developer, I would be considering writing an "app" if I knew that it could run on Win 7, XP etc. But as it stands there is no incentive. Who knows whether Win8/RT will take off?

    You don't need to force users/developers onto Win 8… They will come in time, as with XP->7.

    By not opening up the Store to Win 7 you are missing a huge opportunity.

    I am a software developer by trade and there is absolutely no incentive for me to upgrade from 7 to 8. Hence what incentive is there for any other user? Maybe if the upgrade was < $20 I might consider it. But for what? A clumsy new start screen? Metro apps designed for tablets? No thanks. It ain't gonna happen.

  4. Kevin S. says:

    If the major benefit to developing a Metro app is to get into the store, and the restriction of only allowing Metro apps in the store is a arbitrary restriction purely to help Microsoft sell Windows 8, then forgive me for not being excited. I still don't see what benefit I get from running a Metro app on a full Win 8 desktop machine. Seems like all drawbacks, besides the store.

  5. jennmar says:

    @Tom – you can roll out Metro apps to enterprises internally without going through the Windows Store, using sideloading…there is a blog post that describes this at blogs.msdn.com/…/deploying-metro-style-apps-to-businesses.aspx.  (And thanks @Soulice for making the point faster than me!)

    @Lachlan01 and @Kevin – I'm focusing on Metro apps in this blog post series, so I neglected to make a very important point – the Windows Store is not just for Metro apps.  You can also sell desktop apps (meaning non-Metro apps that use .NET/Win32/etc., not WinRT, and launch in the Windows desktop) in the Windows Store.  With desktop apps, you don't get the full Store experience.  You still get the great discovery benefits from SEO and such, but the main difference is that we don't handle the acquisition process for desktop apps.  On the listing page of a desktop app in the Windows Store, you as the developer provide a link which takes the user to your company's website (or wherever your app is hosted), and the user downloads the app from there (not from the Windows Store itself).  There is more information at blogs.msdn.com/…/listing-your-desktop-app-in-the-store.aspx.  

  6. lmkz says:

    So App store more or less useless for desktop apps then. Surely Metro bolt-on for Win7 would be logical? MS can make money out of commission on apps rather than OS sales.

  7. craig wain says:

    This looks very interesting and helpful

  8. small_mountain says:

    MSDN Flash Newsletter for today links to this article, which is bad, because you have failed to purge this article of references to the term "Metro".  Better get on that.  I'll be very interested to see what word you use instead.

  9. Jaime Bula says:

    Not going the same Silverlight road again.

  10. I am so please that so many developers are not willing to learn variations to a language to target WinRT. I am a Silverlight developer and as such have been able to pick and choose contract jobs at much higher rates than dime a dozen C# developers. As an area specialist, you can pick contracts to suit and negotiate terms, or practice on writing Apps and let Microsoft sell them, Bonus. Win 7 is a great operating system, but hackers will compromise code that is written in its partly trusted space. Metro is a sandbox and that's a big point in itself. I could spend a small foutune marketing my on win 7 software and convincing people it will play nicely on their machine or give Microsoft a 30% cut to do all the hard work, tough choice. Tablets are here to stay, just ask Apple. Why do so many developers learn that aweful objective C?, because the store is an easy way to reach millions of users. Microsoft is not forcing any developer to move to WinRt, get in early and establish your place or wait and see. When comercial contracts come up for developing Metro Apps, I know I will be upskilled, certified and have an established presence in the store. Thank you Jenn for your informative article.

  11. Microsoft gets 30% of sales? <Insert four-letter word here> you Microsoft.

  12. The premises of this BS are obviously flawed. You are assuming that stinking money is what motivates creativivy…. YOU SUCK.

  13. Ajay says:

    Does 500M Windows 7 users also include corporate users/licenses?

    I don't think it will be major market in corporate environment.. they may buy few apps here and there,, it's very restricted market.

    MS is trying to get into this space, but it's too late and they are trying to fit in Windows in app market which will not work

    Majority of IPhone/Andorid users have their personal devices which they are more inclined to buy apps.

    If someone spends money on smartphone than he is the one who will buy apps, not the traditional desktop computer user

  14. can you clarify "Windows 8" says:

    If someone makes an app for Windows 8 will it run on: Windows 8 PCs, Windows 8 RT, and Windows 8 Mobiles? OR are those different development envirnment?

  15. Mike says:

    @sunraybrett, no one is using silverlight, I have to agree C# developers are a dime a dozen, however, Silverlight developers are 'trying to be developers like back in the flash days.

    XAML is XAML, whether it's used for Silverlight, WPF, or now these "metro style' apps. If you know XAML, then you can do a little more, knowing just Silverlight, won't get you anywhere in an enterprise

  16. James says:

    I have to agree with Tom. The store is far too restrictive. We explored sideloading, but you need W8 Pro VL or enterprise. Our customers are ideal for W8 apps – need data on the move but are small businesses without a large IT infrastructure. Sideloading is much too expensive. We have tried pushing through a server based app, but the testers will fail the app for various reasons as they don't understand the purpose of it, and it is hard to explain in the description space available. Also we have to put a list of items in the tester info that the app cannot and never will comply with.

  17. BW022 says:

    I don't get this.

    So far, Microsoft has not shown any applications which is suitable for business. No Outlook, no 50,000 record database applications, no Office, etc. Apps are limited to almost entirely viewing and maybe 3-5 forms of data entry. Games… Windows users moved past hangman and chess into 3D graphics of WoW, Skyrim, and other games nearly a decade ago. How many Mickey Mouse recipe, do-to-list, and currency converters do people need?

    And if you are going to write a Mickey Mouse program for $3 for the masses… why wouldn't you just write it for an iPad/iPhone or Android device and sell 100x as many? Why would you want to write such apps for 4% of a desktop market… most of which are owned by businesses which won't let you buy/install apps or desktop machines… which don't have touch and aren't being used to play $3 kids apps?

    And even if you needed to write some type of dirt simple application for your company… why not just write it as a web application? Most Metro apps need web services to something anyway… so why not just host the application so that any company, iPad, computer, etc. can use/access it? It there any Metro apps which are even as good as a good web application? Is Metro Mail as good as Live.com? Is a recipe Metro app that much better than Recipes.com?

  18. Dougg says:

    Why would anyone doing work on  PC want to do the same thing in an app?

    Get a clue Microbrains. People who left Windows PCs did it because they were the people who NEVER needed a PC in the first place, as all they do is Facebook, texting, pictures, music, and some light Banking etc. Apps are fine for them because they are using one at a time. For the rest of us, we use a "browser" that does everything an app can do and can do it on any website. The App people are not coming back to a PC just to see big apps on a larger screen. A smart phone is all they will ever need.

    Can you name one app running on a PC that can do the same job than a real program, like a web browser, can do? I'd have to have 500 apps to do all of the work I do in one browser.

  19. Nope says:

    I want to develop apps in WPF.

    Metro apps will be abandoned by M$ the same way they abandoned WPF, and WinForms, and MFC, and J#, and many more of them…

    If M$ abandoned WPF (such a promising technology) so fast for unreliable, incomplete and buggy ones like HTML, CSS and JS, they will definitely not gonna stick for long with those either.

    I have yet to see a well-behaving site since the days of plain HTML… (Oh, and yes, I don't use IE…)

    So, to save myself from the sorrow, I am not gonna invest in Metro and stick to WPF even if M$ kills it completely.

    As for browsers replacing real apps, this is the most ridiculous idea I have ever heard.

    Having a browser open, itself, is a security hole and a memory waste, let alone using it. Then it becomes an energy waste, an executor for piles of hacks that often fail miserably and without a notice, etc.

    Lets get real. JavaScript is poorly designed (it's totally useless without 10 libraries to back it up and make it do what the rest of the existing languages do by design) and HTML is full of compatibility hacks, is not an efficient data storage/transmission encoding method, it is 100% human-readable, easier to be hacked, and the list goes on and on.

    I know that M$ can't compete with the HTML.JS craze that exists out there, but at least make a JS/HTML version that doesn't suck like the current ones.

    Screw the standards. Perhaps you could make a JS version of your own that compiles into ordinary suck-y JS so that browsers (aka security holes) are.happy with it. Just, for heaven's sake, don't put us write this primitive web code! The more I write, the more I hate it!

    The people that designed those technologies where seriously brain damaged.

  20. Desktopad says:

    I am here to help app developers get revenue.

    http://www.desktopad.com

  21. The fact of the matter! says:

    " So essentially, you are rewarded for writing great apps! "

    In other words: MICROSOFT is rewarded $7500.00 USD if I write a great app ..thereafter Microsoft  takes a 20% cut.