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Can Windows 8 Give Developers What iOS and Android Lack?

By Shane O'neill, CIO
November 07, 2012 04:11 PM ET

CIO - Microsoft's newly released OS, Windows 8, starts its bold new life at the crossroads of PCs and tablets, and consumers and businesses.

While analysts predict that the adoption of the new OS will take time, there is one critical area where it can't afford to fall behind: Apps.

BACKGROUND: Microsoft doubles down on Windows 8 developers

Microsoft has been wooing developers to get on the Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 bandwagon. The PC landscape that Microsoft dominated for decades has morphed into a mobile battlefield besieged by iPads, iPhones, and Android tablets and smartphones.

There is an army of existing Windows developers, but the Windows Store contains only about 10,000 apps. The Apple App Store, by comparison, has 700,000.

At its annual Build developer conference last week Microsoft offered attendees a Surface tablet, 100GB of free cloud storage via SkyDrive, a free Nokia Lumia 920 Windows 8 phone and a discounted developer's registration to the Windows Store.

But the biggest incentive is something Microsoft announced earlier this year: More money. Microsoft will give developers 70 percent of an app's selling price, but then increase that amount to 80 percent once the app earns over $25,000.

Apple only recently raised the cut for iOS developers to 70 percent. Google pays Android developers a 70 percent share as well.

Two Windows 8 developers CIO.com spoke with are both prepared for Windows 8 to grow slowly, but are enthused by its versatility across different devices, the variety of developer tools at hand and the abundant support from Microsoft.

And, of course, there's the potentially enormous audience that could rise up around Windows 8. After all, there are 670 million Windows 7 users potentially upgrading to Windows 8 at some point.

Windows 8: Just Like Starting Over (Kind of)

Even with its massive installed base of Windows users, Windows 8 is still like a new kid on the block because of the recent proliferation of tablets and app distribution stores.

"I think Microsoft realizes it is not the big monopolist now and they know they have to conquer the market again," says Tom Verhoeff, an app developer and a partner at Holland-based app development company Methylium, which recently developed the Windows 8 app for Booking.com, a popular online hotel reservation site.

"From an OS perspective on the desktop Windows is still the best. But people will have to get used to the Windows 8 interface on the desktop," Verhoeff says."When they adapt they will want it on phones and they will be happy with how files sync between the two."

The success of iOS and Android on tablets remains the biggest obstacle for Windows 8, admits Verhoeff, and with PC sales in decline Microsoft won't be as big as it used to be, but will still carve out a space in the market, he says.

Independent developer Jonathan Isabelle recently developed an app for Windows 8 called Jack of Tools (a "Swiss Army Knife"-type app that contains a flashlight, compass, virtual leveler, geo-location, altitude, speed, sound meter and other features). He migrated his app using RadControls for Windows 8, a toolset for building Windows 8 apps from application and content management company Telerik (Methylium also used Telerik's toolset).

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