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:
- Market Opportunity
- Designed for discovery
- Flexible business models
- Best economics
Let’s dive into each of these.
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 money 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.
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…
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.
- Windows Store Agreements: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/windows/apps/hh694082.aspx
- Windows Store App Developer Agreement (for developers): http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/windows/apps/hh694058.aspx
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.
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: