Introducing the winners of the First Apps Contest

We previewed the Windows Store and announced our Windows 8 First Apps Contest for Metro style apps on December 6th. You may recall we issued a challenge to developers to be among the very first to be featured in the Windows Store. Under tight deadlines, and limited only by their own imagination and creativity, they responded!

Today we announce the First Apps Contest winners and show off their impressive apps, available now in the Windows Store when you download and install Windows 8 Consumer Preview.

As the Store continues to evolve and we continue the development work on Windows 8, we will have many of the big name apps that are core to any modern app store—but more importantly, we’ve created a significant opportunity anchored on a powerful platform for any developer eager to build apps. The First Apps Contest has demonstrated that you can build apps and get them in front of a worldwide audience in a very short amount of time. The winning apps give us a glimpse into what Windows 8 makes possible for independent developers using the technologies they use today. All of these submissions were developed in less than 8 weeks using Microsoft Visual Studio 11 Express Beta and Expression Blend.

After thoroughly reviewing all entries that passed the Windows Store certification requirements, we selected a strong group of finalists. We then worked with them to test, polish, and update their apps to work in the Windows 8 Consumer Preview build. From those finalists, we selected eight apps that best highlight the characteristics and features of Windows 8 Metro style. These are our winners in no particular order.

Andrei Pushkin and Dima Suponau
Jujuba Software
App: Elements Weather Forecast
Technology: JavaScript

We talked to the developer duo at Andrei’s home in Woodinville, Washington. Together they run Jujuba Software, a small and agile company developing for multiple platforms. Andrei attended the //build/ conference in Anaheim in September 2011 and he was immediately hooked: “Windows 8 is a huge opportunity for developers. It makes the process of getting software from developers to users easier than it has ever been. We set ourselves a goal to be among the first to enter this market that is going to grow fast and large.”

Excited by the clean new UI, cloud data access, and a platform that helps developers build apps easily, Andrei and Dima started working on Metro style apps immediately. Developing a Metro style app has been “intense, but quite smooth” for these guys. They have relied on support from the community and Microsoft engineers on, sometimes late at night and on the weekends – and over the holidays with small children.

8-day forecast for Redmond, WA, US

Elements Weather Forecast also works in snapped view:

Weather forecast for Redmond, WA at left, Bing website on main part of screen

It’s their first Metro style app, and they say it’s the start of much more to come. Andrei and Dima’s advice to fellow developers: “Start writing apps now! The platform is already stable and usable. Very soon millions of people will start installing Windows 8 and all of them will be looking for apps...“

Bernd Paradies
App: Pew Pew
Technology: JavaScript

Bernd Paradies is a native of Hamburg, Germany, who lives in Seattle, WA. He’s also a senior developer at Adobe and works on cross-compiling Adobe Flash ActionScript to JavaScript. The casual game Pew Pew, originally developed by OpenSource developer Mike Chambers, happened to be one of his prototypes.

Hand-drawn spaceships are scattered across what looks like a sheet of graph paper

Bernd found it surprisingly easy to turn Pew Pew into a Metro style app: “What I like about Metro [style] is that JavaScript is a first class citizen within the OS. I can access the same APIs as C# developers. The tools are nice too.” Consulting documentation in the Windows Dev Center proved a helpful tool to migrate the code to the Windows 8. Although he did not attend the //build/ conference in person, he watched talks by Windows 8 engineering leaders Jensen Harris and Sam Moreau to steer the design and help him implement key features of the Metro style UI. As a result, Pew Pew supports different view states, full-screen view, snapped view, portrait and landscape. He also implemented the sharing contract, roaming app support, and the settings charm.

Pew Pew app is snapped to the right, Bing website fills rest of screen

Commenting on the hand-drawn character of the app, Bernd describes Pew Pew as “charmingly crummy.” Truth is that it has been an instant favorite with the app evaluation crew, their families, and others here on the Microsoft campus. Download the app and the sound effect instantly tells you why it bears its name.

So what does Bernd think of the Windows Store? “I just love that there will be another app store besides the Android app store and Apple's app store. Competition is good! I think Microsoft is heading in the right direction.”

Tim Greenfield
Greenfield Technologies
App: PuzzleTouch
Technology: XAML

Eugene, Oregon-based Tim Greenfield is a veteran .NET, Silverlight, HTML, and JavaScript developer and a senior engineer at Vertigo Software. He originally wrote his award-winning website in Silverlight and later ported it to the Windows Phone platform. Tim sees tremendous opportunity in building apps for the Windows Store: “Windows 8 has the potential to reach an enormous audience and has fantastic support for multi-touch; in the end, I think Windows 8 was the platform my app was made for all along. The reason I am building an app for Windows 8 is simple: I can leverage it to make my product better. The reason I entered the contest was to reach that goal as quickly as possible.”

Designed for multi-touch interaction, PuzzleTouch is written in XAML and C#, which Tim describes as an easy process, given that he already had a Silverlight and Windows Phone version of the app. He turned it into a Metro style app by redesigning the look and feel and taking advantage of powerful Windows 8 features like multi-touch, sharing, and contracts. “I’m becoming a big fan of Metro [style] design” Tim says, “it offers a fresh and clean look and feel for your app, and the controls and libraries baked into the platform are there to make it easy. In the end, if you follow the Metro [style] guidelines, you’ll have a consistent yet brand-able app that users will know how to use without learning something new.”

A jigsaw puzzle of a bird, with the final piece not yet in place.

“Don’t miss out,” is his advice to other developers, “the potential for reward is great, and the risk is low.”

Patrick Cushing
App: SigFig Portofolio
Technology: XAML

We caught up with Patrick Cushing in his office in San Francisco, CA. He has been a Product Manager for SigFig for more than 3 years leading the SigFig Mobile team. The team has expertise across a variety of technologies, giving them the flexibility to develop for multiple platforms.

For a small company like SigFig, app discoverability is critical. Patrick sees the Windows Store as an enormous opportunity for distributing their apps to a broad audience: “We couldn't be more excited about having access to the most popular OS platform in the world through an app store.”

When the SigFig team joined the contest, they were pleasantly surprised by the support they received from the Windows 8 engineering team. The Windows 8 App Certification Kit allowed them to prepare to be Windows Store-ready: “It's great having a tool that helps us confirm whether or not our app is ready to be submitted before we submit, [rather than] get rejected, and end up taking a longer time iterating.”

My Portfolio shown with mutliple stocks, percentage increase/decrease, and a graphic of the stock market

We in turn were impressed with the sophistication of the SigFig Portfolio app, especially given that it was developed in such a short time. SigFig Portfolio allows you to track your financial portfolio from various brokerage accounts, get related news, see how investments perform against major indexes, explore various analytics, track movement in your portfolio, and get investor recommendations. The SigFig team took the opportunity to deliver exciting new features to the SigFig Portfolio app for Windows 8 that they haven’t yet released on the SigFig website.

A pie chart and other graphics and key statistics

With a total of ten team members, the SigFig team was all-hands on deck building the app during December and January. They used a combination of XAML and C# for the app and JavaScript to construct the charts to keep them standardized across all of their services. Metro style has inspired them. “We've done a variety of new things with the UI that we might never have tried before, and it's already having an effect on how we design some of our other client apps.”

Imran Shafiq
Dangling Concepts
App: Air Soccer
Technology: XAML

A seasoned Microsoft-technology developer living in Albuquerque, NM, Imran took the contest as an opportunity to write a Metro style game: “I have always wanted to be a hobbyist game developer, but my work follows me home most of the time.” He finally found time in his busy schedule to develop Air Soccer Tour as his first Windows Phone application. Shortly thereafter, he heard about the Windows 8 First Apps Contest—just two weeks shy of the submission deadline—and jumped at the opportunity.

Written in C# and XAML, Air Soccer is a one-man hobby project. Making heavy use of Windows 8 developer online resources, samples, and forums, Imran nevertheless made the deadline and submitted his first Windows 8 Metro style game to the Windows Store.

Soccer match between Brazil and USA

Imran instantly became a fan of Metro style. “It’s very hard to find the perfect balance [...] of simple, elegant, sexy. The team at Microsoft has found it with Metro [style]. WP7 Metro [style] came as a breath of fresh air and really amused me. But with Windows 8, Metro [style] completely blew me away.”

Given the discoverability and reach of the Windows Store, Imran expects Air Soccer to bring in revenue after Windows 8 general availability: “I am planning on utilizing the Microsoft Ad SDK for Windows 8 for monetization options in free apps. I am definitely looking forward to developing Metro style games and apps for Windows 8.” And who knows—he might just be able to turn his hobby into a full-time endeavor.

Andy Beaulieu
Spritehand LLC
App: Physamajig
Technology: XAML

Syracuse, New York-based Andy Beaulieu’s app Physamajig is just cool: it’s essentially a drawing app with the additional twist that your creations come alive by obeying the laws of physics. You can draw a truck and drive it around the screen, or sketch a rag doll, give it arms and legs, and move them around. Your creations can even be shared with other Physamajig users through a web service within the app.

A drawing made of simple shapes, with a toolbar along bottom of screen

As a seasoned C++, Silverlight, and developer, Andy was already playing with and porting physics projects to Windows 8 when we announced the contest. You can watch a video of Physamajig on Windows 8 in action on Andy’s website.

Like the other developers, Andy found an active community on the Windows Dev Center forums: “I was quite impressed at how involved some of the top team members are in the public forums—people who are key developers of the XAML implementation for Windows 8 are out there answering individual questions on the Windows Dev Center community site! And with the First Apps Contest, it was even more impressive. Any questions I had were immediately answered or forwarded to appropriate team members for resolution.”

His advice to other developers is: act quickly, create something, and get it out there!

Ratish Philip
App: FlipSaw
Technology: XAML

When Ratish heard about the First Apps Contest, the opportunity to create an app that would be part of Windows 8 Consumer Preview was too exciting to resist: “I was eager to try my hand at Metro [style] programming, and this contest gave me the required motivation to go ahead and learn programming for Metro [style] apps.” His deep familiarity with Microsoft technologies and tools (C++, .NET, WPF), made it easy for him to get going. Getting introduced to Windows 8 through the //build/ conference, he was already enthralled with Metro style app development: “Metro [style] apps represented a clean break from the traditional UI. The UI is simple yet very effective. Fast & fluid truly defines it.”

The FlipSaw game board has two sides. Each of the sides is a jigsaw puzzle, which you have to solve one at a time. Solving one puzzle will also solve the second one. But there is a catch: whenever you move a tile, it flipsto show the content of the other jigsaw puzzle. We didn’t find this game to be easy, but surreptitiously addictive, nonetheless!

An 8 by 8 grid of tiles with different numbers on each tile, and a Refresh button at right.

Busy with his day job, Ratish developed his app during evenings and weekends. Microsoft Visual Studio 11 Express Beta and Expression Blend turned out to be indispensable tools. “I never thought submitting an app to the Store via Visual Studio would be so easy,” he writes to us from Bangalore, India. “The Windows App Certification Tool proved to be very helpful in understanding whether my app was ready for the Store.“

Sacha Leroux
App: CookBook
Technology: XAML

After attending the //build/ conference, French software company Bewise, composed of Sacha and his team (a usability designer, a motion designer, and a developer), was sold on developing Metro style apps.

The First Apps Contest was all they needed to get serious. Written in XAML and C++, CookBook is a fluid app that lets you browse, search, and bookmark over 200,000 recipes. Well designed in every detail, CookBook is gorgeous. In full-screen view, high quality photography makes you hungry to try out some of these recipes.

Recipe for cookies with an image of cookies on one side

The Bewise team already plans for apps that will come after Consumer Preview. We hope they’re as beautifully designed as CookBook and look forward to seeing more of their great work.

Update 12/7/2011: Bewise has made some changes since this was originally published, and Cookbook is now published by SlowSense.

We couldn’t be more thrilled to have met and talked to the developers who provided the seed apps for the Windows Store. If you want to see more, we’ve captured some of the interviews in a short video.

Download this video to view it in your favorite media player:
High quality MP4 | Lower quality MP4

We cannot wait to see the apps that developers will submit during the Windows 8 Consumer Preview and beyond. For now, we congratulate the First Apps Contest winners, and invite you to download the Windows 8 Consumer Preview. Check out the new Metro style apps in the Windows Store, and start building your own!

- Antoine