October 10, 2012, 10:43 AM — Redmond, we have a problem.
With PC sales stalling and tablet sales booming, Microsoft decided to shed the shackles of its desktop-focused past in favor of a touch-friendly, mobile-first future. It's goodbye Start button, hello Start screen. Icons are out, tiles are in.
The new look-and-feel in Windows 8 (Microsoft wonkily calls it the "Modern U.I. Style") also beckons a whole new software ecosystemapps created specifically for the new tile-based interface. And therein lies the rub. The apps just aren't there yet, either in quantity or quality.
A Microsoft vice-president just publicly stated that his company will aggressively pursue 100,000-plus apps over the first three months," but nothing about the current Windows Store app inventory (it's hovering just below 4,000 for all storefronts worldwide) suggests such lofty goals will be realized.
Our previous examination of the state of the Windows Store detailed some of the reasons why developers might not be flocking to Microsoft's baby. One widespread sentiment posits that developing apps for an unproven Windows 8 ecosystem doesn't make as much fiscal sense as putting the finishing touches on apps for the already established (and thriving) Android and Apple marketplaces. Meanwhile, some developers echo Valve honcho Gabe Newell, finding only craven motivations in Microsoft's move to the "walled garden" model.
Still, we pondered, could part of the scarcity of apps be placed at the feet of plain old technical difficulties rather than high-minded moral ideals? Just how easy is it to create a Windows 8 app?
The question holds implications for more than just Windows 8 launch day. If Windows 8 takes off in a stratospheric wayand it very well could, considering the OS will be installed on the vast majority of PCs sold after October 26than easy development process would smooth the transition for currently hesitant developers who decide to hop on the gravy train at a later date. On the flipside, however, a coding nightmare could help to cement the dominant positions of the entrenched iOS and Android platforms.
So what's it really like developing a Windows 8 app? We spoke to a handful of top developers who are already working with the platform to get a clear view of the situation.
Using the Windows 8 Software Development Kit