Build a Windows 8 app, get a prize from Microsoft

Developers get points for taking classes, publishing apps, and can swap points for Xbox games, OS upgrades

Microsoft yesterday took another stab at boosting interest in creating apps for Windows 8 with an awards program that will hand out Xbox games and other prizes to amateur programmers.

Dubbed "App Builder Rewards," the program is reminiscent of an airline's frequent flyer programs. Points are awarded to people when they take online classes, attend developer events, register as a developer and ultimately publish a Windows 8 or Windows Phone app. In return, accrued points can be exchanged for goods, including Halo 4 for the Xbox 360, upgrades to Windows 8 Pro and app developer account subscriptions.

The program follows a March incentive called "Keep the Cash," which paid developers $100 for each app they published in the company's Windows 8 and Windows Phone stores.

Keep the Cash expired at the end of June.

That program drew criticism from a trio of analysts at the time, who said the cash-back deal smacked of desperation and would result only in a boost in the quantity, not the quality, of Microsoft's apps.

One of those analysts, Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, dismissed the new rewards program, too.

"This isn't going to move anything," said Moorhead in an email Thursday.

Although the Windows Store -- the official distribution channel for Windows 8 and Windows RT apps -- has an estimated 111,000 apps, according to tracking site MetroStore Scanner, it lacks nearly half of the top-100 apps on Apple's iOS platform.

Quality apps, especially "must-have" apps from banks, major media companies and social networks are too often AWOL on Windows 8, Moorhead said yesterday in an interview.

"Most of the top apps are still not supported by Windows 8," said Moorhead. "Not only is that a major issue on its own, but Windows 8 now has a reputation for not having the right apps."

In his mind, programs like Keep the Cash and App Builder Rewards, which take aim at casual developers and enthusiasts, won't help Microsoft solve the bigger problem of app quality and coverage simply because the enticements are insufficient to tempt professional developers.

Another example of Microsoft's emphasis on amateurs came earlier this week when the firm launched a free tool, Windows Phone App Studio, that targeted non-developers who want to create simplistic Windows Phone apps. In this week's Windows Developer Show podcast, a Microsoft product manager said that 30,000 Windows Phone projects had been started at App Studio in its first 48 hours, TechCrunch reported Thursday.

More information about App Builder Rewards can be found on Microsoft's website. Currently, it's available only to U.S. residents 18 years and older.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

See more by Gregg Keizer on Computerworld.com.

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This story, "Build a Windows 8 app, get a prize from Microsoft" was originally published by Computerworld.

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