Since the launch of Windows 8, Microsoft has received its fair bit of flak on how the poorly the market has responded to it. Hardware vendors have not been too pleased with their sales, while consumers to date have shown lukewarm response to Windows 8.

Which begs the question, as a mobile developer – Should I develop for Windows 8? If  yes, when?

Market Opportunity

Before we get started, it is important to get some basic facts established.  For the reasons below, in my opinion, Windows 8 is here to stay.

Windows 8 is a true cross-device operating system

We are in an era where consumers demand cross device usage of their applications. Applications that a consumer uses on his mobile phone, has to be replicated on his laptop, tablet and TV set.  Much like what iCloud is to Apple Users, Windows 8 will allow Microsoft to provide flexibility and convenience to their users across multiple devices – mobile, tablet and laptops in 2012. And possibly Xbox and Microsoft TV in 2013. In addition, addressability to the PC market is interesting here with Microsoft taking the store to the PCs where they dominate and trying to build a real cross platform environment. For a developer it’s not going to be as easy as develop once and run on all devices, but at least by taking the right development choices you can support all environments with quite small development overhead.

Upcoming launch of new devices

Let us be objective in our judgement. At the current juncture, Windows 8 is barely 2 months old and the take up of the operating system have been mostly dominated by the PC and Tablet market and not the mobile market. For practical reasons, while the Nokia Lumia series has been launched, Nokia is still in the midst of establishing partnerships with mobile operators around the world (For eg. China Mobile).  Likewise, Samsung with its Activ S has only started its roll out globally. With these 2 global brands launching their mobile products out in the market,  and possibly other brands hopping onto the bandwagon, 2013 remains a hopeful one for Windows 8. After all let us not forget that the growth of Android was driven largely by the success of the Samsung Galaxy Series.

Microsoft is budgeting US$1.5 Billion in marketing dollars on Windows 8

Lastly, we should not discount the power of advertising and that the numbers we are looking at has made the launch of Windows 8 the biggest product launch in the history of the industry. While one can discount the eventual effectiveness of the dollars spent, the amount we are looking will at least allow Windows 8 to make a dent in the market.

Hence should I develop for Windows 8?

In my opinion, a resounding YES if you are a fledging developer and a MAYBE if you are an established developer.

It is a fact that the mobile applications market is an extremely fragmented market. At last count, both App Store and Google Play had 700,000 applications on their marketplaces. And as per the latest Distimo report, mobile applications are still a winners take all market – 7 applications were responsible for 10% of the revenues in November 2012 in the Apple App Store for iPhone. Hence discovery is everything on the application store. And the probability of being discovered as a fledging developer is much higher in a marketplace with 120,000 applications (Windows 8 Phone Store) than one with 700,000 applications.

To give further precedence of past examples,

  • Angry Birds was first launched in December 2009, where there were slightly over 100,000 applications on the App Store
  • Plants Vs Zombies for iOS was first launched in February 2010, where there were slightly over 120,000 applications on the App Store. The game went on to rack in US$1 million in sales over nine days
  • Fruit Ninja was launched in April 2010, where there were about 185,000 applications on the App Store

Naturally, there are exceptions like Draw Something being rather late entrants into the market but in the terms of probability, even with a superior product, there is a higher chance of being discovered when one is playing in a blue ocean. And we saw how Rovio and Halfbrick Studios went to instant fame with their hits.

Ultimately, I understand that the decision to develop for Windows 8  will not be an easy one. The challenges include an uncertain operating system, fragmented testing environment like the Android and entirely new language for developers to adopt,  which is why established developers (Facebook and Twitter) can afford to take their time to decide whether they would wish to put resources behind a Windows 8 project. However, as the saying goes “Fortune favours the bold”, take the plunge as early as possible and who knows, the rewards maybe pleasantly surprising.

About the author

Ian is a Director of Corporate Development (Asia) for Lotaris, which provides a complete Digital Rights Management solution for mobile apps including licensing, analytics and payments. Lotaris solution currently powers the apps of Symantec, Capcom and Sega and has a new product for the Windows 8 platform. Prior to this, Ian was based in Shanghai with Vickers Venture Partners, a Asia-Pacific VC which concurrently was the lead investor in Lotaris. He also had a stint as VP of Corporate Development with 24Quan, a group-buying company in China. You can follow him at @ianhosoosiang.