Has Windows 8.1 revived Windows app development?

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At the end of March, the first versions of Windows 8.1 were leaked on the web. Around the same time, Windows 8 app counts reversed several months of slow growth and recorded four consecutive months of app growth.

Coincidence?

It is certainly possible. And yet, Windows 8’s development slowdown reversed just when Microsoft needed it most, when the Win 8.1 version was released. This trend is good news for Microsoft as it prepares for its Build 2013 developer conference on Wednesday, when the company will unveil the first preview of Windows 8.1.

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Windows 8 development got off to a strong start after Windows 8 launched in October – 20,000 apps launched in one month, followed by 15,000 the next – all apparent signs that developers were continuing the Windows development trend and pumping apps to the Windows Store.

But, after the holidays, app development slowed: only 3,643 apps were added, according to MetroStore Scanner, which tracks app development for the Windows 8 platform.

In the MetroStore Scanner graph shown below, the gray line tracks the absolute growth in the number of apps. The vertical bars follow the rolling average number of apps added per month, broken down by new apps, in blue, and updated apps, in green.

So the data below from MetroStore Scanner shows that the number of apps slowed in January and February and picked up again in March.

MetroStore Scanner
The growth of Windows 8 apps slowed until around March when Windows 8.1 entered the public consciousness; application growth then picked up momentum. (Click to enlarge.)

Too late?

By then, however, Windows 8’s reputation had taken a serious hit. Customers had begun to scoff at Windows 8’s unfamiliar interface, and its initial blossoming from enterprise licenses was withering.

To be fair, the first rumors of Windows Blue – a radical overhaul of not just Windows 8, but also Windows Phone – first leaked in late 2012. But the rumors started to catch fire in February and March when the reports have started. put an end to what Blue could offer. And then, at the end of March, we had the first concrete details of Windows Blue, from the first leak of the OS.

At that time, the decline in the average number of monthly applications changed course and began to increase again. As of this writing, the total number of apps in the Windows Store stands at 94,298, after months of growing growth.

Microsoft’s goal with Build 2013 is to keep the momentum of the app going.

Higher size

While some of the features of Windows 8.1 – better organization of apps, a desktop start mode, as well as a shortcut to the start page from the desktop – are excuses for the user, Build is designed to improve Microsoft’s stature among developers. .

This is important because developers who code for Microsoft’s Windows Phone and Windows 8 Surface tablets can leverage code written for each platform. But they still don’t necessarily create “a seamless Microsoft experience,” Forrester analyst Frank Gillett said last week. Contrast that with, say, Apple’s iPad and iPhone, which share a common code base and therefore a continuum of apps.

That said, transitioning to the next iteration of the Windows 8 operating system can make a significant difference.

“Past experience shows that all operating systems improve after the first version is released,” Windows app developer Christer Kaitila said via email. “Win 8’s mass adoption has gotten the QA and greasing of the gears required for Win 8.1 ready for prime time.”

Windows Store
Building the 2013 goal? Make this property the most coveted spot on the internet.

“Some developers prefer to avoid being early adopters of new technologies to allow the tools and the community to mature,” Kaitila added. “Most importantly, the good news from the bravest souls encourages developers to join us.”

Kaitila, who said she has released ten free games on Windows 8 so far, is also the author of the Ludus Platform Game Development Kit for Windows 8, allowing others to follow in her footsteps.

Kaitila also runs the #1GAM (One Game a Month) website, which Microsoft sponsored in an effort to bring more independent game development to Windows 8. anti-indie attitudes around his Xbox One game console.)

Nonetheless, Kaitila said Microsoft has improved its tools for app developers.

“I love the new Visual Studio for Win8 because it does everything JavaScript programmers have come to expect in an IDE: code completion, auto-formatting and syntax highlighting, instant build times, excellent game-like rendering performance , [and] mega-awesome debugging tools like breakpoints, watches, and JavaScript navigation,” Kaitila wrote.

Microsoft Windows 8 Unwanted AppsMetroStore Scanner
Microsoft’s problem? How to attract new apps and developers, but not junk food. (Click to enlarge.)

In an infamous statement, Keith Lorizio, vice president of Microsoft sales at Microsoft Advertising, said the Windows Store would attract 100,000 apps in three months. Microsoft is now close to reaching that milestone, but in nine months, not three.

Ironically, the recent increase in apps may have hurt at least one app developer, Jeremiah Stoddard, whose Morse code app, CW Coach, was created for Windows 8 precisely because the operating system is not popular.

“I’ve written Windows 8 apps because it’s the path of least resistance,” Stoddard said over email. “It may not have the same market as the iPad or Android tablets, but the flip side is that there’s a lot less competition, which makes it easier for its app to get noticed. . So, while I watch Windows 8.1 with curiosity, that wasn’t the reason I wrote new apps for Windows 8.”


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