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Has Windows 8.1 revived Windows app development?

Mark Hachman | June 26, 2013
In late March, the first builds of Windows 8.1 leaked to the Web. At about the same time, the number of Windows 8 apps reversed several months of slowing growth and charted four straight months of app increases.

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

With that said, the transition to the next iteration of the Windows 8 OS can make a significant difference.

"Past experience shows that all operating systems become better after the version-point-one release, " said Win app developer Christer Kaitila via email. "Mass adoption of Win 8 has enabled the QA and gears-greasing required for Win 8.1 to be ready for prime time."

Windows Store

"Some developers prefer to avoid being an early adopter of new tech to allow the tools and community to mature," Kaitila added. "More importantly, the good news from braver souls helps encourage devs to come on board."

Kaitila, who has said he has, to date, released ten freeware games on Windows 8, has also authored the Ludus platform game development kit for WIndows 8, allowing others to follow in his footsteps.

Kaitia also runs the #1GAM (One Game a Month) website, which Microsoft sponsored in a bid to bring more independent game development to Windows 8. (Ironically, Microsoft has drawn fire for what some have said are anti-indie attitudes toward its Xbox One game console.)

Better tools for developers
Nevertheless, Kaitila said that Microsoft has stepped up with better tools for app developers.

"I love the new Visual Studio for Win8 because it does all the things Javascript programmers have been waiting for in an IDE: code completing, automatic formatting and syntax highlighting, instant compile times, great game-worthy rendering performance, [and] mega-awesome debug tools like breakpoints, watches and stepping through Javascript," Kaitila wrote.

Microsoft Windows 8 junk apps

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

Ironically, the recent surge in apps may have hurt Jeremiah Stoddard, whose Morse code app, CW Coach, was authored for Windows 8 precisely because the OS isn't popular.

"I've been writing Windows 8 apps because it's the path of least resistance," Stoddard said via 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 one's app to get noticed. So, although I'm watching Windows 8.1 with curiosity, it wasn't the reason for writing new apps for Windows 8."


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