Windows Blue: A boon or bane for developers?
Since Microsoft maintains tight control over its core ecosystem, moving to more frequent OS updates shouldn't cause the same fragmentation woes that plague the overall Android experience. In fact, reports (however murky) say that Windows Blue will introduce an SDK that either merges or standardizes software development for Windows desktop and Windows Phone 8. All current-gen Windows devices already share a common kernel core to streamline cross-platform development. Theoretically, the Windows Blue SDK will bind Windows Phones, tablet and PCs even more tightly together, and the rumors say modern-style Windows 8 apps will continue to work just fine on Windows Blue.
"I think it is crucially important that Microsoft aligns the SDKs and platforms for Windows Phone and Windows," Miller says. "I think the dissonance between the Windows Phone 7, Windows Phone 8, and Windows RT platforms aren't helping developers to make great apps. Unification, or at least closer alignment, could really help build a stronger application story and make it easier for developers." Enderle echoes the sentiment.
In theory, introducing a standardized SDK should make it easier to create a Modern-style app that translates easily across the various hardware form factors Windows supports. That could potentially be a major boon for Microsoft, which has had trouble swaying developers to the Windows Store and the Windows Phone Store. Both app marketplaces offer far, far, far fewer apps than iOS or Android.
The analysts warn that Microsoft will need to tread the introduction of a new SDK very carefully, however.
"I don't think developers are ever fans of big shifts in their platform--but so much of it depends on how much the APIs underneath forcibly change, and how much the tools help them navigate or migrate through those changes," Miller continues.
"If Microsoft keeps the SDK stocked with similar languages, it shouldn't cause too much ire," Moorhead says. However, he cautions that the possible specter of yet another new SDK looming so shortly after the release of the Windows 8 SDK could convince hesitant developers to sit on the sidelines until more details emerge--especially since Microsoft will allegedly stop accepting apps programmed for Windows 8 alone when it releases Windows Blue's SDK.
The last thing Microsoft needs is another excuse for developers to take a "wait and see" approach, which would be killer given the Windows Store's woeful app situation. Windows 8 needs more apps, and Windows 8 needs big-name apps, and Microsoft needs those apps to appear long before the summer of 2013 if it wants Windows 8 to be successful.
A negativity-tinged thread about Windows Blue's possible SDK changes has already popped up on Microsoft's TechNet forums.
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