Editorial

Microsoft, you need app support, not more apps for cash

Microsoft has announced that it is will pay developers $100 to submit a new app to either the Windows Phone or Windows Store. On paper, it looks like a great idea for developers as they will get $100 for an app and Microsoft gets to boost its numbers for application in its various stores. But as good as the offer sounds, it doesn't make a lot of sense.

Microsoft has already started paying out the cash and one developer we spoke too, who created PouchApp, and received the $100 reward, stated that the bonus payment was not a factor when he set out to build his application as the work began before the offer was made public. The payment was simply a nice gesture from Microsoft but it had no impact on if he would build an app.

While the incentive is certainly nice, it once again shows that Microsoft is disengaged from the retail market on what truly sets a platform apart from its competition.

Right now, in the Windows Store, there are over 40,000 applications and in the Windows Phone Store there are well over 130,000 applications. Both of those are huge numbers, even though they are small compared to say iOS or Android;  40,000 of anything is a massive number. The same can be said with Windows Phone that has 130,000 apps available, it's a huge number of apps.

Seeing that the stores are filled with many different applications and with new arrivals every day, why offer the $100 incentive?

First, let's break down the offer. You can get $100 for up to twenty apps, 10 to the Windows Store and 10 to the Windows Phone store which can net you a total of $2000 for qualifying apps (you can't simply rebadge a bunch of applications and claim your prize). The idea from the offering is to encourage developers to build new applications which means that from March 8th to June 30th, you can get paid for your apps if you submit them and they are approved by Microsoft.

Now, that's the idea, and here is why it is flawed.

If you had no intention of building an app but were enticed by the $100 offer, you would have about 4 months to come up with an idea, build the app and then get it published too the respective store. Doing all of this will net you $100 from Microsoft for your time and efforts (in addition to if you built a quality app that consumers purchase, you will also receive payments too) and all is well.

That is for one app, but Microsoft is offering this payment for up to twenty applications. There are 114 days between March 8th and June 30th which means if you are going to be enticed to build an app (and you had previously ignored the Windows ecosystem) you will need to average building a different app every 5.7 days to collect your $100 per application prize.  An app built in 5.7 days, let alone 20 of them, will not be of the quality Microsoft is looking for in its stores and will result in more crapp (crappy + app) that consumers will have to dig through to find something of value.

But Brad, what if they have a team working on the apps and a few guys are pounding these applications out?

In this case, it would likely be a full-on development shop creating these applications and a $100 reward for the app would barely keep the lights on for a few weeks or might cover one month of Internet services. It's clear that big name app shops will not be creating apps for the reward as it would cost significantly more in salary than Microsoft would pay on the backend (unless, again it's a premium app where you can sell it and earn money).

In the case it's a few friends making an app in the 114 days, the payout would be minimal per app to the team and again, not cover the base for the time allotted to the development to seriously encourage developers, en mass, to build for the Windows ecosystem.

The problem Microsoft is facing is not a lack of big name products in its store; it's the support that they are receiving.

For instance, look at Twitter on Windows Phone. The first Twitter application hit the store with Windows Phone 7 and it finally received a significant update on March 4th, which means it had been over a year since the app was updated.

The Weather Channel's Windows 8 app is an example of a quality app Microsoft should highlight.

Why does this matter? Because iOS and Android were receiving updates frequently from Twitter while Windows Phone users were left to use alternatives that have their destiny already set at 100k users. This is one example of the support that Windows Phone needs, not the apps from a $100 competition.

What Microsoft needs, and how it figures out how to do this is up to them, is feature parity updates across the big brands including Twitter, Spotify, Facebook (when/if it arrives), Instagram (yes, it is coming), Skype (this was a bit embarrassing) and any other app that has brand equity.            

Microsoft needs to make sure its developers are keep the feature parity equal on Microsoft's ecosystem because if your iOS friends have the same app, but they get all the cool features first, it makes Windows Phone look second class.

As the Windows ecosystem stores grow, the only thing harder than building an app will be successfully promoting it. Instead of offering $100 in cash, Microsoft should have offered $100 or more in Bing advertising credits to help developers spread the word about their new product and drive more traffic to the app stores.

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Microsoft will spend about $1,000,000 on this promotion. I think what Brad was really asking for is to encourage developers to make better apps, not more apps. This is why contests have 1st prizes which are significant in number, enough to entice any developer. Here's how I would have spent the money.

Grand Prize: 1x$250,000 - enough for even a modest development house (or professional developers in their off time) to pay attention
1st prize: 2x$100,000
2nd prize: 5x$50,000
3rd prize: 300x128GB Surface Pro ($1000 each)
Honorary prize: 1000xFree dev account for a year (effectively free to MS)

With this scheme, the chances of lots of people making GREAT apps is significantly higher than giving 10,000 people who submit $100. And that $250,000? Mighty enticing.

This editorial is just speaking common sense, but what it ignores is that you can (and should) have both.

Love it or hate it, the number of apps is a psychological number for buyers. I think we all can agree that iOS, Android, etc. all have a ton of ****ty apps. It's just the nature of the beast.

Actually evaluating what apps are crappy is a different animal.

That said, $100/app will entice indie/solo developers to create apps that they might not otherwise do. This is beneficial for a variety of reasons:

- It increases app count
- It exposes those developers to a platform that they may not otherwise program for
- It wets those developers lips for bigger and better applications down the line. Not all will, but even some would be great
- It gets those developers talking to other developers

This is no different than those Microsoft events where developers create apps, but don't get much in way of financial incentives unless they win.

So, I think it's very important that people like the writer understand this and convey it to users. Because otherwise just saying, "Microsoft needs the big apps! Not more apps!" is just being naive and speaking for the sake of speaking.

People may develop an app for the cash but if they just wanted the cash they will take it and go with the app never getting an update = more useless and crappy apps.

Windows Phone will always be no better than third place. Too bad MS took so long to see what other were doing before trying to copy it.

You can be 3rd place and still be a better alternative. I have always owned Android and iOS devices...but I want and prefer a Windows Phone.

I think the thing here to note is that total app count is really not indicative of a platform being a better option.

It sucks that some developers haven't updated their WP7 apps in a long time and Microsoft can't force them to support the platform. The best they can do is offer an incentive for developers to create new apps or port existing apps from iOS or Android. Hopefully, this will increase WP8's market share and make existing developers reconsider WP.

And this is what Microsoft is doing. They won't go to each developer and beg them to update their apps because that won't fix the issue of WP8's attractiveness. So far, Twitter has been redesigned from the ground up, Skype has been updated, and Pandora is finally available (for US users). What's left is other major apps like Facebook, Instagram, and even Facebook Messenger (because it offers more functionality than WP8's built-in messaging system).

If all the major apps are there, then people won't be reluctant about switching to WP8. And developers will realize that WP8 is worth investing in. That's when we'll start to see older apps updated (like Kik Messenger, which hasn't been updated in over a year).

After all, it's better than no incentive at all. Even crapps (like farting apps) are better than nothing.

IMHO, this is the correct strategy. Microsoft need to increase market share to get the big developers on board. They are doing this with the help of Nokia by releasing lots of cheaper models & increasing the app count (even with the lack of quality) - Flood the market with handsets and apps.

ONLY once the market share increases will the big name developers come on board.

Wheather Channel is an example of a quality app? Ugly colors, ugly icons, tile-arranged just for the sake of using tiles, random margins everywhere, corners rounded arbitrarily?

Couldn't agree with you more. The Weather Channel app is awful to both look at and use. If that is an example of a high quality app I would hate to have to use crappy quality apps.

This article fails big time. You are criticizing Microsoft today for stuff that happened with WP7. What? Twitter rebuilt their app from the ground up. And 2 days after release they did some bug fixes and released an update. If they had no intention of caring for the app,they would have left a little bug update for another 6 months.

And bitching because Microsoft is offering incentives? I have never seen anyone complain because a company is offering money to their users for exchange of their services. This is a new low for you.

This is marketing my friend,something you know nothing about. You also might entice one developer that ends up making the next twitter,instagram,facebook. Plus this stuff is pocket change to Microsoft.

Microsoft offers the best tools and great documentation. I don't see whats so wrong in making more Microsoft developers. Microsoft has always been great to students and young developers. Offering cheap and free software. Theyve always done this. This is just icing on the cake.

vcfan said,
This article fails big time. You are criticizing Microsoft today for stuff that happened with WP7. What? Twitter rebuilt their app from the ground up. And 2 days after release they did some bug fixes and released an update. If they had no intention of caring for the app,they would have left a little bug update for another 6 months.

And bitching because Microsoft is offering incentives? I have never seen anyone complain because a company is offering money to their users for exchange of their services. This is a new low for you.

This is marketing my friend,something you know nothing about. You also might entice one developer that ends up making the next twitter,instagram,facebook. Plus this stuff is pocket change to Microsoft.

Microsoft offers the best tools and great documentation. I don't see whats so wrong in making more Microsoft developers. Microsoft has always been great to students and young developers. Offering cheap and free software. Theyve always done this. This is just icing on the cake.

I know, I honestly can't believe people are bitching about devs getting a bit of cash. Even if you are getting a few people that aren't going to put much love into their app, it builds momentum for the platform, gets SDKs in the hands of devs and gets people talking about it.

Are you seriously slagging on MS for offering incentives?
What's next, an article about MS ending the promotion?

That's right - this is indeed a very dumb idea. It won't do anything to entice the big software shops to build more apps but rather amateurs who can barely write something that doesn't crash more than twice in a row... so they are essentially littering the store with even more garbage apps that the users do not want in the end and not bringing any quality to the table.

gregalto said,
If you would have read it, Brad is saying they are offering the wrong type of incentives.

Righto because it clearly didn't work for Bill Gates and the DOS/Windows revolution all those years ago.

I think the point is that the incentives do not result in better apps or long term supported apps. It is a chicken and the egg thing. Devs don't want to spend money written apps for such a limited market share. Users don't want to adopt the platform because they would have to give up so many apps.

Probably MS will need to start making all the popular apps themselfs. Lets say there is no Hulu app (maybe there is one, I don't know), MS asks Hulu for permission to make a Hulu app and allows Hulu to take over the development anytime they want. That way the userbase starts getting the apps they expect and the platform can start to grow.

The unfortunate part is that so many people are interested in the sheer number of apps available, crapware or not. Remember, people are f---ing stupid!

This seems to ignore the fact that Microsoft does have great support..

From BizSpark to MSDN to Phone Support.. It makes working on iOS and Android seem like a chore. Not to mention all the evangelists on twitter who drop everything their doing to help you out.

The problem is a lot of developers are simply ignorant of Windows 8, the abilities of the platform and what they can accomplish. Not because MS isn't trying.. but because the "mobile" development industry is pretty immature, largely hardware biased and often hateful of everything MS.

I'm thinking you missed the point and only read the headline; this has nothing to do with Bizspark etc but that developers make an app and then abandon supporting it for the long term.

Edited by bdsams, Mar 21 2013, 2:24pm :

I'm not sure what your point is Brad.. This is merely an incentive to get apps to the store, 100 bucks won't mean squat to many developers, so its mostly to get more developers into the fold. As far as making apps successful, everything from MSDN docs to developer days (happening monthly in every major city) to the evangelists on twitter/facebook and other social medias helping out.. i'm not sure what your point is.

What sets Microsoft apart from the competition is the fact that the interface is different, and developers may need a little incentive to give it a try.. some will prevail, some will quit, some will die trying. The truth is, MS is "all in" and we need developers to recognize that.

There is no magic sauce and if developers ask for help, MS is willing to give it. If it takes a 100 bucks to get developers to bother, then that is 100 bucks well spent.. not every app is going to be a winner.. but then again, not every awesome app started out awesome either

If an app is on iOS and Windows Phone, iOS always gets updated well ahead of Windows Phone, that's the issue. Microsoft needs devs to release iOS and Windows Phone updates at the same time and show that Windows Phone is relevant to big name companies.

And how is Microsoft supposed to make that happen? Offer a $100 to Twitter to keep their app current? And if the developer want $100 of Bing advertising credit instead, they could just roll the $100 cash to advertising.

You are missing what spudtrooper said in the last sentence about the mobil industry, which isn't far from the truth in my opinion.

A developer who sees that they can make $100 quickly by building a Windows app is not the developer Microsoft wants to have filling their marketspace.

bdsams said,
A developer who sees that they can make $100 quickly by building a Windows app is not the developer Microsoft wants to have filling their marketspace.

Thats very naive to think that's all that occurs. $100 can get the Windows 8 and Phone 8 SDKs in the hands of people that otherwise may not have bothered. It could make people just port over their iOS app to WP8 or encourage a WPF C# developer to just go and see these new APIs. Microsoft are doing what they did at the start of the PC revolution, pay developers to build for their platform and look where they are now. You can slag it off all you want but in the long run it may prove very valuable.

bdsams said,
I'm thinking you missed the point and only read the headline; this has nothing to do with Bizspark etc but that developers make an app and then abandon supporting it for the long term.
You compare its store to other stores based off of app count early on. Then complain that they are working to get a higher app count. I just get the feeling you don't know what you don't know when it comes to these ecosystems.

What Microsoft needs, and how it figures out how to do this is up to them, is feature parity updates across the big brands including Twitter, Spotify, Facebook (when/if it arrives), Instagram (yes, it is coming), Skype (this was a bit embarrassing) and any other app that has brand equity.

Microsoft needs to make sure its developers are keep the feature parity equal on Microsoft's ecosystem because if your iOS friends have the same app, but they get all the cool features first, it makes Windows Phone look second class.

Just what exactly are you expecting mIcrosoft to do? Put a gun to their head? I'm fairly certain someone at MS who is high up and responsible for getting these pieces of software on their platform has already attempted and is attempting to do so. I'm sure they don't need a 'blogger' on a news aggregation site to point out their need of those applications.

Short of MS making payroll for development teams at all of these different companies to keep apps at feature parity, what would you like them to do? What really is the point of this article. Does MS literally have to make a blog for every big name app and update it with everything they're doing to try and better the quality of apps.

I don't think I need to read editorials here anymore because when I don't pay attention to what negativity everyone on the Windows enthusiast sites says, I see things happen like all the Unity engine games coming out and say awesome, as opposed to the comments sections which are a lot of "why didn't this happen last month?" posts.

Edited by blackjezuz, Mar 21 2013, 3:10pm :

Agreed, 100%. The Windows app store is already filled with $#!tware, just like all the other app stores. I don't see why we need even more cookbooks from India and real estate scrapers in the store.

spudtrooper said,
The problem is a lot of developers are simply ignorant of Windows 8
Developers and customers are ignoring this phone, because phone have very bad image because of abandoned WP7 which lacked core features like off-line synchronization with outlook, external memory card, synchronization of audio and video files without conversion, web browser was complete crap, no multi-threading and etc. Developers simply don't want to buy this phone. You know... "Fool me once effect" . It looks like Microsoft collected too many managers from failed companies or people who got the job because they know somebody..., but have no clue what people need.

Edited by EJocys, Mar 21 2013, 6:10pm :