zeebox: Windows 8 needs to pass "the sniff test" for more developer support

Microsoft has been promoting the fact that more and more people are using both Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8. Last week, the company announced it had sold 60 million Windows 8 licenses and that it had 100 million Windows 8 app downloads so far. It also announced last week that sales of Windows Phone devices were up five times what they were a year ago during Christmas week.

But are these bullet points going to be enough to bring more app developers to Microsoft's two newest operating systems? A few weeks ago, we contacted the company behind an Android/iOS an app that's been getting a lot of attention lately; zeebox. The app gives users a "second screen" experience when they watch a TV show live by collecting Twitter messages about the show they are watching.

It launched in the U.K. in 2011, and in September it launched in the U.S. with financial backing and promotional support from NBC and HBO, among others. The free app has since been downloaded more than one million times for iOS and Android in the U.S. There's even a BlackBerry version of the app for U.K. users.

So is zeebox planning a version for Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8? Today, we received a response from Anthony Rose, the company's co-founder and chief technology officer. He provided Neowin with the following statement via email:

We’ve looked at doing a Windows 8 version of zeebox – and in fact we did some work to make our web version of zeebox work nicely in IE on Windows 8 smartphones – but, as with many other developers, we’re really waiting till there are more Windows 8 devices in the market before we can devote significant resources to a custom version of zeebox for that platform.

And what about Microsoft's statements about 60 million Windows 8 licenses and lots of new Windows Phone 8 smartphones being sold? Rose told us it will take more than just sheer numbers to get some developers to move to those platforms. He said:

I suspect that developers will wait until they see that some fraction of their friends are using that device, at which point it will make it onto the development radar. In other words, the sniff test :-)

If Rose's "sniff test" is the deciding factor, we may have to wait a while longer before a larger influx of app developers decided to move onto Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8.

Image via zeebox

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1. You won't be using xcopy to deploy anything to users on RT, you'll be using the store. XCopy deployment may be used on your own device for your own testing, but unless you're developing an app for x86/x64 Win8 only, you'll be using the store. If you're developing for Win8 x86/x64 desktop, it's the same deployment methods as Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP, etc. - MSI installer or older xcopy methods. Windows 8 doesn't somehow change this.

2. Sideloading is possible if you've activated your installation of Windows (and if Pro/Enterprise, configured policy to allow it).
http://blogs.technet.com/b/scd...deloading-requirements.aspx
If you're talking about store apps, this is sort of common sense.

3. Signed code has been a strong recommendation for many, many years. If you're shipping code in the Windows store, yes, it needs to be signed, and yes, you need to keep your code signing certificate up to date if you're releasing updates. Again, I understand some will balk at this, but good developers DO sign their code - this should not really be a change for them at all.

As a software developer and Windows Surface RT owner, I can't account for what other developers think, but here's several reasons why it's hard to commit or trust committing resources to the new platform(s):

There is no support
* xcopy deployment
* click-once deployment
* Silverlight

There is limited/many-hoops support for
* Flash (?!? and not Silverlight ?!?)(think business software using FlashBuilder)
* msi deployment (using System Center?!?)


Microsoft is demonstrating a serious trend toward making software development and deployment a very huge problem for small businesses, hobbyist, consultants who deliver custom software products, or just some dude wanting to write something for the house to test an idea. Microsoft is quite possibly just 'testing the waters (legal, customer, developer)'. It is now becoming easier to test .Net code on other platforms. Native has always been roughly the same elsewhere. Ultimately though, when it comes time to ask myself the question "do I invest in this technology?", I rephrase it to "do I trust Microsoft to reject my software?".


Sorry but what are you on about? Just for test purposes I developed an app on Touchdevelop.com and completed a basic app in under 2 hours, got it certified and publised to the WP App store in less than 5 days.

I'm offering an alternate developer's perspective than “the sniff test”. You bring up some great points too. You mentioned your turnaround time to publish to the Windows Store:
* Deployment now takes longer to deploy (consider small shops that use xcopy deployment).
* Deployment now requires all client computers to have internet access; specifically to the Windows Store.

There's also another time element that you roughly hit upon when you mentioned certification:
* All software now has an expiration date (code signing).

Please don't misunderstand my position toward Microsoft. I am very pro Microsoft. Microsoft delivers a solid foundation for solving the business problems I'm responsible for solving; however, the points I'm presenting are the issues I have with the current direction; i.e. an alternate perspective than “the sniff test”.

Shouldn't we hear from better developers? Maybe its just me but an app that cuts my viewing in half so I can read comments from 12 yr old kids on twitter doesn't sound at all appealing..

Great and while they wait someone else will copy their idea and develop an app that makes their app obsolete on Windows 8. I've never heard of this app or company so they aren't exactly in a position to sit back and wait.

Arrogance and complacency is going to come back to bite a lot of these app developers. Big companies can afford to take their time, not these little guys. Millions of people looking for apps and they're in no way loyal or beholden to your brand.

This is the issue with new platforms. Developers won't develope for a platform until there are a ton of users. Users won't switch because the apps aren't there. Eventually someone has to give in. If the developers were smart, they make apps while there is less competition. Microsoft isn't going away and neither is Windows Phone.

It seems like somewhere along the way, businesses forgot the old phrase of "You have to spend money to make money".

Solution is really simple: Microsoft has to make Windows8/WP8 device far more attractive for consumers to buy. make it cheaper, add some exclusive features. seriously, right now surface is the same price of an ipad, who will buy a surface when there is a more mature device with tons of apps, higher resolution, lighter weight and more battery life is there? I don't know why people at Microsoft keep failing to understand this simple fact that their platform right now needs a bigger push otherwise it will fail big time altogether. obviously I don't like this to happen because I really like the platform.

Edited by trojan_market, Jan 15 2013, 4:04pm :

S3P€hR said,
who will buy a surface when there is a more mature device with tons of apps, higher resolution, lighter weight and more battery life is there?

More apps - developers like Zee box and their sniff test is what stop it
Lighter weight - Seriously, compare to what?
Higher resolution - Clear type works, I see my text sharp and black on surface. I think iPad had to resort to retina because their text is not sharp and black. Remember I don't have fact to back that up. Anyone is welcome to shed light to why apple going retina.
Battery life - Surface RT last whole day, the pro is a little different

S3P€hR said,
Solution is really simple: Microsoft has to make Windows8/WP8 device far more attractive for consumers to buy. make it cheaper, add some exclusive features. seriously, right now surface is the same price of an ipad, who will buy a surface when there is a more mature device with tons of apps, higher resolution, lighter weight and more battery life is there? I don't know why people at Microsoft keep failing to understand this simple fact that their platform right now needs a bigger push otherwise it will fail big time altogether. obviously I don't like this to happen because I really like the platform.

Apple really has some people brainwashed. Not only are your claims about weight and battery questionable, but I could play the same game and name many more features and functions that a Surface has. And not insignificant things, we're talking expandable memory via microSD, MS Office, the ability to print like a PC, a USB port, a keyboard built into a paper thin cover, a built-in kickstand, HDMI output, secondary monitor support, a proper file system, etc.

The idea that MS needs to charge less money for a product with more memory and more expensive hardware plus the most sought after PC software (MS Office) is ridiculous. The app store is growing fast. Keep the price where it is and let Surface remain a premium product. Xbox Surface can compete with iPad Mini at the low end.

I am not brainwashed. In fact I am a PC guy. I do care about the windows platform and I want it to succeed. I was really excited about surface and waited too long for surface to come out, there was a rumor that surface is going to be $200 and I was thinking that yes, this time microsoft knows what they are doing. I know $200 is under priced for this tablet but it can draw people's attention leading to its success and they could raise the price later. the same thing they did to Xbox and it obviously worked needless to prove. and it came out 499 and I was like dannnggg. We can argue the whole day but people pay for the value. Vapour Mag is sturdy but in my opinion is not the best option for the tablet case. Yes having the Office suit is a nice and neat feature. but look at the hardware specs. Tegra3 Processor and VGA camera? its the same hardware as for $200 nexus 7. Yes display is bigger 10.x inches but has same resolution. These are the things that not only me but every body consider for buying a tablet not mentioning the number of apps.

Edited by trojan_market, Jan 15 2013, 7:19pm :

Wonder why VLC didnt need a sniff test before the committed to a Windows 8 app. If these guys are so hard up for cash maybe they should follow their lead and start a Kickstarter campaign to pay for the development. Maybe that is too much work as well....

efjay said,
Wonder why VLC didnt need a sniff test before the committed to a Windows 8 app. If these guys are so hard up for cash maybe they should follow their lead and start a Kickstarter campaign to pay for the development. Maybe that is too much work as well....

Because VLC is an open-source project with the primary developers in France.

It isn't located in the Silicon Valley echo chamber, where everyone uses Macbooks, iPhones, and iPads.

Sadly that's the attitude that's biting WP on the ass, consumers want a platform with their fav apps. It it doesn't have them then they don't go there (happens with people choosing Android/iOS to some degree)

Of course I completely understand what they are saying about not devoting time to the OS if it's not time well spent, at least they made an effort (Zeebox compatible with IE10 mobile) but I think some developers really need to pull finger and make metro applications, there's not much of an excuse if you make a metro app since you are developing for WP + WinRT AND Win 8 in one swing. 3x platforms with only one app to support is pretty impressive IMO