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Why Microsoft Will Struggle to Win Developer Support for Windows 10

by User Not Found | 5月 29, 2015

This week we issued a press release highlighting survey data we have been collecting from developers since 2011. In short, the data in the report finds that interest in Windows peaked several years ago and has dramatically declined since Microsoft acquired Nokia in 2013. So, what did Microsoft do wrong and what can others learn?

Microsoft over-promised. Microsoft billed Windows Phone as a competitive third platform giving users more choice and developers a better opportunity to make money. However, as of Q4 2014 we reported that Windows Phone had less than 3% market share. The users simply failed to materialize and the opportunity for developers diminished. Further, Microsoft long-promised a convergence of PC-Phone-Tablet. While Windows 10 will finally deliver on the promise it comes several years after it was first promised.

Microsoft lost focus on developers. One reason for enthusiasm about Windows Phone – according to developers in '11, '12 and '13 - was the extensive outreach to developers by Nokia and Microsoft. I attended some of these events and there was a keen focus on device seeding, incentives and an inclusive/exciting environment. Since Nokia's acquisition the fervor seems to have died down and given developers less reason to be enthusiastic about Windows Phone.

Microsoft made bad deals. In an attempt to buoy app store inventory Microsoft agreed to several partnerships to bring the most popular apps to Windows Phone. However these apps were often inferior to those on other platforms and rarely if ever updated. The atrophy these apps displayed was a warning that if even the most popular developers weren’t getting traction on the platform - few would.

Microsoft didn't vigilantly protect developer IP. The Windows App Store was chock full of copycat apps. Fake versions of Facebook, Instagram, etc. Many of these apps even used official-looking company logos/images. It was difficult to navigate, confusing for users and showed Microsoft wasn't concerned with IP. The company announced plans for a purge but it never was fully realized. Microsoft should have been vigilant about policing these rogue apps to show partners they cared about protecting them.

But not all hope is lost for Microsoft. While it will be difficult to win the adulation of those jilted developers there is still a chance to woo the developer community.

Gain market share. The easiest way for Microsoft to entice developers is to show that consumers are buying Windows 10 devices. This is the table stakes for Microsoft - if Windows continues in the single digits it will be difficult to see developers abandoning iOS, Android or HTML5 to support Windows.

Developers still want opportunity beyond iOS and Android. There is considerable consolidation of developers appearing the top free/paid/grossing lists on iOS and Android. The slide below - which I presented at Apps World North America in early May - highlights the challenges associated with discovery on iOS.

Focus on the PC. This is important for many reasons not the least of which is the user base. If Microsoft can get PC users to browse, download and pay for (or be advertised in) apps then that could be a secret ingredient that competitors lack. Even Apple and Google do not offer unified platforms with their PCs. There are also many developers comfortable with the PC and Microsoft that could develop compelling apps. However it is essential these apps take advntage of the unique hardware that a PC, tablet or phone offer to make them compelling.

Earlier this week Microsoft updated App Studio to allow 'anyone to make a unified app'. This sounds like a good idea but it could also be a mistake if Microsoft sees it as the solution. Microsoft doesn't just need apps - they need quality apps that people want to use. We have begun to see a shift in consumer demand to desire apps that augment their lives - health/fitness, travel and finance to name a few. Microsoft needs to define categories that people want today and some of the key innovators and focus its efforts. Having a few great apps is going to be better than thousands of sub-par ones. 

Developers enthusiasm is waning and the launch of Windows 10 will be Microsoft's last chance to be considered as a must support platform by developers. 

For more details on the full report click here.

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