Developers ramping up for Microsoft Windows Store apps

Trailing iOS and Android, Microsoft makes major effort to engage with developers and boost Windows Store app numbers

Developers are showing interest in building Windows Store (formerly Metro) applications with tablet-style functionality, but the platform is still in its early stages as far as building a base of apps.

Metro, a name that is no longer supposed to be used because of a trademark conflict, was introduced two years ago. Now, Microsoft is referring to these apps as Windows Store apps, bearing the Modern UI interface, complete with Microsoft's live tiles for accessing functionality. "We're just doing our first Metro Windows 8 commercial application," said Jeff Torkington, CEO of retailer software developer Ontempo.

Microsoft cites about 100,000 Windows Store apps, which would pale in comparison to the more than 975,000 Android apps in the Google Play store and the estimated 850,000 iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch apps in Apple's App Store. But Windows 8.1 looks like it will be a more appealing platform for users, which should boost Windows Store application development, said Wes Miller, analyst at Directions on Microsoft. "In general, the navigation is better," in version 8.1, he said. "Microsoft has made some of the right changes with [Windows 8.1]. It could be an interesting holiday season for sure." Microsoft has just begun offering a preview of Windows 8.1.

Microsoft also is leveraging XAML to try to make development easier, Miller said. Previously, the company focused on Web languages like HTML5 and JavaScript. "[With] their XAML architecture, they've got a lot better story on how you would build an app for Windows 8."

Developers thus far are giving the Windows Store application style mixed reviews. New to the Windows Store application experience, Kristofer Linnestjerna, a developer at NetClean Technologies, said he found himself confused by the platform when he took a look at it. He noted how different it is from the desktop. "It's made for touch," he noted.

Developer Robert Keiser, owner of Row Five Information Systems, has done some Windows Store app development. "It's very easy. The only problem that I have is if you program for the tablets, you have to rewrite some of the code, some of the front end, to make it work on the phone."

While developer Martin Bennedik, a freelancer in Frankfurt, Germany, has developed some Windows Store apps, he has not seen much interest in the platform from his clients so far. "They're just waiting to see where this is going." But Microsoft is making the application development process better for Windows Store, he said.

At the Achmea insurance company, developer Tom van de Meent has not built any apps for Windows Store yet but anticipates a need in the future. Thus far, there he has only seen "a little" interest in Windows Store apps from customers, he said.

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Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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