Books written by Ray Sullivan

Monday, 17 June 2013

Microsoft Gets Its Chequebook Out

Apple kicked the App market off when it launched the iPhone.  I think it must have been an interesting day when Steve Jobs walked into the boardroom to make his pitch.  What do you mean, you want to allow independent developers to produce apps for the new device?  You'll be letting anyone make docks, next.

Apple were right to let developers have their head.  Some have made a literal fortune out of the app market, and good luck to them.  Of course Apple knew what they were doing - all the apps had to be sold through the iTunes store and they took a skim off the top.  Millions upon millions of skims later and Apple are a cash rich company.  And those third party docks that meant we had a fantastic choice at next to no risk to Apple - I'm guessing there was a licensing fee involved too.  Talk about win-win.

Now everyone has to compete with Apple for the app market.  The savvy app companies develop their apps for all the successful platforms out there, which means Apple of course plus Android, naturally.  Somewhere out there is also Research In Motion's Blackberry devices, but they are hardly leading the way and developers could be forgiven for not prioritising them.

Microsoft are a little late to the party as well.  Windows 8 is still relatively young, although a few months makes a lot of difference in this modern age.  With the advent of viable smart screen PCs to take advantage of the new OS Microsoft are desperate to start to match Apple in the app market.  It's a tall order, with Apple claiming around 900,000 apps on the iTunes store.  Of course many of them won't have sold many units at all, a bit like eBook titles I guess, while others will have been a runaway success.  To be fair, Microsoft reckon that they have 48 of the top 50 apps in the charts in their store.  But looking at the app store on Windows 8 leaves me a little cold - I'm a hard consumer to please in the games market for example because I'm not too bothered about high resolution multi player games and to be honest all I want is some logic games that don't insult my limited intelligence while I'm waiting for the dentist to call me in.  I haven't found a decent Soduko to match the average fare for free in the Android market yet and Everett Kaser has obstinately said that he has no intention of developing a new version of Sherlock for 'another operating system' until it proves to be viable.

But they want more than that, which is reasonable given they want Windows 8 to be a success, especially in the critical smart phone market.  The mobile market is key to Microsoft's strategy because they are banking on us wanting to take advantage of the functionality in Windows 8 that lets us move seamlessly from mobile phone to PC to Xbox, that is we can start watching a film on one of those devices and pick it up where we left off on any of the other two. They're making grudging progress in the PC market which isn't unexpected - while many of us may choose to run Linux at home, corporately Microsoft is still king.

So the call has gone out to developers that the chequebook is open and Microsoft is prepared to pay up to $100,000 for apps that will run on Windows 8.  It sounds aggressive and as always it will be the small print that will decide if it's worth diverting developer work towards Windows 8, but I'm fairly confident that many operations will be sitting up and taking notice.  It's unclear on how the proportion of $100k is allocated, but definitely worth asking the question, I would suggest. If I was running a development house I'd still prioritise iOS and Android, but I'd have my patent pending Slide Rule app (what do you mean - what's a slide rule?  Don't you use log tables anymore?) running to see if the numbers stack up with the Microsoft offer.  Let's face it, they might not be the richest company in the world anymore, but being third or fourth is still pretty good.  Their credit's good for me.

If you know any app developers, let them know Microsoft are looking for apps and they're in a paying mood.  Maybe I'll develop that Slide Rule app for Windows 8 myself. It can't be any worse than the standard calculator app and might appeal to engineers of, ahem, a certain age.


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