App mak­ers cool to Mi­crosoft over­tures

Lesotho Times - - Business -

NEW YORK — Mi­crosoft’s plan to make its new ver­sion of Win­dows a mo­bile hit by let­ting it ac­cept tweaked Ap­ple and An­droid apps has met an ob­sta­cle: some of the soft­ware de­vel­op­ers the com­pany needs to woo just aren’t in­ter­ested.

Win­dows phones ac­counted for just three per­cent of global smart­phone sales last year, com­pared with about 81 per­cent for de­vices with Google’s An­droid sys­tem and 15 per­cent for Ap­ple and its IOS sys­tem, ac­cord­ing to re­search firm IDC. One rea­son is that Win­dows doesn’t run as many or as at­trac­tive apps as its ri­vals.

To boost sales of its phones and new op­er­at­ing sys­tem, Mi­crosoft said last month that it would pro­vide tools to soft­ware de­vel­op­ers to make it eas­ier to de­sign apps for Win­dows based on apps that run on An­droid or Ap­ple. But be­cause so few peo­ple use a Win­dows phone, most de­vel­op­ers re­main fo­cused on the more popular sys­tems and don’t see a need to de­velop apps for Win­dows. They also said they doubt how easy the new tools will be to use.

“Win­dows phone will have to gain a sig­nif­i­cant share of the mar­ket be­fore this be­comes some­thing that saves us time and/or money,” said Sean Orelli, a direc­tor at app devel­op­ment firm Fuzz Pro­duc­tions in New York, which makes apps re­lated to Citibank, the New York Post, and Conde Nast, among oth­ers.

For Mi­crosoft, the world’s big­gest soft­ware com­pany, there’s a lot at stake this sum­mer as it rolls out Win­dows 10, the first op­er­at­ing sys­tem de­signed to run on PCS, tablets and phones. If de­vel­op­ers don’t em­brace the new plat­form, it will se­ri­ously dam­age the prospects of the new op­er­at­ing sys­tem, which Mi­crosoft hopes will power one bil­lion de­vices in two or three years. Candy Crush

In­ter­views with more than a dozen de­vel­op­ers found just one plan­ning to move an app from Ap­ple or An­droid to Mi­crosoft. That’s King.com, which ported its popular Candy Crush Saga game from IOS to Win­dows 10 “with very few code mod­i­fi­ca­tions” and will be in­stalled au­to­mat­i­cally with up­grades to Win­dows 10, ac­cord­ing to Mi­crosoft. King. com con­firmed the move but de­clined to com­ment fur­ther.

Eight de­vel­op­ers said they aren’t plan­ning to de­velop for Win­dows 10 at all. Four who al­ready have Win­dows apps said they would con­tinue to do so.

Be­cause Mi­crosoft hasn’t ac­tu­ally un­veiled its new set of tools to turn apps into a Win­dows for­mat, de­vel­op­ers did not rule out any move, and a Mi­crosoft spokesman said that “it is still early” and many soft­ware com­pa­nies want to ex­plore the tools over the com­ing months.

More and bet­ter apps might at­tract more peo­ple to buy a Win­dows phone or tablet, Mi­crosoft rea­sons. Only six of the top 10 free apps on iphone are avail­able for Win­dows phone, and of those, two are made by Mi­crosoft it­self. In the past Mi­crosoft has paid de­vel­op­ers to cre­ate Win­dows apps.

Fail­ure to at­tract the apps would not be fa­tal for Mi­crosoft, which is grow­ing more re­liant on its Of­fice, server soft­ware and cloud com­put­ing ser­vices, but it would be a sign that Mi­crosoft is los­ing its hold on per­sonal com­put­ing, in a world where phones are ex­pected to out­sell PCS by more than six to one by 2017.

Be­cause of that trend, “it’s go­ing to be hard for de­vel­op­ers to pri­or­i­tize build­ing for Mi­crosoft,” said John Mili­novich, Chief Ex­ec­u­tive of URX, a mo­bile ad ser­vice that cre­ates links be­tween apps. Static busi­ness

Win­dows, closely tied to the stag­nant PC mar­ket, is a big but static busi­ness for Mi­crosoft. It’s likely worth $20 bil­lion in rev­enue this fis­cal year, an­a­lysts say, com­pared with al­most $30 bil­lion for its Of­fice busi­ness, out of to­tal ex­pected an­nual rev­enue of $93 bil­lion. The com­pany’s server soft­ware and cloud-com­put­ing busi­nesses are grow­ing much faster, with cloud-com­put­ing rev­enue fore­cast to triple to $20 bil­lion by 2018.

Even though only a hand­ful of de­vel­op­ers have been al­lowed a sneak pre­view of the new tools Mi­crosoft says it’s pre­par­ing, most doubt it will be easy to take IOS and An­droid apps to Win­dows. Con­cerns in­clude how the Win­dows app will use batches of pre-writ­ten soft­ware, called li­braries, that an app needs to run, and the prospects that Ap­ple’s new lan­guage, called Swift, may soon eclipse the cur­rent one.

Erik Rucker, head of mo­bile at Smartsheet, which makes an on­line tool to man­age projects, said he doesn’t plan a Win­dows app ver­sion. He doubts tweak­ing an ipad or iphone app for Win­dows would be sim­ple.

“We’d end up writ­ing a whole bunch more code,” to move over an Ap­ple app that was tightly in­te­grated with the de­vice, he said.

For Ja­son Thane, gen­eral manager at Gen­eral UI, a mo­bile app de­vel­oper based in Seat­tle, the cost of de­vel­op­ing a Win­dows app from an­other sys­tem would need to fall to about 10 per­cent to 20 per­cent of the cost of build­ing it.

“It can cost 50 per­cent or more of the cost to de­velop an app on one plat­form to port it to a new plat­form,” said Thane, who hasn’t yet used the new tools. “So if Mi­crosoft has a way for our cus­tomers to do it eas­ily and cheaply, and if there’s no se­ri­ous per­for­mance or func­tion­al­ity im­pact, I think they’d have a lot of peo­ple want­ing to do it.”

Even a lit­tle ex­tra ef­fort is too much for some smaller de­vel­op­ers, in­clud­ing for­mer Mi­crosoft ex­ec­u­tive Adam Tratt, who now runs Haiku Deck, which makes pre­sen­ta­tion soft­ware pri­mar­ily de­signed for ipads.

“I’d like to at some point, but we’re not work­ing on it yet,” he said. “It’s a func­tion of re­sources.”

Re­cent his­tory hasn’t been on Mi­crosoft’s side. Last year Pin­ter­est pulled its Win­dows Phone test app, and this year Chase and Bank of Amer­ica stopped sup­port­ing Win­dows phone apps, say­ing few cus­tomers were af­fected. None of those com­pa­nies would com­ment on plans for Win­dows 10.

Mi­crosoft does have some loyal sup­port­ers. Walt Dis­ney Co, Net­flix Inc and USA To­day all con­firmed they are de­vel­op­ing apps for Win­dows 10.

USA To­day, owned by me­dia gi­ant Gan­nett Co, is build­ing a “uni­ver­sal” app for Win­dows, which will run across PCS, tablets and phones. But in­stead of reusing code from its ex­ist­ing Win­dows apps, or port­ing from Ap­ple or An­droid, the devel­op­ment team opted to start fresh.

The best ex­pe­ri­ence was al­ways go­ing to be achieved with tools made for a given soft­ware sys­tem, said Christo­pher Kam­sler, manager of mo­bile devel­op­ment at Gan­nett, and even with those his team had to tweak the app to work for dif­fer­ent sized de­vices.

It’s an up­hill battle for Mi­crosoft, said Frank Gillett, an an­a­lyst at tech re­search firm For­rester.

“An­droid and IOS are in the zone, the Win­dows guys just aren’t there yet,” he said. — Reuters

MI­CROSOFT’S Win­dows 10 is the first op­er­at­ing sys­tem de­signed to run on PCS, tablets and phones.

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