Windows Store for Windows 8: The Start of Something Big?

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Windows Store for Windows 8: The Start of Something Big?
While consumers and developers have enjoyed free access to the developer’s preview of Windows 8 for a few months, precious little information surrounding Microsoft’s promised online app store was available for consumption--until Tuesday night.

Hoping to replicate the financial success enjoyed by Apple with its Mac App Store and iTunes App Store business models, the Redmond-based tech behemoth laid out the broad strokes of its plans for the launch of its Windows Store for Windows 8.

Being prepped for a February 2012 debut, the app store will act as a central hub for future Windows users to peruse and purchase Metro UI-styled applications for use on Windows 8 tablets, desktops, and laptops. By selling their wares through Windows Store for Windows 8, developers will see a 70 percent share of all revenue made off the sale of a given application until a $25,000 cap for the product is reached. Once this occurs, Microsoft has stated that developers will be rewarded with an 80 percent share of all revenue made from the title--which, as any software developer working today will tell you, is one heck of a sweetheart deal.

To get the ball rolling on Windows Store for Windows 8 application submissions, Microsoft is offering developers the opportunity to enroll their software offerings in the company’s Apps First competition, which awards content winners with the prestige of seeing their applications among the first eight titles to be offered to consumers via the Windows Store.

It all sounds great: Thanks to Microsoft’s plans for Windows Store for Windows 8, everyone seemingly comes out a winner. Developers will receive the lion’s share of profits for their efforts, with larger dividends paid to top performers. Consumers will get an easy-to-access hub to fulfill their application needs, and Microsoft will finally have an updated online business model that stands a chance of competing with the likes of the iTunes App Store and Google’s Android Marketplace.

With the help of an enticing application ecosphere, could Windows 8 tablets end up being the hit that Microsoft’s been hoping for, despite waning consumer interest for products powered by the OS? Maybe.

In order to form an informed opinion on the issue, you’ll have to dig a little deeper into why Microsoftwould feel the need to offer developers such a massive share of the fiscal spoils garnered through a portal that it owns.

the rise of HTML5
By giving developers a 70 to 80 percent share of profits generated by app sales via Windows Store for Windows 8, Microsoft appears to be providing developers with plenty of incentive to populate the Windows 8 ecosphere with a wide variety of software. Under normal circumstances, this might ensure the success of the platform’s ecosystem. But back in September, Microsoft dealt the Windows development community a painful blow from which it may never fully recover.

When Microsoft unveiled the Windows 8 developer’s build preview, it informed developers that their years of programming knowledge, as well as many programs they’d written, would become obsolete once the OS was released, as the company plans to shed older, well-known development platforms in favor of modern, lightweight APIs that provide greater flexibility that will allow both high and low powered system architectures to be accommodated.

While this shift to new APIs for use with a new OS may sound reasonable to users, doing away with a large number of technologies that developers are well-versed in for sexier, new APIs has been a venomous topic in the Windows development community. Microsoft’s demand that programming languages such as HTML5 and JavaScript be used in future development might bring Windows 8 applications into line with similar fare for competing platforms, such as OS X, iOS, and Android. Yet, making the shift will be uncomfortable to say the least for most Windows software developers.

That such a large percentage of earnings from the sales via Windows Store is being offered to devs suggests that while Microsoft is unwilling to bend on the its freshly minted APIs, it's well aware of the displeasure developers have been voicing online. Will fistfuls of app-based lucre keep once-dedicated Windows developers from defecting to other camps--such as Apple or Google, where they can design apps with less frustration? It’s hard to say, but it’s important that potential users of Windows 8-powered hardware pay close attention.

After all, as any owner of a Blackberry Playbook will tell you, having polished hardware and a powerful OS become a non-issue if there are too few applications to make the platform a viable computing and productivity option.

Seamus Bellamy is a Victoria, Canada-based author, journalist and curmudgeon.

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