With Windows 8, Microsoft's new operating system (OS), the technology giant is attempting to rethink its platform to bring in big changes to the user interface and navigation. One of the biggest components of this platform's success would be application developers.
Microsoft has announced that developers from 120 markets (including India) will be able to publish their Windows 8 apps and start selling them online on Windows App Store from October 26, when the new OS will be commercially launched.
The sheer number of apps, both free and paid, was the primary reason why Apple and Google succeeded with their iOS and Android platforms, respectively, and also where Research in Motion (RIM) failed with its BlackBerry OS. With 3,500 developers participating at its AppFest earlier this month, Microsoft is throwing the red carpet to welcome developers.
However, app developers in India are in a dilemma, for they have to choose between Windows 8 and Android. Vishal Gondal, managing director – digital, DisneyUTV, says: "This is the first time that you will have an OS, which is tightly integrated with a number of devices and which is outside of the Apple eco-system. It is only in an Apple environment that a user gets a seamless experience between gadgets such as Mac, iPad and iPhone. The other advantage that Microsoft has is the number of users already using Windows. iOS, in that sense, is still restricted to a certain segment of users in India," points out Gondal.
The other advantage of Windows 8 is that it lets app developers monetise their applications. Amrish Goyal, director, Windows business group at Microsoft India, says: "Microsoft will offer developers the option of using in-app transactions to make money or get the money upfront from the users for their apps. Alternatively, the developers can rely on the ad-funded model. The minimum price of an app, according to Microsoft, will be as low as $1.49 or as high as $999."
Microsoft, like Apple, will keep 30 per cent of the app price on sales up to $25,000. For app sales beyond this, the Redmond-based company will keep 20 per cent. This revenue-sharing arrangement for a company like Rovio, which made a killing selling Angry Birds, could mean a potentially larger pay cheque from Microsoft over competing platforms.
Predictably, Microsoft has managed to get the attention of Indian developers. "After iOS, we will be considering the Windows platform for our apps, before we even think of Android where monetisation is extremely difficult," says Mohit Sureka, founder and CEO, Spiel Studios. According to him, while the company is not looking at Windows 8 apps for PC, it will consider developing gaming apps for the Windows 8 platform on tablets and smartphones, once the OS is commercially launched. Spiel Studios has published several iOS apps such as Propel Man, that even featured among the top-10 apps on Apple's India app store.
Girish Nuli, managing director and CEO of Antara Software, a Bangalore-based start-up that is ready with a health care app for Windows 8 web and mobile platform, says: "We evaluated other mobile OSes, but realised that Windows had a formidable reach in India. Our app, Active Life, is ready for Windows 8 app store and we are looking to monetise the app with in-app purchases." Nuli is also working on adding a few more health care and education apps for Windows 8 soon.
Even developers who don't have a Windows 8 app are betting the platform would open new doors. Nilay Arora, business head at ibibo Games, says: "We have been monetising our Android apps via in-app advertisements, and it has worked all right till now. But, we will use in-app upgrades on Windows 8 platform to monetise the app, since the company is providing a secure payment gateway." With seven apps on the Android platform and two on the Apple iOS, ibibo Games believes while Android platform provides the company a better volume scale today, Microsoft's new platform would give a wider distribution network to its apps.
Developers also see Windows 8 as an alternative to Google's Android OS, one of the most popular OSes. "The Android ecosystem is fragmented at the moment, as developers have to configure apps according to different devices and the experience varies for each device. Secondly, there is no real business model surrounding Android. Google has not provided for any payment mechanism. Although one can depend on advertisement revenue, that is still very small," said Gondal.
Microsoft's Goyal emphasised that apart from computers and tablets, the Windows 8 OS also supports apps on Xbox console and smartphones, providing developers a much larger opportunity than its rivals. Windows has sold 630 million licences in about 200 countries and has a 90 per cent share of the OS market, which indicates the upgrade potential for Windows 8. The new OS, says Goyal, will also allow users to make purchases for their Xbox 360 gaming and queue them up for download on the console. In other words, Microsoft hopes to unify the OS across device platforms.
According to the latest Developer Economics report, Apple's iOS is the most expensive platform to develop apps on, where an average app development costs about $27,000, making it 21 per cent more expensive than Android. The average app will take approximately three months to develop. A Windows Phone app, on the other hand, costs about $17,500 and an average Android app costs $22,617. "Naturally, app development costs depend on the country and app category. For example, iOS is faster to develop communication and social networking apps than Android," the report notes.
Microsoft has also launched a four-month long programme across 50 cities in India, titled TechDays, to promote developers and technology enthusiasts to create apps for its OS.
Although Microsoft and its partner on the mobile front, Nokia, are going all out to woe developers and customers, its success will only be decided over the next few quarters.