Bring Metro apps to Windows 7 to encourage developer growth

Bring Metro apps to Windows 7 to encourage developer growth

Summary: Opening up Metro apps to Windows 7 users would give developers are al reason to start developing. It decouples the success of the new platform from the success of Windows 8.

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More than six months on from Microsoft's Windows 8 BUILD event, there are only 99 apps in Microsoft's Windows 8 Store. This certainly seems to suggest that developers are dragging their heels when it comes to supporting Microsoft's upcoming platform.

Does this mean success, failure, or something else for the ecosystem? While it's too early to tell, if I were Microsoft I'd be looking at ways to get developers excited about Metro app development. After all, the if there aren't enough apps in the store at the launch of Windows 8 then this could have an adverse effect on adoption of the new operating system.

You can also look at this the other way. If developers feel that interest in a new platform is going to be soft, then they're less likely to bother supporting the platform and concentrate development time -- and dollars -- on platforms that already have a large user base. There are a lot of platforms out there to develop for, and only so much development time and dollars to go around.

With less than a hundred apps in the Windows 8 Store so far, I get the feeling that developers are feeling that Windows 8 might be a gamble. The big developers might wait for general release before releasing apps, but for a small developer the exposure of being in the Windows 8 app store now with a product -- even a demo -- is the sort of exposure money can't buy.

There is however a simple way that Microsoft could make Metro apps more relevant. It would take some effort but it would give developers more confidence in developing Metro apps by removing the reliance on Windows 8.

So what should Microsoft do? Simple: backport support for Metro apps to Windows 7. I don't mean the entirety of the Metro UI, just support for app and perhaps a Start Screen launcher that could run as a separate application. Touch support will be non-existent, but that doesn't matter since not all Windows 8 systems will support touch. I think that touch support will be in the minority for the entire lifespan of Windows 8, and Metro apps can be controlled with a keyboard and mouse.

The apps that I've seen developed for Windows 8 so far -- and I think I've used pretty much all of them -- would work just as well in Windows 7, or even Vista for that matter -- but that was hardly a popular platform to begin with.

Opening up Metro apps to Windows 7 users would give developers a real reason to start developing. It decouples the success of these new style apps from the success of Windows 8 itself. Using Windows 7 as a platform for Metro apps would give it an instant user base of millions. And that's the sort of thing that makes developers sit up and take notice.

Image credit: Microsoft.

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Topics: Software, Apps, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Software Development, Windows

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48 comments
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  • If I was building a W8 app I wouldn't put it in the store yet.

    I'd keep it evoling and do private side load beta testing and not put it in the store until a week or so before RTM.
    Johnny Vegas
  • RE: Johnny Vegas

    "If I was building a W8 app I wouldn't put it in the store yet."

    Yes, you wouldn't because it is not possible. In W8 seminar a week ago I was told that only chance to get your app to the store before release is through special validation in 6 weeks. These paid apps will be available "in the next public release of W8". So there is another beta coming before RTM some time early summer I think. The amount of apps after this second consumer preview or what ever it is called would be better indicator about developer interest.
    Asgardi
    • The "Release Preview"...

      ... Should be available mid(ish) summer, I would bet. Very much looking forward to having a feature complete trial run of Windows 8.
      The one and only, Cylon Centurion
  • "Windows 8 might be a gamble"

    Whaaaaa?

    Windows 8 is absolutely, positively, 100% guaranteed to sell hundreds of millions of copies. And systems running WinRT are absolutely, positively, 100% guaranteed to sell more than a [/i]billion[/i] copies. That is even if the PC market remains completely flat, or [i]even declines markedly[/i] over the next 10 years.

    Developing for Windows is not a gamble.

    Right now, the tools aren't there. The developer program isn't there. They will be. And when they are, the applications will come.
    x I'm tc
    • Yep

      Developing for Windows 8 and beyond is far less of a gamble than developing for Android. Even the "hated" Vista sold hundreds of millions of copies over it's lifetime. It literally is the biggest opportunity for developers ever because while there are plenty of people who may not want a smartphone (probably because data plans are expensive), I don't see how anyone can live without a computer these days.
      Jeff Kibuule
    • A billion copies?

      "systems running WinRT are absolutely, positively, 100% guaranteed to sell more than a billion copies"

      Where do you get your weed? It's some powerful sh!t.
      AnalogJoystick
      • WinRT is the new Win32, so . . .

        I can't say that I disagree with his point, given that WinRT is now the main API into Windows going forward.
        jjworleyeoe
        • WinRT is MSFT's intended API

          But that's not a guarantee it'll succeed. WinRT/Metro could prove to be a flop on desktops. If Mac sales growth accelerated at the cost of new PC sales after Windows 8 was released, MSFT would most definitely reconsider WinRT/Metro.

          Anyway, for the next few years economics may still favor Win32 development for 3rd party developers.

          I'll gauge MSFT's intentions for WinRT by how long it takes them to release a WinRT version of Office. If WinRT doesn't suit Office, there's a lot of other software it won't suit too.
          hrlngrv 
    • Desktop vs Metro

      There's a difference between developing for Windows and developing for WinRT/Metro.

      It debatable whether there'll ever be as many Windows tablets and phones as Windows PCs. Since it'll take a few years for Windows 8 to reach 500 million PCs, it's take even longer for Windows 8 to reach a billion Windows 8 machines in total. Another question: how many PCs will have touch screen monitors by the end of 2013? Without touch screens, there's not much compelling about Metro.

      Windows developers may have determined that, at least in the next 3 years, there's a lot more sales potential for desktop software than WinRT/Metro software. And don't kid yourself: WinRT/Metro won't be one big market. Apps which make sense for phones won't necessarily make sense for desktops and vice versa.

      Consider an example. Would WinRAR net more money selling through a Windows 8 app store than it does currently? Since it also sells Linux, BSD, OS X and even MS-DOS versions, would it close down its own site and just sell Windows versions through the Windows 8 app store? If not, then would it charge the same price to end users through the Windows 8 app store as it does through its own site and accept lower per sale revenues from the Windows 8 app store after MSFT takes its cut?

      App stores work for phones. App stores may work for iPads and Android tablets because it's much simpler to install software from their app stores, so app stores may work for WOA tablets. But x86 tablets will presumably be able to run desktop Windows software including installers, so there'd be a viable alternative to a Windows 8 app store for acquiring software.

      To me it makes perfect sense for Windows developers to adopt a wait-and-see attitude to WinRT/Metro development. Windows phones are still a risky proposition. Windows 8 tablets are as yet unproven. And Windows 8 on nontouch desktops may be little more than a faster but more frustrating Windows 7.
      hrlngrv 
    • As a developer

      My main concern regarding Win8 is the store: Microsoft/Windows app store is not optional. And it means: only those Metro apps which Microsoft accepts can be installed to Windows 8, and only with the terms Microsoft provides. It will prevent a huge amount of great opensource or simple free apps to appear in the store.

      For example it forces app pricing to 'align' with the policy Microsoft wants. If they don't want to allow pay-what-you-want or donation-ware pricing they simply won't allow it. If they want to keep 30% of your revenue they can. There's no competition. If they raise it to 50% you have to pay it or you won't be able to distribute your Metro app anywhere else.

      There are stores for Windows even for Win XP. Some example: AllMyApps, AppWhirr and Intel AppUp. Each with a slightly different concept. But WindowsRT won't allow another source of apps, only the built-in store.

      I love Windows for it's openness and that it allowed so many simple but powerful utility / tool apps like Oscar (subtitle searcher) or Launchy (quick launcher). These are the small missing peaces of Windows what made it the perfect productivity system (at least for me).

      I love Windows 7, and I love the enhancements in Windows 8 (tried both the Developer and the Consumer previews) but I don't like the new restrictions.
      viktorbenei
  • Backporting Metro Apps to Windows 7? That's a terrible idea.

    I think backport support of W8 metro applications on W7 is a terrible idea. The metro apps are the only significant aspect of W8 that separates it from W7. If Microsoft thought it would be beneficial to do this then they would have cancelled the W8 Beta project a long time ago and released yet another service pack, but Microsoft is smarter than this, therefore they did no such thing.
    SpiritWarStudios
    • I agree on backporting

      I do not agree that WinRt or metro is the only significant difference between 7 and 8. There are quite a few significant adjustments and inclusions at the general level and on the desktop. Most have been mentioned several times, for me the lightning fast boot time and general performance plus the inclusion of a type 1 hypervisor are significant in every day use.
      sjaak327
  • Oh my !

    The windows app store IS NOT open to submissions, the apps that are there now were there on day one. Seriously, does the guy who wrote that article you linked to have any clue ? No wonder people are so misinformed, the so called journalists don't even bother to make sure they are on to something !

    Meanwhile visual studio 2011 is in beta, and to develop a metro style app is so easy that once the store actually does open for submissions, we will see an abundance of apps, some good and usefull, some that are next to useless.
    sjaak327
  • Windows 8 Store isn't open for business yet!

    The Windows Store isn't open yet; Even if someone had made an app they wouldn't be able to get it published. There's a few options to get published early coming up with the next preview release (I believe paid apps will begin appearing then also) but right now the store and it's apps are just previews to give people an idea of what to expect in the future.

    Hopefully more apps will appear soon (I could really do with Facebook and Twitter apps to use with the share charm) but it's not really alarming that we've got the same 100 apps we had a month ago because Microsoft pretty much said as much.

    This is all well documented information, it would be a great idea to check your facts before writing an article based upon a false premise.

    Also, as someone else said, even if Windows 8 is as much of a "failure" as Vista apparently was it'll still sell hundreds of millions of copies and be the default installed operating system on 90% of PCs bought over the next three years. Add in all the tablets too...

    Even with a super-low estimate there'll be 50 million Windows 8 users by Christmas, hardly a small market.

    Any developer would be crazy not to already be working with the tools already available to see if they can get in on this new market as soon as possible.
    prettyconfusd
    • there is a new app with FB and Twitter support.

      search for Fliptoast, it appeared I think yesterday in store (since i didn't see it before), and it has twitter and Facebook support, not perfect and it even says "App preview" but you can use the share charm on it.

      nice comment, saddly some people/writers wont use a Little their brains to think what WinRT means and is, and how this store Works for Windows future.
      Emi Cyberschreiber
  • Oh and Adrian

    You do realise that Windows 8 will run all the applications that currently run on Windows 7 ? That is an awfull lot of apps, probably a good factor more then all the ios, android and wp7 apps combined.
    sjaak327
  • . . . if I were Microsoft . .

    "While its too early to tell, if I were Microsoft . . ." I would drop Metro. Or at least make Metro, the interface and all apps, an addon similar to how Windows Media Center works.
    DarienHawk67
    • WMC idea

      I like your WMC idea.
      As many people have already stated, during the last 6 months(?), Windows should detect what hardware it is on and start the appropriate interface.

      Why would I want those horrible app things on Windows 7 anyway?
      I have real programs for performing my activities.
      lehnerus2000
    • Metro

      I agree. Metro should be a subsystem to the desktop, not the other way around. Desktop Windows users are not likely to migrate to this thing. Why should they? On the desktop, Metro is a giant step backwards. As lehnerus2000 said, the O/S should start up with the default front-end based on the type of device (or on an option set).

      Personally I think Metro is ugly. I'll stick with Desktop Windows (W7) and watch this from my iPad.
      Max Peck
      • make one set of tiles

        Think of metro as the start menu. Make up the first metro screen with everything you commonly use from the start menu like Explorer, Control Panel, etc. You click in the lower left or use the Windows button on the keyboard just like before to bring up this start screen of Metro tiles. Other than that everything works like you are used to except for indexing which does things you can't do at all in Windows 7.
        mswift@...