Microsoft's new Windows Phone dev tool: Will it reduce the app gap?

Microsoft's new Windows Phone dev tool: Will it reduce the app gap?

Summary: Microsoft has a new Windows Phone development tool (in beta) that is targeted at non-programmers. Will Windows Phone App Studio help shrink the app gap with iPhones and Android phones?

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On August 6, Microsoft rolled out a beta of a brand-new, Microsoft-developed tool aimed at first-time programmers who might be interested in trying to develop Windows Phone apps.

Called Windows Phone App Studio, the new tool doesn't have its roots in any former Microsoft development tools or projects, a spokesperson said. 

The tool is a free, web-based app creation one "designed to help anyone quickly bring an idea to life by applying text, web content, imagery, and design concepts to any one of a rich set of customizable templates," explained Microsoft officials in a blog post.

"Getting started is easy – just create a Microsoft account, choose your template, and begin adding your content. Windows Phone App Studio does the rest. When you’re app is ready to go, you can download the app to your own phone, or share it with others by publishing it to the Windows Phone Store," said officials in today's blog post.

Those using the tool who are a little more "techie" can modify their apps using Visual Studio and/or Blend. The first version of the tool is optimized for IE10 and includes a limited number of templates. The Softies are promising to extend its capabilities in the future. 

Windows Phone App Studio is just one more tool in Microsoft's arsenal that the company hopes will help it grow its Windows Phone application base. Windows Phone currently has approximately 160,000 apps. 

As Nick Landry, Windows Phone Development Most Valuable Professional (MVP) and Senior Program Manager at Infragistics blogged today, the app-gap between Windows Phone, Android Phone and iPhone is still undeniable (though, Landry argued, perhaps not as monumental as some pundits believe).

Landry published a comparison of availability of 100 top phone apps for the three platforms. Here are his findings, which measure official app availability on the three phone platforms, plus on Windows 8: 

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While Landry's self-selected sample of 100 top phone apps all run on iOS (and nearly all also on Android), 63 percent currently run on Windows Phone, Landry found.

Granted, a tool like Windows Phone App Studio isn't something aimed at developers of the kinds of apps that Landry measured. But Microsoft is hoping it might appeal to those who have ideas for apps, but not necessarily the programming background and know-how to turn those concepts into apps.

One more resource for those considering dabbling in Windows Phone apps: Here's a link to Microsoft's Channel 9 video series on developing for Windows 8 for absolute beginners.

Topics: Windows Phone, Android, iPhone, Microsoft

About

Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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38 comments
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  • Probably a good idea

    Google did this in Android's early days with App Inventor.
    Mac_PC_FenceSitter
    • That's true, but that was then...

      ... and this is now. How are they even going to begin to close the gap, at this point? Others have used simple online HTML tools to do app development, (e.g., WebOS) and it basically went nowhere. I don't see what will be any different here.
      bhartman36
    • It won't close the gap

      I just gave it a try. It's *****extremely***** basic. Like, way to basic to make a quality app with. It'd actually be a good tool to teach children how to code, but it's useless for professionals.
      icyrock
  • Some people have been predicting that MS will dump either WP or Win RT

    Would I be correct in thinking that this indicates that MS has no intention of dumping WP for RT on phones?
    Wakemewhentrollsgone
    • Re: Would I be correct in thinking

      That depends. Check back next week to see if it hasn't gone the way of Microsoft Expression Studio.
      ldo17
  • Good luck

    Microsoft is loosing its ground very fast. I am as a developer was forced to drop Windows where I spent last 18 years and switch to Linux for Web & Android development, which I used for last 13 years only as server platform. My second PC is now MAC mini for web and iOS development. I don't know what MS thinking about, but I need only Power point which is easily replaceable with open office and Outlook Calendar, which can be replaced with any CRM software. MS is virtually dead for me. I lost years of experience because of that bold idiot, jumping on the scene at company meetings.

    MS starts to remind me fate of long distance phone calls providers.
    Nikolayev
    • ...and Good luck to you too

      This is all your personal opinion really. Apart from mobile app development (where MS is late entrant with Windows Phone/8), there is no evidence to prove that Microsoft is losing developer support.
      The traditional developer base for MS (.NET, desktop, etc.) are still very much there, and majority of us still know that Microsoft has more of the better productivity tools for developers (Visual Studio, SQL Server, Azure, etc.)
      Enjoy your Linux world, but don't hold your breath for MS "demise" because that is not going to happen.
      ideleosaretin@...
      • Re: there is no evidence to prove that Microsoft is losing developer suppor

        Look at how few apps have been updated for Windows 8.
        ldo17
      • Oh I dunno

        I am a developer, and I know it is anecdotal, but I haven't met a .NET developer who isn't peeved about how we got thrown under the bus by WinDiv with Windows 8.
        Mac_PC_FenceSitter
        • It's called change

          Thrown under the bus how? Like PowerPC Mac users?

          Are they peeved because they aren't working with the latest tech or something? Even a dead man walking, like Silverlight is good till 2024 (and will convert to Win8 pretty straight, since native Win8/XAML is essentially Silverlight 6).

          Change is scary. New products or major revisions are never 100%. It'll take some adaptation and refinement, but it will all work out in the end.
          Tojuro
        • Yep loads of core .Net develoeprs have left the MS platfrom

          Since Microsoft dumped on us big time with dropping of Silverlight, XNA and depreciating .NET in favour of crappy JavaScript and HTML.

          Just look at all those Indies Games in the Windows Store - Oh Hang on there aren't many. Wonder why that is. Perhaps because MS pissed off all the XNA developers maybe.

          So if we are to move into the sloppy webby JavaScript/ HTML5 world, we might as well use our .NET skills in Mono for Android, and develop Android Apps.

          All us .NET and XNA developers are laughing at Microsoft now. Serves those Microsoft suckers right. We are now in an 'Android First" Developer mindset, and Microsoft helped persuade us to go there !
          JulesVerny
    • You can pry C#/LINQ from my cold dead fingers

      I'm a dev too, and don't see any real move away from Microsoft, outside of Mobile apps. The one area that Microsoft reacts fast to the market is in developer tools, and I think their web development tech/etc is as good as it has ever been.

      Even with Mobile apps -- if they even get solid footing, the superior dev tools (C# vs Android's Java base & objective C in general) will be a huge advantage. I can work with the others, but I definitely prefer C#.....it's a beautiful language.
      Tojuro
      • Agree

        I absolutely agree. The C# language in combination with the .NET framework is light years ahead of anything else available. I've written in Java, Objective C, C++, just to name a few languages, and none even come close.
        Tiggster79
      • Except for their price increases against developers.

        Up to 50% I seem to remember reading, depending on what you are developing.
        jessepollard
        • your memory seems to be failing you

          Visual Studio Professional 2008/10/12 all cost $800 w/o MSDN subscription or $1200 with. If you can't afford or justify that, there are also free editions.

          Now they did increase higher level MSDN subscriptions fees a couple of years back. But those are all premium products that give you some nice bells and whistles but are not essential
          vpupkin
      • Re: You can pry C#/LINQ from my cold dead fingers

        You'll be unemployed long before that.
        ldo17
      • Yes using Mono for Android

        Makes it great to exploit all our .NET C# and LINQ skills for the premier Mobile platform now.

        No Thanks to Microsoft.
        JulesVerny
  • No. No, it won't.

    If history teaches us anything, you don't stand a chance unless your phone has a fruit logo or a robot mascot. Apple and Android are just too far ahead in the app department at this point.
    bhartman36
    • People used to say the same thing

      but it was only about phones with fruit on them. Yet look where Android is now.

      I don't think there is such a thing as to late in mobile right now. How many "leaders" have changed places in mobile the last several years?
      Emacho
      • Two!!

        Years ago the leader changed from Symbian to iPhone and then from iPhone to Android. The last change before that would be too long ago to be described as in the last several years (the symbian to iPhone change is pushing it).

        I am a Win Phone user so I hope they can catch up but that was a silly comment.
        mog0