Here's a follow-on question from a reader related to yesterday's post: "How Microsoft can salvage Windows 8 before it's too late".
I share your concern that Windows 8 could flop, but as a developer -- iOS, Android and Windows Phone -- I'm also worried that Metro apps, which I'm planning to also develop, could also be a washout. What do you think Microsoft do to help give Metro apps a boost?
If I were planning to develop apps for Metro, I'd be worried too. If Windows 8 fails to get the appropriate traction, and if developers shun the Windows App Store, then application makers will have put effort into the platform for nothing. There's nothing that anyone can do to salvage the platform because the audience won't be there.
The only way I can see that Microsoft could save Metro apps if Windows 8 flops is if the Metro platform is backported to Windows 7 -- perhaps as part of a service pack. I don't mean the entirety of the Metro user interface, 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.
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.
But even if Windows 8 is successful, there's still a chance that Metro apps could flop. Windows has had a software store of sorts since Windows Vista -- it was called Windows Marketplace -- but it died because consumers didn't used it. For Metro apps and the Windows Store for the forthcoming operating system as a whole to be a success, people actually have to use it.
People are already familiar with app stores. Android has an app store, Apple has an app store, and a whole host of other platforms have their own stores. But Microsoft can't rely on this in order to get traffic to its store. It needs to encourage people to use the app store.
The best way to do this is to get people using the app store right from the beginning. Microsoft could do this by both highlighting free apps and even offering every Windows user free credits to spend in its app store. Microsoft encouraged those who downloaded the Consumer Preview and Release Preview of Windows 8 to do this by making all the apps free, but I'm talking about taking this idea and making it mainstream. (OK, not even Microsoft can offer all apps for free, but a few store credits would go a long way and the cost to Microsoft would be minimal.)
This would get people signing up to the store, looking around, clicking and downloading stuff.
There's no substitute for getting people into a store, looking around and using it. It's by far the best advertising that Microsoft could give its app store.