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

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?
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

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: 


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.

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