Winning Kiwis over to Windows 8

TOM PULLAR-STRECKER
Last updated 15:19 03/09/2012

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Microsoft's Windows 8, which promises to bring tablet and smartphone-style "apps" to the world of the personal computer, is still a couple of months away from general release but the drive to ensure its success is in full swing.

The company will seek to persuade Kiwi software developers to develop apps for the operating system when 2000 techies gather for its annual TechEd conference in Auckland tomorrow.

Windows 8, which supports touch-screens, is designed to run on personal computers, tablets and new hybrid devices such as Microsoft's own Surface computer and is due for general release on October 26. It is also closely related to Microsoft's Phone 8 operating system for smartphones.

Microsoft New Zealand managing director Paul Muckleston said that made it a much larger opportunity for developers than creating apps for iPads and iPhones or Android smartphones and tablets.

"Within 12 months there will be between 600,000 and 700,000 personal computers shipping into the New Zealand market with Windows 8. There will probably be 50,000 to 100,000 tablets and slate computers and another 50,000 to 100,000 phones that will have shipped."

Worldwide, between 500 and 800 million Windows 8 devices costing between $400 and $4000 were likely to ship over the period, he said.

"All of those are 'sockets' for developers to target their applications to. We have got app stores going live in pretty much every country, so you can sit in Auckland and decide which countries you are going to target. It's a massive opportunity."

Microsoft would take a 20 to 30 per cent cut on sales of apps through its Windows apps store, which was lower than Apple, he said. That meant developers could keep a higher share of their sales revenues.

About 10 to 12 "good high-quality" New Zealand apps had been loaded to its app store to date, Muckleston said. "What we are trying to do at this stage of the launch is focus on quality and then as we get closer to launch on October 26 we will be focusing more on getting the volume of applications up."

With the switch to Windows 8, personal computer screens will look much more like those on smartphones, with "tiles" that display live information from the applications they launch and that can be manipulated by finger.

Software applications that run on Windows 7 should all work on Windows 8, but a question-mark is whether the operating system will prove popular with people who don't want to invest in touch-screens and prefer interacting with applications using a keyboard and mouse.

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Mario Wynands, chief executive of Wellington games developer Sidhe, said it expected it would develop gaming apps for Windows 8 - as it did for the Apple and Android markets - but it didn't have anything in development yet and wouldn't rush in.

It was good Microsoft had been aggressive about the profit margin on its apps store and it appeared to have made porting apps to Windows 8 easier than to previous Windows smartphones. But encouraging developers to create apps and winning customers was a game of "chicken and egg", he said.

"Everything is moving in the right direction to get more enthusiastic about it, [but] any manufacturer, in the early days, is going to be optimistic about what numbers they ship. "With some platforms we have taken the opportunity to jump in at launch; this is a little bit more of a 'wait and see', if only because we are flat-out responding to the opportunities right in front of us."

Toby Vincent, director of Christchurch developer Smudge Apps, said it had developed a Windows 8 app that provided movie information and would unveil another at TechEd. "It will be the first real competitor to the iPad in the tablet space. Microsoft is very good at relationships with corporates and [even] if Windows 8 sells badly it is still going to sell hundreds of millions of copies."

He would be happy if Smudge was spending as much time developing apps for Windows 8 as it was for Apple products in a year's time. "But the market will dictate that, not us.'

- The Dominion Post

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