Microsoft boss advocates Windows 8 apps
Microsoft International president Jean-Philippe Courtois has paid a flying visit to Wellington to encourage local software developers to make "apps" for Microsoft's new Windows 8 operating system.
The software giant faces what could prove to be a protracted battle to win over developers, many of which are still concentrating on making apps for the more mature Android and Apple smartphone and tablet markets.
Courtois heads Microsoft's sales and marketing efforts outside of North America. He said that by developing apps for Windows 8, software firms would be able to sell their wares to hundreds of millions of desktop computer users who were expected to upgrade to the touch-screen capable operating system, as well as future Microsoft smartphones and tablets.
Windows 8 was released on October 26 and Courtois said 4 million computer users had upgraded to the operating system within three days. It has not since updated that figure.
"This is an important moment for the company as we are transforming ourselves from a software company to a 'cloud, services and devices' company," he said.
Courtois' visit came as speculation continued over the reasons for the sudden departure of Microsoft Windows division president Steven Sinofsy on Monday, after he apparently fell out with chief executive Steve Ballmer less than a month after the Windows 8 launch. His job has been carved up between two executives, Julie Larson-Green and Tami Reller.
Microsoft had great talent among its 95,000 staff and there was no reason the leadership change at the Windows division should affect its dealings with customers or developers, Courtois said.
"Steven Sinofsy has done a great job for many years at the company and when you accomplish a big project sometimes it is time to move on and do something else."
Courtois said "thousands" of apps had been developed for Windows 8, including more than 100 by New Zealand firms, but he would not reveal the total number or how many it hoped would be on the market in six months.
Android and Apple both boast hundreds of thousands of apps, but Courtois said it had not set a number target and "quality" would make the difference.
Rodney Macfarlane, director of Auckland software firm Mea Mobile, was among a handful of Windows 8 app developers who met with Courtois yesterday. He said the operating system represented a "once in a decade opportunity" for developers.
"Yes, it is a new market and there is going to be a period of 'exploration' for developers to work out how you actually make money here. But the sheer scale that Microsoft brings means it is a 'no-brainer' for developers," he said.
Matt Pickering, managing director of 27-person Christchurch web developer turned app-maker NV Interactive, said Windows 8 apps that it had developed for sports broadcaster ESPN to provide live football and cricket scores had now been downloaded more than 100,000 times, exceeding expectations.
It was focusing exclusively on Windows 8 apps and had 15 in development, he said. "We are at the contract-signing stage with a massive global publisher for five apps and are talking to a number of household names. It is definitely the priority for our business at the moment."
Microsoft said Auckland's Marker Metro, which has developed apps for the likes of Air New Zealand, Yellow and Nokia, had scored a big coup securing a confidential deal to bring several of the world's "most popular mobile games" to the Windows 8 platform.
- The Dominion Post