Local developers for Windows 8 are glad to be dealing with a market that is already mature and now easily extended to a smartphone platform.
"We can deliver an application in a different way," says Rodney Macfarlane of MEA Mobile, a company with experience in developing for Apple and Android. Devices now coming onto the market "cross borders" between the mobile platforms and the traditional Windows market of desktop and laptop, he says.
MEA's flagship product is iSupr8, which has been described as a video version of Instagram, allowing video to be invested with effects reminiscent of 8mm film. Printicular, a product originally developed under MEA's mentoring by a group of senior students at Waikato University, lets US users send their phone, tablet, desktop and Facebook photographs to be printed at the nearest Walgreens chain drugstore.
Windows Phone 8 launches in New Zealand today, with the Nokia Lumia 920 the first device to go on sale at Telecom retail stores.
The straightforward Windows 8 interface with its large coloured blocks giving access to apps, is destined to appeal to mobile phone users who do not yet have smartphones, Macfarlane says. Furthermore Windows 8 is emphatically a "consumption and creation" platform. The iPad has been criticised for being oriented to consumption of information, he says, a point made by Ovum analyst Kevin Noonan, who called it a tool for people who spend most of their time in meetings.
Developers who have worked with past versions of Windows will find the transition to Windows 8 easy, using platforms such as Visual Studio, which they're accustomed to, to develop a single code-base that can be repurposed to laptop and phone, says James Brown of game and puzzle developer Ancient Workshop; by contrast applications must be developed separately for Android tablets and phones. Developers will "very quickly get their heads around" design tools provided for Windows 8, says Atta Elayyan of Christchurch-based Lazyworm Apps.
The environment provides a means of developing quality apps says Matt Pickering, managing director of Christchurch-based NV Interactive. "And quality always rises to the top; let's face it; 80 percent of what is in the Apple app store is rubbish."
Microsoft International president Jean-Phillippe Courtois, fronting the gathering of developers on a brief visit to Wellington, emphasised the maturity of the Windows platform as a whole as a competitive weapon against the longer-established iPhone and Android platforms. It will tap into the 670-million strong Windows PC user base, he says.
The Windows 8 store had more applications on Day 1 than iPhone or Android had in their stores when they started up, Courtois contends.
Windows 8 adds a highly tailorable interface that enables each user to keep the applications important to them instantly available, he says. It provides an opportunity for developers to "approach a much broader market" and for the user, to "do work and have fun, consume and trade content" on the same platform.
Courtois would not be drawn on the possibility of a split in Microsoft ranks over strategy, evidenced by the abrupt departure of Windows division president Steve Sinofsky, or on the reasons for Sinofsky's resignation. It is not unusual for a senior executive to decide to move on to another company, he says, and the move will give Microsoft "no reason to change our approach" on Windows 8.