As the Windows 8 release-to-manufacturing date looms in the near distance (I’m hearing rumors of a July RTM date with October for general availability), developers will want to know more about getting their applications into the Windows Store. Fortunately, Microsoft has had almost two years of working with Windows Phone 7 developers to refine the process and ideas, and the result is that the Windows Store system should be smoother at launch than the WP7 App Hub system was.
The Windows Store will have stringent guidelines; in fact, they seem to be even tighter than WP7 App Hub’s guidelines, getting down to the point of explaining how menu bars should work! My experience with these kinds of guidelines in the WP7 App Hub was initially a series of painful lessons, followed by a growing sense of appreciation. If you are working on a Windows 8 app, read the guidelines and follow them. The last thing you want is to see significant portions of your app need a rewrite because they violate the rules.
While the rules are pretty tight, they serve a purpose. If there is one thing that both the Apple App Store and the WP7 App Hub have shown, it is that a tightly controlled application ecosystem provides a great experience for the end user, who can expect consistency and reliability from their devices.
After the question of “what do I need to do to get my app in the Windows Store?” the next question is, “how much money will I make?” Like other app systems, Microsoft is taking 30% of the revenue from the app. The good news for developers of more popular apps is, after the first $25,000 in revenue (across all markets combined), the revenue percentage is reduced to 20% — that makes the Windows Store financially attractive to developers of mass-market applications. Registration is $49 for individuals and $99 for companies.
Enterprise customers will have a mechanism to directly deploy apps to Windows 8 systems; the rub is they will need to be joined to Active Directory domains, which seems to rule out Windows 8 RT (the ARM version) from that deployment scenario. Still, this is an important capability for enterprises, who will likely favor Windows 8 Pro on x86/x64 hardware anyway because they will want compatibility with their existing Windows applications.
The Windows Store is a slick application (Figure A and Figure B), but it is unfortunately sparse right now. Setting aside games, there are well under 300 apps in it. That’s not a bad number to show off the Release Preview, and it is sure to go up dramatically in the first few months after it opens as those developers without early access submit their apps.
As a longtime WP7 user and developer, I have had excellent experiences using and submitting apps to the WP7 App Hub. Hopefully the initial Windows Store experience will be smoother than my initial experience with App Hub, which was quite rocky. My good experiences lead me to believe that the Windows Store will be a great place for developers to work and to download apps.