For the first time, we’re seeing a consistent user interface across Windows.
A dedicated app store and new UI prove Microsoft recognizes Apple’s success
Apple has built iOS on two platforms: one, the App Store, which brought developers together in a place where every user could search for apps (and aren’t anywhere else); second, the UI. Yes it’s simple, but it’s well-designed and functional. It has popularised the iPhone and caused Apple to be the biggest single smartphone manufacturer in the world, and only second behind Google’s Android. It’s no surprise Microsoft is taking some ideas.
Apple made $2.1 billion in Q1 2012 through third-party app and music sales, despite some criticizing Apple for being too strict on the content it allows to be published. The upside is that the quality of content remains high, something Android has lacked. Whether Microsoft will follow that approach is not certain, but Windows Phone is almost semi-open: Microsoft monitors apps, but sets minimum requirements for its devices.
The other big issue is how Microsoft will manage apps across all of its devices. Apple only has two iOS devices – the iPhone and the iPad – while Microsoft will have hundreds of Windows 8 platforms. If apps won’t run on certain systems, then consumers may wonder where the value for money is. It’s a problem Android has had with its tablets, as apps are scaled up smartphone apps.
We also have the two different versions of Windows to contend with, so developers are effectively creating two apps/programs. It’ll be interesting to see if Microsoft enforces the extra work load, or simply allows developers to develop apps for one side or the other. I think with tablets this will be the biggest issue, because the Metro interface will almost certainly be preferred. Limited app support would ruin the experience. For these devices, Microsoft is launching Windows RT for ARM-based devices where apps are only available through the Windows Store.
As I’ve noted before, Microsoft isn’t ditching the desktop side of Windows. I feel it’s only a matter of time before it does, because running effectively two operating systems is like running two different operating systems on one machine: you’re going to predominantly use one. And a Vista-esque launch will hamper support.