Yesterday I attended the Windows 8 app development event at Microsoft Silicon Valley. Funny for me to walk in with my iPhone and Macbook Pro. While Microsoft might not be considered cool anymore in the startup scene, they still serve a huge market on PC’s and laptops and more importantly, are coming up with new products that deserve developer attention, even in the startup world. And I got my first Windows Phone device, a Nokia Lumia 800 to test out.
So what’s new and cool in Windows 8?
Metro style UI
Already present in Windows Phone 7 and XBox, the Metro UI design is now also available in the new version of Windows. So your apps that you build for Windows 8 computers will have a similar look as Windows Phone devices. On Windows Phone the Metro look has been well received as rivaling the user experience on iOS and for sure surpassing Android’s. Now the first major change in user interface is available for all devices, computers, tablets and phones. Having a consistent user experience across all devices we use nowadays is a major plus. Microsoft is taking this further than Apple, where Mac OS X is only slowly moving into the direction of iOS.
Although the event was about the desktop event, Nokia and Microsoft are currently pushing hard to launch Nokia devices running Windows Phone. Nokia knows hardware, Microsoft software to this seems to be a great match. The Lumia 800 is not released in the USA, the slightly better 900 is. I won a 800 in the raffle so was able to lay my hands on one.
Being an iPhone user with a few Android phones on my desk, I had something to compare to. The Nokia Lumia hardware is slick, it’s a hip phone that stands out and feels great in your hand. The touch screen is really responsive. What interested me most was Windows Phone. The Metro UI is just stunning, and clearly designed for touch screens. Big squares you can’t miss with your big fingers. The performance of the interface is really snappy, clearly as much attention as for the iOS but much more than for Android has been paid to a responsive interface. The integration with Hotmail (ahum), MS Skydrive and Facebook & Twitter in the OS is tight.
The apps for Windows phone will determine if users will flock to the platform or not. Currently there are 80,000 apps out there. Not so much as the 600,000 for iOS or Android, but that is logical. While this might not be so good for users, it means there is an opportunity for developers. Making money on iOS directly from users has become really hard and requires 100,000′s of dollars in marketing, besides building a great product. Android is becoming very fragmented and no user pays for apps. If Microsoft makes the user experience of actually paying for an app a great one, revenue might be as good as in the early days for iOS. That means Windows Phone might prove to be a mobile platform that you can make good money on.