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Can Windows 8 developers be ‘the new rock stars’?

The variables go to eleven

This is Spinal Tap

TechEd Australia One of the odder things to transpire at TechEd Australia this week was Microsoft’s insistence that developers are the new rock stars.

Kids these days, The Reg was told by a middle-aged product manager for Visual Studio, aren’t interested in electric guitars, turning it up to 11, leather jackets, attracting members of the opposite sex or overindulgence in recreational pharmaceuticals. Instead, the only white lines they’re interested in are in the command prompt, in which they type furiously in the hope of cranking out the next Angry Birds.

It is possible to shoot down this assertion with two simple tests:

  • Name a single app developer, never mind a single developer depicted on posters your teenage offspring would want to affix to their bedroom wall;
  • Has any developer, anywhere, in this or any other space-time continuum, ever had a even a single groupie?

But let’s read between the lines instead, as the assumption behind the assertion is that the iOS App Store and its Android equivalent have both made it possible for some very small developers to sell very large quantities of software. The premise behind the rock star statement is therefore that Windows 8 will accrue an enormous audience which means the chance to sell similar quantities of software in the Windows Store.

How big is that audience? As was explained at TechEd Australia yesterday in a session titled Selling & Deploying Windows 8 Apps, Windows 7 runs on 660 million or so computers. Because the Windows 8 upgrade has been priced so keenly (AUD$14.95 here in the far antipodes), Microsoft thinks there will be a big installed base from day one and lots of enthusiasm for Windows 8 apps to boot.

Is there a big installed base? Sometime earlier in the TechEd week (when you spend 12 hours a day in a convention centre time smears out) the author of a Win 8 Twitter app said he has already secured 100,000 downloads … before the OS’ launch. The developer in question expects the cash register to melt down come October 26th, given the near-inevitability of colossal Windows 8 sales.

It would seem foolish to bet against big Windows 8 sales, although as we have noted elsewhere the PC industry is not performing at its best in these credit-crunched times. Nor is it certain that every new Windows 8 PC owner will instantly go app-happy.

Upgrade rates for Windows 7 users are also an unknowable.

Yet with Gartner proclaiming Q1 2012 saw 88.98 million PC-containing boxes shifted, for an annual sales rate of at least 300 million, selling to even one per cent of those punters will mean three million sales. That’s triple platinum for an album in the USA and 10 x platinum in the UK, sales that would certainly make one a rock star in the music business.

On the business side of things, Gartner has infamously pointed out Windows 8’s unsuitability for the corporate desktop and delegates The Reg chatted to at TechEd Australia had little enthusiasm for in-house installations.

Which is not to say that developers targeting the corporate desktop need dispense with dreams of lavish lifestyles, as the Windows Store can host company accounts to facilitate multiple purchases of an app. Group Policy settings can be tweaked to aid this process and to specify which apps can be installed. It’s also possible to embed links in the Windows 8 desktop to encourage downloads. Apps can sell for up to US$999.99, of which Microsoft will cream 30% (once an app hits US$25,000 of sales that falls to 20%), which surely represents a nice new way to distribute business software.

There’s also a new technique, called “sideloading” that allows Windows 8 apps (formerly known as Metro Apps) created in-house to be installed on the Windows 8 desktop. Each target device will need to run Windows 8 Enterprise and be domain-attached. System Center 2012 Configuration Manager SP1 may also be required to automatically send apps to desktops.

A positive answer to the question in the headline is therefore entirely possible.

So just try not to choke on anyone else’s vomit, okay? ®

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