Windows Phone and low developer interest

As an iOS developer (and some Android) I thought I'd throw out my 2 cents on what I perceive to be the low developer interest in Windows Phone.

The success of the iOS App Store is largely because it was there first, and executed really well. It really was the first centralized, truly accessible place to get apps for your phone. The combination of the then-novel touch interface, smooth performance, introduction of the much more affordable iPhone 3G, and enthusiastic developers created a perfect storm to move the ecosystem forward.

Windows Phone is late to the game, and has some catching up to do - but not just in the app count, but more in terms of developer interest.

Windows Phone really isn't that compelling to me. It's not just because of marketshare (people think developers just flock to marketshare, but that's a gross oversimplification) - it's just not making a compelling story as to why I should be developing on it. Ok, maybe if you pay me to do it, I'll do it (which is what I heard they are doing now) - but I'll probably do a rather lame job at it just to collect the money and never update it (probably what other devs do).

Part of the problem for me, and I'm guessing for other developers, is that the interface is very polarizing. You either buy into all the typography ethos that Microsoft now believes in, or you don't.

And there's a strong adherence to this design language - I looked at the popular apps for Windows Phone and one thing that stuck out to me is how they all look the same. The header in a large horizontal typeface, the side scrolling to access more content. I think Microsoft was probably shooting for UI consistency across apps as a differentiating factor and made it a more beautiful seamless experience - but it makes the experience appear more bland. The best looking apps on iOS usually stand out because they have something extra that you don't see often. On iOS, the phone becomes the app (GarageBand, iPhoto) while on Windows Phone, the app becomes part of the phone. Again, some people might totally buy into that but it almost feels like you are being implicitly discouraged from creating something different.

And if Microsoft really wants to attract developers, they really need to get Visual Studio on the Mac. Most developers (especially app developers) use Macs. Developers like to have little command line tools or ruby gems or other unix-y type stuff to play around with. Don't expect me to go out of the way to buy a Windows machine, or even expect me to reboot to Bootcamp or use VMWare Fusion to do Windows development. I hear that Visual Studio is a great IDE, and you'd want to attract those iOS app developers who are now on Macs, not necessarily those C#/.NET developers who are usually focused on desktop/enterprise-y type stuff. Make the barrier of entry really low, maybe include a complete and ready virtual machine if you need to - whatever to make it easy to get started on it.

The bottom line is, make me want to develop for it. What's remarkable about the iOS App Store is that it drove people who've never used Macs to buy Macs just for iOS development. Right now Windows Phone just doesn't have that pull - they need to do more than just throw a few hundred bucks at people and hoping that Instagram will surface.