Microsoft has just revealed an interesting effort to get more apps to the Windows Phone Store, via its new Windows Phone App Studio, a visual, web-based editor for Windows Phone 8 apps, which launches in beta today. With it, anyone can build apps without code, using customizable themes and custom text, graphics and design.
This is unique in a couple of ways from most approaches to mobile development: It’s a much lower barrier to entry for mobile app coding than you’ll typically find, and it’s from Microsoft direct, not a third-party provider selling a “no coding required!” solution. The app can be published on the Windows Phone Store, too, so long as you have an active developer’s account – which is temporarily discounted to $19 through August 26, another ploy to help drum up interest.
Even free developer users can unlock and register a single phone and load up to two apps on their own device, so there’s now no barrier at all to at least kicking the tires on Windows Phone 8 app development. Microsoft’s Todd Brix also took the opportunity today to unveil a new easier “Click to Chat” system for WP8 dev center support, and new payment systems in place for six new markets, as well as new carrier billing markets. Overall, the message is clear: BUILD US SOME APPS.
Windows Phone 8 isn’t lighting a fire under a lot of developers, according to a recent Appcelerator developer survey, so that may go some way to explaining why Microsoft is casting a wider net with the Windows Phone App Studio. BlackBerry World reported passing 100,000 apps earlier this year, around the same time the Windows Phone Marketplace topped 145,000 apps, which is not good in terms of the pace of its catalog growth.
Is opening the floodgates to everyone who wants to mash together a Windows Phone app the best way to boost those numbers? There’s no doubt it’s going to invite a lot of chaff, but there almost might be some wheat mixed in there. Windows Phone has the advantage of having a relatively simple visual style that looks good across a variety of apps, so there’s a chance it could result in a net good. But there’s probably a greater chance that we’ll just end up with more crud blocking up the charts, search and overall library.
But by all means, prove me wrong, amateur developers. Prove me wrong.