Windows 8 is still months away, but there’s a significant challenge that Microsoft faces when it comes to attracting developers of popular tablet apps to its platform: Getting their attention.
Besides convincing the makers of iOS or Android tablet apps that it’s worth the investment of their time to turn them into Metro apps for Windows 8 tablets, there’s also a practical concern: Having the right hardware.
A rather unlikely middleman is looking to help bridge this gap. On Thursday, remote desktop software maker Splashtop is opening up its new iOS app, the rather clunkily named Win8 Metro Testbed, which will allow app developers to test their apps before the official launch in a Windows 8 environment on an iPad.
Why an iPad? Cliff Miller, Splashtop’s president of its Asia/Pacific region and chief marketing officer, said this of the potential Windows 8 developers the company is targeting:
If they want to test their app with touch gestures there’s only one way to do that and that is to buy a Windows tablet, and that can cost $500 to $1,000 or more. … And 99 percent of Win8 tablet developers — they have iPads.
Now, there are no Windows 8 tablets on the market yet. Microsoft has unveiled a public preview of the software, but the finished version of the desktop/tablet OS is supposed to roll out to the public some time in October. Developers can test their apps on Windows 7 tablets in the meantime, but to Miller’s point, it’s a hefty expense for some individual developers and smaller shops. (This is probably less pressing a concern at larger companies.)
But Microsoft needs to have an mobile store full of apps from popular, brand name developers of all sizes to attract and keep consumer and business users alike. That’s why it’s crucial that developers start to get on board and test their apps soon. So why not meet them where they’re at?
The iPad is the most popular tablet in terms of hardware sales, and it has the most tablet apps available right now, with 200,000 — Google does not break out the number of Android native tablet apps anymore, but it was at 1,300 last summer. The iOS platform also has the most general interest among mobile developers: A joint survey conducted by IDC and Appcelerator released in March found that 89 percent of developers surveyed said they were interested in making iOS apps, followed by 78.6 percent interested in Android, and a mere 37 percent for both Windows Phone 7 and Windows 8 tablets.
Splashtop’s Win8Metro Testbed isn’t cheap by App Store standards: The regular price is $49.99, though it will be discounted for a limited time at $24.99. But it’s certainly more affordable than a new piece of hardware.
What’s interesting is that Apple would let or want an app like this on its own platform. After all, its very presence is encouraging iOS developers to sell their wares on a competitor’s platform. But Apple also gains, in a way, from this arrangement because it signifies that iOS is still the main preference/priority for appmakers, and it keeps them as loyal customers to its own iPad hardware.