What Windows 8 needs to succeed

As a long-time Windows user, as well as software developer, I have pondered about what would make Windows 8 and the new modern UI (aka. Metro) a success. Microsoft can spit and polish the operating system, but people will interact more with applications. As good as Windows 8 might be, it won't satisfy if the apps aren't good enough.

That's why I believe Microsoft needs to rethink Windows Store. One isn't enough for Windows 8. There needs to be a second Signature store that offers only the highest-quality apps, however few they be. I'll explain.

Android App Nightmare

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Last year I realized that the computer world is going mobile and that I better get on board as a software developer, which is why I got my first tablet -- the ExoPC. I looked forward to Windows 8 and realized that when released it will be all about mobile. Yet, Android intrigued me, so I purchased a nice small decent 7-inch Android Zeki tablet. I like the design. I like the size. The quality is good. But when it came time to start downloading some apps, the experience began to change: Too many apps, not enough quality!

I started downloading as many free apps as I could find that interested me. To my surprise, most free apps display advertisements, which gets to be a real distraction after awhile. I would not mind if a free app advertised a paid app created by the same developer (software developers simply cannot do everything for free), but they were more like a bunch of Google advertisements found on many websites.

Additionally, I was not very impressed with the quality of many of the apps. Surely there are some very good Android apps, but how does one find them among the hundreds of thousands of choices available?

Windows 8 Store is a Fresh Approach

By comparison, I am relatively pleased with the Windows Store, despite the limited number of apps. Sure, it will take awhile before we get more and better choices, but using the store is a nice experience. I find it much easier to deal with than some Android stores. The selection, downloading and installing of apps on Windows 8 should be a better experience for many people compared to Android stores.

When the apps start rolling in, things could change -- that when the apps start rolling in, experience will be like Android. Will the quality of the apps improve and get better and better or will the app market simply degrade with time as more and more developers start making low-quality apps -- like with any other mobile operating system?

The goal of any app store is to provide as many choices as possible for users, but there is an inherent problem with having thousands, if not millions of apps available. You simply can not maintain control. Low-quality apps can easily flood into any mobile app market. There is also a temptation for Microsoft to try to build up the base of its apps in the store quickly, simply to get a high count, which could lead to poor-quality apps sneeking in. So what is the solution?

Microsoft needs Two App Stores

While Microsoft already has its current Windows Store for downloading apps for Windows 8 and likely the store will use some kind of automated system to vet the apps, especially as the numbers grow, I really think they should create a second totally unique store. It should be called Microsoft Signature Store. The company has used the Signature brand for awhile now in its online store for selling computers, laptops and tablets free of so-called bloatware. When you purchase a Microsoft Signature PC you expect quality and no bloatware. The ExoPC tablet I purchased was a Signature version from the Microsoft Store and I got what I expected -- quality.

Microsoft could use the Signature brand for a second app store for Windows 8. How would this shop be different? Developers would be required to have their apps distributed through the normal Windows Store. Nothing would change. What Microsoft could do would be to set up an in-house team, which monitors the quality of apps and makes sure that meets the Signature standard. Apps with real value would be offered in the Microsoft Signature Store. Any employee at Microsoft could make a suggestion to this team but they would make the decision.

Now the Signature Store, to work, must use only real people to vet the apps. No matter how big it gets, the apps must be vetted by real people who download the apps and spend some time with them. That is the only way I can see it work. I would want to see some real commentary by any (or all) of the Microsoft people who actually use the app as well.

The Signature Store, does not need to have thousands or millions of apps. It only needs to have a few hundred that are guaranteed to be of high quality, fully tested. One good example of an existing Windows 8 app of such a standard is the Cut the Rope game. I enjoyed that game from day one and the Windows 8 implimentation is of high quality.

A large number of apps is simply meaningless. Too many poor quality apps puts off users. I would rather go to an app store with only a couple hundred apps, which all have been vetted by a real human being for their quality, than to an app store with millions of apps of dubious quality.

Microsoft is trying hard to build a better operating system (Windows 8) and better tablets (Surface), but to make it all work they have to build a better app store. If they created a unique Microsoft Signature App Store, no matter how much work it requires from real people, in the long run it would likely ensure the success of Windows 8.

Don't forget the Desktop

Whether Microsoft appreciates it or not, the Windows Desktop (aka. WIN32 software) is here to stay, at least for the near future. Business users of Windows 8 will be concerned about getting quality software for use with the Desktop (x86) that is of high quality and runs well on Windows 8. Why not create a third app store? This one could be called the Microsoft Signature Desktop Store and distribute x86 apps specifically designed to work well with Windows 8 and particularly with touch-enabled devices.

It is important for x86 tablet users to have software that is well written for the desktop, but is designed specifically for a touch device (and one with a mouse). This Signature store would also allow developers to distribute their apps (not just advertise them), but the apps would be vetted by real people at Microsoft, too. Their job would be to find such software, whether from the big sofware companies or independent software developers. Again it is not the quantity that matters, but the quality. Even quality freeware should exist in this store.

In the end, it is the software which counts.

No matter how good the operating system or the hardware is, in the end the apps matter more.

Photo Credit: Digital Storm/Shutterstock

Chris Boss is an advanced Windows API programmer and developer of 10 year-old EZGUI, which is now version 5. He owns The Computer Workshop, which opened for businesses in the late 1980s. He originally developed custom software for local businesses. Now he develops programming tools for use with the PowerBasic compiler.

34 Responses to What Windows 8 needs to succeed

  1. RWalrond says:

    This sounds more like a plan to help Windows 8 fail! Microsoft would be completely out of their minds if they expected users to have to search 3 different App stores to find an App. As a developer how would I publish my App? Would I have to publish it in 3 places to make sure I cover all bases? What would happen if I put out an update, this is not a smart idea.

    • Alex Beisley says:

      Let me restate what he said:
      1. App store doesn't change
      2. Apps which meet a certain quality section get stamped with microsoft approval and added to a new group of signature apps. This could even be within the current store, though he doesn't seem to have thought of that.
      3. There currently IS NO store for x86 apps.

      So all that changes is that especially good apps get tested and marked.

      • TroyGates says:

        You don't need Microsoft to give a stamp of approval, that's what user ratings are for. If you want quality apps, look for 4/5 star apps. Users know better than Microsoft if an app is good or not.

        x86 apps are listed in the store but don't offer an auto install, instead they link you to where you can download it.

      • guru_v says:

        User ratings are nebulous at best. Many users will not have a clue about various ways that programs function [or don't function] and will give a good rating based upon a single minded use.

        A look at some of the products on other "stores" for software shows that many of the apps are a ripoff at any price, including free, as they are a theft of your time in downloading them - yet they are offered without exception.

      • TroyGates says:

        Very much disagree. When you have 1000s/10000s/100000s of people rating an app it will filter out the few that don't rank it clearly. Besides the fact that you can read the user reviews. I use reviews all the time to decide between similar apps.

      • Bob Grant says:

        Not if those masses are all just one or two people putting in botted ratings. (this happens in a lot of other existing app stores)

      • RWalrond says:

        2. But Microsoft already has a quality check, is he implying that I won't be good enough? or strict enough? If the consumer has access to both, wouldn't that be confusing?
        3. The current Store already includes x86 apps. I'm not sure separating them into another app store makes any sense.
        All Windows style apps just like Windows Phone Apps, have to be certified by a person before being accepted into the Store. I'm sure in order to get your desktop app listed, it must also pass some kind of test from Microsoft. Perhaps I just don't understand what is wrong with the current setup and how what he is suggesting is going to help Windows 8 succeed.

  2. isaac.fields says:

    No you would only publish your app to the Main Windows Store, and if it was a good App Microsoft would also add it to the Signature Store but it would still be in the Main Store aswell. If you update your "good" App you would submit that update to the Main Windows Store and if your update turns your "good" app into a bad App then Microsoft would remove it from the Signature Store. If you wrote software for the windows desktop (x86) then you would not also write a version for the "Metro", because that would be redundant and silly.

    • TroyGates says:

      Why leave good/bad up to Microsoft when users can rank apps? Apps with higher ratings will be the good apps and apps with low ratings are the bad apps.

      • Bob Grant says:

        You'd get some of the assholes that are around on the internet upping the bad apps, and downing the good ones... Just like you find in most Android app stores.

      • Tumultus says:

        Easy fix: Allow ratings only once for users who actually bought the app. :)

    • RWalrond says:

      I don't understand why this issue hasn't prevented Apple's devices from succeeding. Having to figure out which of the 3 Microsoft Store, where you should download an App, sounds crazy to me. Sorry I can't see how a setup like that could help Windows and consumers get use to downloading apps from an App store.

  3. evan2k says:

    "feature apps" on Microsoft App store plays a similar role. Tested, high quality apps, become "feature apps" for a period of time. They are included in a special category and given special place on store

  4. woe says:

    A miracle.

  5. mshulman says:

    While a signature store might sound like a nice idea, you can achieve the same thing simply be being able to sort by user reviews and ratings. Not perfect, but no extra work on Microsoft's part which means no extra costs in an app.

    At best, I think they could add a signature logo to apps rather than put them in a separate store. They can also feature the good apps.

  6. BornRight says:

    I totally agree that apps will make or break Windows 8. But I definitely do not agree with your multiple store idea. That will make matters more confusing for the end user. One store is more than enough. The tremendous success of Apple's App Store is enough evidence that this can work. Just like Apple, Microsoft can also have an "Editor's Choice" section for selected high-quality apps in the store. The Top Free and Top Paid sections will give you an idea of the most popular apps every week. If the store grows in popularity, there will be App-listing apps that can specifically dig out the kind of apps you want from the pile. Above all, web reviews, user reviews and ratings can also give a good picture of the merits and demerits of each app so that you can make an informed decision.

  7. gawd21 says:

    Sorry, but MS has no business know what apps I want or buy, nor anything else I do!

  8. PaFT says:

    This whole store idea has a major flaw, you need a internet connection. Many places still have no broadband connections and some have very poor dialup connections, making the whole store idea pointless. You spend money on a new computer with Windows 8 on it and you can not even play solitaire on it because its not included. At least you can watch the old bubble screensaver. Selling a stripped OS and then making you buy apps that have always been preinstalled is really low.

  9. gawd21 says:

    What they need is for the apps to freaking work! They all crash several times before running correctly.

  10. IT advisor says:

    QUOTE: "A large number of apps is simply meaningless."
    You don't have to worry about this. The possibility of there being a large number of Metro apps for Windows 8 will not eventuate. Developers have already deserted the WinRT platform.

    QUOTE: "Microsoft is trying hard to build a better operating system (Windows 8)"
    No it's not. Microsoft is forcing the Metro phone interface on desktop users, not to give them a better platform, but to save Microsoft's phone business. Microsoft hopes that if users are forced to use Metro on a desktop, they will then flock to Windows Phones. The opposite will happen, as desktop users will become so angered by having Metro on their PCs that it will be the last thing they would want on any other device.

  11. Bladeforc3 says:

    one things for sure this windows app store will be a complete mess if microsoft have anything to do with it! Whats the betting an update breaks app store compaitiblity in the futre. update after update and microshaft still wont get it right

  12. Mark Bryant says:

    I'd just like to see Microsoft at least vet the app submissions and have
    some minimal requirements for acceptable quality. If you look at the
    Windows Phone marketplace it is full of spam apps with little or no
    functionality. The latest ones I've seen are loads of one page apps with
    just a scanned recipe on them. Maybe they don't care as they can boast
    that they now have 100,000+ apps in their store. Never mind that 90% of
    them are crap.

  13. Peeed Off says:

    For PC/Laptops, what Windows 8 needs to succeed, is to ditch that "Metro" GUI, it's a totally Non-Productive way to operate a Non Touch screeen PC/Laptop...!!!

  14. LARRY says:

    What Windows 8 needs to succeed: A goddamn miracle. And, perhaps, a patch that allows metro to be disabled.

  15. LARRY says:

    I am very much against the app-ization of the desktop PC. It's bad enough having the xbox showing me ads all the time, I don't want that in the office!!

  16. extremely_well says:

    MS shouldn't invest in a dedicated Desktop app store. MS wants developers moving to Metro app creation. Heck, they're even slowly moving full blown Office to WindowsRT! (currently missing scripting/macros.)

    No need for a separate app store for high quality apps. It would be confusing to customers and would piss off the "borderline on greatness" app developers that couldn't get into that exclusive club. It's better for that line to be a gray line. "Editor's Choice" and "Featured" apps can be a good enough compromise.

    Don't know about Metro store, but on Google Play user review system is pretty good, yet you can still seed masses of fake reviews (both positive and negative). Just keep in mind that really good paid apps MUST be very good. You cannot easily fake being a top paid app for obvious reasons (would require tens of thousands of credit cards and devices, and a big advertising budget = the 30% cut the app store gets).

    The free apps are more tricky. But I guess you can tell which review you can trust more if some reviewers get a badge "verified (paid) app owner" meaning the person reviewing this free app is a real person since he bought some 3+ other apps. You could probably come up with numerous other authentication methods to lower fake reviews to irrelevant numbers.

    There are a few other things that can help determining the merit of specific apps. We all know a small percentage of people bothers to rate apps. However, you can deduce the silent masses' ratings. You just log the number of times the app was installed and then uninstalled within a set amount of time or after a # of executions. These uninstalls are like an implicit low-star review. Also, you can anonymously log the amount of time people use a specific app, with more daily/weekly usage implicitly meaning a high-star review. To encourage people to give up that info, the developer can give cash incentives, like 10% off to those that share anonymous usage statistics.

    Lastly, journalist:
    "Windows 8 implimentation is of high quality." If you don't see a red squiggly line under some word while typing this sentence, you're not a real MS/technology lover as apparently you're not using the proper tools... I personally use Maxthon browser; its built-in spell checker occasionally comes in handy.

  17. GhoS says:

    I disagree on having another store from Microsoft. I agree there should be another store since the MS one is terrible for finding apps. I just find it so disorganized and the color tiles make no sense.
    There are already junk apps there like "Bazinga" and "Rubber Duck" but even MS's own apps (mainly Video, Music and Photo) aren't terribly good. I just want apps that work. Several of the apps I download crash. It is more understandable right now since it isn't out in wide release, but once the OS gets there, these apps need to work out of the box or big time failure.

  18. nilst2011 says:

    "What Windows 8 needs to succeed"
    .
    My answer : Windows 9 (without "MetroBS")

  19. databaseben says:

    if microsoft actually read and listened to everyones complaints, whining and criticisms on what their products needed, microsoft would always be in a state of turmoil

    so microsoft has a room in the back with witch doctors, voodoo specialists,
    card and tea readers to cover all their basis.

  20. fredreed says:

    Betanews needs to stop with these Microsoft stories. It's getting really old fast. The writers also need to stop bashing windows 8 around since it's not even released yet. If there needs to be another story then talk about apple and Samsung in court.

  21. ESWAR VARMA says:

    sir i want to create a app give me any idea for windows8

  22. johnusa says:

    What Windows 8 needs to succeed is a total re-write with the user in mind and NOT what stupid Microsoft wants to shove down our throats.

  23. rauckr says:

    It is still possible that Windows 8 is the best choice for Tablets and Windows 7 is the best choice for PCs. It would seem that Microsoft could do very well with this bifurcation of products. Over time the PC product may wither as hardware continues to morph in the tablet direction. In the meantime, the customer base can have a range of good choices. Windows 7 is an extremely good product.

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