“Developers, Developers, DEVELOPERS!”

The one thing Microsoft still needs to solve to become great again.

Image Credits to OliverGeary

“Developers, developers, developers!” was the cry from Steve Ballmer many years ago as Microsoft was taking over the planet.

I feel strongly that Microsoft needs to get Steve Ballmer out of the Clippers court-side seating and back on stage — or do something — to rally some developer movement in their community once again.

I have been using a Mac for the past 5 years to do most of my work. I practically lived in an Apple ecosystem, and everything was fantastic — but I couldn’t do what I wanted to in my free time like I could on a Windows PC (namely gaming).

So recently after using Windows 10 and being happy with the movement I saw from Microsoft I decided to build my own rig again.

I did, I installed Windows 10, and for the most part have been loving it. It runs great, it’s much faster than my Mac (which isn’t hard for the money spent), it’s got a really clean and nice interface now that is so unlike old Windows, and it games like a dream.

The ONLY drawback I’ve really felt, and have had to contend with is the sheer lack of quality developers that develop on Microsoft apart from Microsoft themselves.

Even business-oriented applications that line ProductHunt are iOS and macOS only. This is absolutely infuriating, especially knowing that a large portion of the world’s workforce uses Windows machines for their production. It’s inexcusable and it’s Microsoft’s fault.

When I first switched over the majority of my apps that I used on a consistent basis were web-apps anyways, which is fine — they work perfectly. A few things that I used to be more productive on my Mac like hotcorners and spotlight weren’t native on Windows though. That being said I found some handy little apps that could facilitate that like “Everything” and “WinXCorners” which aside from achieving their function, look absolutely horrible and are horrible to set up in comparison to the most rudimentary macOS apps.

So that’s the native use-case done, even though it was a stretch.

When I moved on to the apps, I was able to get Evernote, Slack, and Basecamp which are all great and I use more than basically anything. That being said, the mail app was a struggle. The only thing I could find close to the simplicity and usability I wanted was Mailbird, but it’s riddled with crappy bugs and is sometimes annoyingly slow. I’ll get an email on my phone on Polymail and 3 minutes later it will show up in Mailbird.

“Well just download Polymail on Windows then.”

Ah ha! There-in lies the problem. Polymail, and a vast majority of clean — usable and simple apps are not available on Windows, and likely won’t ever be with the current landscape. It’s simply easier, sexier, more profitable, and more fun to launch an app in the Apple ecosystem than it is for Windows — not to mention both.

Why?

Apple has focused on their developer community in all of the right ways, with dedicated conferences, new coding languages that make things easier for their developers like Swift, and creating a platform for sales like no other — the App Store.

Sure, you might say the macOS app store sucks (it does, compared to iOS) and you might say that Microsoft also has an App Store (they do) but there really isn’t any contest when it comes to why Apple outperforms Microsoft in this area.

The macOS app store is an afterthought. Discovery doesn’t really happen there, Apple knows — as most are still figuring out — that people discover on their phone, then use their Mac to make the conversion. That is, unless it’s actually an iOS app that also has a Mac version. Then the Mac app store can literally be an after-thought because app developers are looping the interest in from the great discover-ability of the iOS App Store and translating over the sale into their Mac version as well.

This way only the iOS App Store needs to be really killer, and people will use it to discover new tools — so Apple achieves their “mobile-first” objective while keeping their macOS still relevant. Does this mean that I think the macOS App Store couldn’t use some work? Nope, Apple should give it some love — but they really don’t need to, yet.

Remember when I just said “mobile-first” a second ago? Do you remember when Satya Nadella took over as CEO of Microsoft and said “mobile-first, cloud-first” in every interview for weeks on end? I do, and it’s still not really happening yet. Cloud-first, yeah, I’ll give them that. They’re making good progress there with their integrations with Xbox (still a huge market for them) and plenty of their other applications — but “mobile-first” nope.

Apple is still winning the fight in a landslide, like Ronda Rousey trying to get back in the ring recently and getting knocked out, Microsoft still isn’t with it — and it’s because of their App Store, plain and simple.

If you’re trying to find new apps on Microsoft’s App Store, you better hope what you’re looking for is developed or owned by Microsoft or it likely won’t be there.

That’s the beauty of Apple, 90% of the best things that you experience on an iPhone or a Mac aren’t even developed by Apple. Apple knows there is strength in numbers, and all they’re focused on is keeping the numbers strong.

If Microsoft had half of the indie developer crowd that Apple has they would demolish Apple in the next 10 years.

That won’t happen though unless Microsoft goes 80% of the way, and doesn’t just give their developers a carrot on a stick to get involved, but a wad of cash and put it on the table in front of them.

Microsoft has to make it easier to develop apps, easier to drive sales to those apps, be more consistent with the quality and usability of those apps, and sexier to develop those apps.

If you hear iOS developer you think beard and espresso, if you hear Windows developer you think pocket protector and dad jeans.

Create the image of cutting-edge, progressive movement in a design-oriented, creative, productive, and culturally rich developer community.

It branches down from their brand orientation, all the way to the payment percentage they let out on app sales. It’s everything, and it needs to be overhauled if they’re going to contend.

Microsoft is doing great things on the hardware end, with the new Surface Studio that looks more Apple than Apple’s new Macbook Pro “innovations” and their new Windows design changes in “project neon” but I hope those changes are going to be married to App Store overhauls, advertising and brand imagery overhauls, and a commitment to indie development.

I don’t want to continue using crap apps on my Windows machine while getting beautiful notifications on my iPhone. I want the apps I use on my Mac to also be developed on Windows. But I’m not mad about it, because I understand why they’re not. It doesn’t make sense to.

Microsoft needs to change that, and they’ll win.