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Write Windows Phone Apps, No Code Required

timothy posted about 8 months ago | from the gestures-and-grunts-will-suffice dept.

Programming 210

jfruh writes "One of the biggest challenges Microsoft has faced with its Windows Phone platform is that it's far behind in the apps race against iOS and Android. One way to close the gap is to lower the barrier to entry for new app devs, and Microsoft has done so with Windows Phone App Studio, a hosted service that lets you build applications without actually writing any code. The description of how App Studio works may leave you wondering how useful or exciting the apps created will be, but a surge of developer interest during the current beta program has surprised even Microsoft with its scope."

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210 comments

Windows 8 woohoo! (5, Funny)

hawkinspeter (831501) | about 8 months ago | (#44618995)

So, it has come to this.

Re:Windows 8 woohoo! (5, Insightful)

cristiroma (606375) | about 8 months ago | (#44619231)

Writing "apps" like this is like making websites in MS Word

Re:Windows 8 woohoo! (5, Funny)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 8 months ago | (#44619359)

Fart apps! Now three times as easy!

Re:Windows 8 woohoo! (5, Funny)

AndyAndyAndyAndy (967043) | about 8 months ago | (#44619675)

I still have a hard time believing people sit down and code those.

Re:Windows 8 woohoo! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44619971)

if you've developed for android you'd know a "simple" fart app requires quite a bit of effort to ensure it works across all devices & flavors of android.

Re:Windows 8 woohoo! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44620173)

if you've developed for android you'd know a "simple" fart app requires quite a bit of effort to ensure it works across all devices & flavors of android.

I think you meant odors.

Re:Windows 8 woohoo! (4, Insightful)

Defenestrar (1773808) | about 8 months ago | (#44619489)

Haven't used the App Studio - remember that Myst was written in HyperCard and there's plenty of other examples in that vein.

While in an entirely different class, LabVIEW is a graphical programming language which is quite powerful (true language / direct compiler). Simple/easy to code/read doesn't mean lousy or weak software. Besides, quality is usually pretty unrelated to code (other than some cases of performance).

Re:Windows 8 woohoo! (5, Informative)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about 8 months ago | (#44619875)

While in an entirely different class, LabVIEW is a graphical programming language which is quite powerful (true language / direct compiler).

Oh fuck no.

LabVIEW makes it moderately OK to control some stuff provided your control and logging and whatever system can be somewhat easily represented by a circuit diagram like construction.

In other words, it makes the easy bit of controlling stuff almost trivial to the user.

The trouble is that then the usre wants to do something a bit more complex and the simple, easy to use circuit diagram like thing turns into a mega evil rats nest of doom.

All projects lasting more than about a week end up tending towards a rats nest of doom.

What astonishes me is the amazing quantity of effort people will put in to *not* learning how to simply code it.

Re:Windows 8 woohoo! (1)

Safety Cap (253500) | about 8 months ago | (#44619815)

So, it has come to this.

No, they're missing the boat, as usual. They need to port PHP to their craptaculous phone, then they'll have all the apps they could ever dream of.

The market will become flooded with Windows Phone "Developers" just as the Web space now is, then the inherent technical debt will increase past the point of breaking and millions, nay BILLIONS will be spent trying to maintain and extend all the in-house apps clueless businesses have written.

And that means more money for me when I come in and fix their problem with clean, maintainable (and noob-proof) code. *cackle*

Re:Windows 8 woohoo! (1)

hawkinspeter (831501) | about 8 months ago | (#44619917)

Seems to me that they're not just missing the boat, but they're still trying to figure out a route to the harbour, but can't work out how to use the GPS.

Re:Windows 8 woohoo! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44619845)

more craptacious stuff for a crappy operating system from a crappy company...

like GameMaker all over again (2)

RedHackTea (2779623) | about 8 months ago | (#44618997)

Anyone remember that stuff? Or RPG Maker as a kid (and RPG Maker 2001, etc.)? There are a few others I'm missing.

Re:like GameMaker all over again (3, Informative)

cerebralpayne (96960) | about 8 months ago | (#44619163)

Re:like GameMaker all over again (3, Interesting)

PhrostyMcByte (589271) | about 8 months ago | (#44619249)

Click N' Play was great -- heavy on the GUI with some very light scripting to tie more complex events together, and you could create a pretty wide variety of games so long as they were 2D.

Nobody cares (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44619001)

I've yet to see ANYTHING produced by a "code free" coding environment that was worth a damn. Expect to see this unceremoniously shelved in the next six months.

Re:Nobody cares (4, Insightful)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about 8 months ago | (#44619547)

No, these things last forever. It's going to be a cottage industry that never dies, like FrontPage websites and Access databases.

Re:Nobody cares (1)

Ngarrang (1023425) | about 8 months ago | (#44619853)

Indeed. I have even come across old Lotus Approach databases. FileMaker is still used by some companies, as well. Microsoft will be able to capture the non-expert enthusiast to try something. Those that really like it will step up to the full SDK and get more advance.

Re:Nobody cares (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44619997)

I had a horrible experience lately. I was at the dealer to get an oil change. They have these nice imacs at every station. I took a look at the screen while after walking away, to discover that they were using filemaker pro, along with a remote desktop connection to a Windows terminal server that had a different dos program running. Looked great and modern from a distance ...

Correct Me If I'm Wrong... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44619011)

Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't Google have some sort of non-programmer graphical Android app maker. Didn't said same software get discontinued due to lack of interest?

I'm getting old. My memory is getting foggy.

Re:Correct Me If I'm Wrong... (2)

lord_mike (567148) | about 8 months ago | (#44619381)

There was plenty of interest, but Google decided to listen to Steve Jobs's advice and "shut down" anything that wasn't "core" to their operations. Why someone would take advice from a competitor that has promised to "bury you" is beyond me, but they did. App Inventor was quite popular. It's main limitation was the inability to create "multi form" screens. Otherwise it was pretty powerful and useful for a point and click interface.

CAN you write code for it? (1)

Conspiracy_Of_Doves (236787) | about 8 months ago | (#44619043)

Do you have the option of writing code, or does the system disallow it entirely?

Re:CAN you write code for it? (4, Funny)

Doug Otto (2821601) | about 8 months ago | (#44619103)

Yes, but you have to do it entirely from the touch screen, using only colored blocks.

Re:CAN you write code for it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44619177)

Yes. After you create it you're given the option of downloading the source and altering it.

Re:CAN you write code for it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44619353)

Sounds like they derived it from SharePoint. I was at a conference a couple years ago where this sort of thing was the focus of a few presentations. In SharePoint it IS possible to use real C# code, but my impression was that it would be treated as a sort of script to run. Could actually be very powerful, but likely with so much cruft that any real programmer would prefer to start from scratch.

Have you ever seen the applications people build around MS Access back in the day? It was, I am not exaggerating, a nightmare. You could really have bad dreams about that sort of thing, because it felt like what getting lost in the woods at night feels like.

Re:CAN you write code for it? (3, Informative)

Conspiracy_Of_Doves (236787) | about 8 months ago | (#44619491)

I had to make some of those Access applications. *shudder*

Nothing like writing code where you have to fight the very environment you're writing it in.

A contradiction in terms? (3, Insightful)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 8 months ago | (#44619119)

If you're creating an application that hasn't existed yet, you're instructing the computer as to how to do something, i.e., you're programming, i.e., you're creating code in one way or another. Either that, or the environment is so limited as to make the "write apps" part completely meaningless.

Re:A contradiction in terms? (2)

Cyko_01 (1092499) | about 8 months ago | (#44619201)

I would hardly call it programming, more like re-configuring. You are not creating new lego bricks, you are just moving them around and coloring on them

Re:A contradiction in terms? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44619361)

So, you are creating art?

Re:A contradiction in terms? (3, Insightful)

SQLGuru (980662) | about 8 months ago | (#44619413)

The same could be said about machine language instructions. You aren't really creating new ones, you are just putting them together in a different order with different values loaded into the registers.

Re:A contradiction in terms? (3, Informative)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 8 months ago | (#44619447)

You are not creating new lego bricks, you are just moving them around and coloring on them

So it's very much like moving x86 instructions around and putting them next to each other?

Re:A contradiction in terms? (1)

Rob the Bold (788862) | about 8 months ago | (#44619715)

I would hardly call it programming, more like re-configuring. You are not creating new lego bricks, you are just moving them around and coloring on them

Or like building a circuit using only existing components like resistors and capacitors and just moving them around.

Re:A contradiction in terms? (3, Insightful)

SJHillman (1966756) | about 8 months ago | (#44619229)

It's not really a contradiction, it's just adding a layer between the dev and the actual code. Think WYSIWYG web editors that have been around forever. You're still building a website, it's just showing the computer what you want and letting it generate the actual code. It's really not a lot different than coding in C# and then having it compiled into binary... you're just creating the program at a level even further away from what the computer will actually run. Of course, like the WYSIWYG web editors, the code will almost certainly be sloppy and inefficient compared to coding it yourself, but it opens up the market for basic apps to people that otherwise couldn't/wouldn't make them.

Re:A contradiction in terms? (1)

rudy_wayne (414635) | about 8 months ago | (#44619553)

Think WYSIWYG web editors that have been around forever. You're still building a website, it's just showing the computer what you want and letting it generate the actual code.

Of course, like the WYSIWYG web editors, the code will almost certainly be sloppy and inefficient compared to coding it yourself, but it opens up the market for basic apps to people that otherwise couldn't/wouldn't make them.

Yes, because we really need to "open up the market" for more stupid, sloppy, poor designed, pointless, shitty apps.

Re:A contradiction in terms? (4, Insightful)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 8 months ago | (#44619573)

it's just adding a layer between the dev and the actual code.

The problem is that nobody knows what that "actual code" is supposed to be. Do you mean the computational process? Because there will always be a layer between the programmer and the computational process, even if you program in machine code. Every time someone finds a new abstraction to programming, people will come out and start shouting "that's not programming, that's cheating!", but there is no free lunch. That reminds me of the wonderful “Now that we have Cobol, can we get rid of all those beatnik programmers?” quote, courtesy of US military, 1960s or so. No, you can't, it's still programming, even if you manage to do more work in less time, it's still qualitatively very much the same activity.

Re:A contradiction in terms? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44619263)

I just wonder how far you can get without writing any code directly. They would have to have one hell of a complete set of widgets to drag drop.

Re:A contradiction in terms? (4, Insightful)

SJHillman (1966756) | about 8 months ago | (#44619325)

You can make a pretty usable website using only WYSIWYG editors, so why not an app? The two really aren't that different considering they're both aimed at the casual/amateur market.

Re:A contradiction in terms? (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about 8 months ago | (#44619473)

sure.. as long as the app(or website) is more like a document and not actually, you know, an application that does something.

Re:A contradiction in terms? (2)

SJHillman (1966756) | about 8 months ago | (#44619719)

A surprising number of apps in the android store are little more than a collection of static pages, with the odd calculator or flashcard functionality thrown in. Stuff that should be fairly easy for a GUI based editor to handle. So the end result is that this is just making it easier for Windows to have more apps like those already available on other platforms.

Re:A contradiction in terms? (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 8 months ago | (#44619503)

Given the number of 'apps' that are almost entirely just the creator's mobile website puked into a platform-appropriate application package, I suspect that the similarity will be very substantial indeed.

Re:A contradiction in terms? (1)

Tom (822) | about 8 months ago | (#44620597)

You can make a halfway decent website. Anything that is even slightly complicated requires code. And once you involve a database and dynamic content, you're deep into a territory where you really want to get it done by someone who knows what the fuck he's doing.

And especially the casual market needs quality products. Easy-of-use doesn't come from a shoddily thrown-together piece of crap, it comes from polish and HCI design and usability testing and all that other professional stuff.

OK, let me ask this. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44619425)

How much of your coding is REALLY custom stuff?

Menus, screens, input fields, displaying data, etc ... are all the same things. Aside from custom looking things, the underlying code is pull data from input field, do something, and then display.

Right?

Speaking as someone who has written waaayyyy too much boiler plate 'C' code, and way to much boiler plate C# code code, and too much Python, C++, etc ...

I can safely say that much of our typing is needless. It was worse back in the Win32/OS/2 'C' days - those endless 'switch' statements to capture the messages! C++ and later C# was a Godsend! And then the generation of the base app and sort of gui dev of VS was AWESOME! (Again, MS Visual Studio dev team - I love you!)

And to point out what is constantly being said here on Slashdot, it's all about algorithms.

Writing yet another GUI something or another is boring and pointless - I just want to implement my algorithm. If I can drag and drop 90% (or more) of what I have to do, I'm still programming. Because I'm the one who's organizing the pieces.

Re:A contradiction in terms? (1)

hairyfeet (841228) | about 8 months ago | (#44619439)

Dude I think this would be kinda hard to call "creating" when you are just using prebuilt snippets and throwing them together. It kinda reminds me of the way guys would go to some VB website back in the day and just copypasta pieces of code to "make" something. If this works like that then half assed and buggy will be pretty much standard as I've never seen anything made with snippets that was worth a crap.

Re:A contradiction in terms? (1)

jmhobrien (2750125) | about 8 months ago | (#44619685)

Dude I think this would be kinda hard to call "creating" when you are just using prebuilt snippets...

So, I guess you write everything in c/binary/butterflies/etc and don't use any existing libraries?

Re:A contradiction in terms? (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 8 months ago | (#44619727)

Dude I think this would be kinda hard to call "creating" when you are just using prebuilt snippets and throwing them together.

You're doing nothing else when you're programming. Either you're using prebuilt snippets of high level code (for() loops, while() loops, basic math functions, function call site sequences in callers, function prologs and epilogs in callees - twist it any way you like, but all these are "prebuilt snippets"), or you're using prebuilt snippets of low level code. You know, the machine instructions are prebuilt snippets of lower-level operations, too.

Re:A contradiction in terms? (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 8 months ago | (#44619761)

Dude I think this would be kinda hard to call "creating" when you are just using prebuilt snippets and throwing them together.

So, basically, anyone who uses a standard library in their code isn't actually "creating" anything.

To me, that's kind of like saying that you're not a writer unless you compress your own graphite, mill your own paper, and build your own printing press.

Re:A contradiction in terms? (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 8 months ago | (#44619467)

If you're creating an application that hasn't existed yet, you're instructing the computer as to how to do something, i.e., you're programming, i.e., you're creating code in one way or another. Either that, or the environment is so limited as to make the "write apps" part completely meaningless.

I suspect that Microsoft is, at very least, looking to make it trivial to write those 'Hey, I'm just going to wrap my website in an app for no reason' apps that are so horribly common these days. Other iOS and Android are rotten with the things, and Microsoft should know (based on what their customers do and have done with Access and Excel) how much demand there is for something that lets a relative noob slap a frontend on a database of some description.

It remains to be seen whether it will actually work or not; but it's a fairly reasonable scheme (although not one likely to lead to any terribly pleasant applications).

You had me until ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44619147)

"hosted service"

That which is given... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44619151)

...has no value.

Are people charging money for this? I mean what would you be paying for?

Full circle (0)

Nyder (754090) | about 8 months ago | (#44619173)

Some might say MS programmers don't really know how to code, so making an app that codes without coding is just coming full circle.

Wait, I think there is a meme in there. "hey, I hear you wanted to code some code without coding."

Nokia? (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 8 months ago | (#44619189)

I remember Nokia launching a bit of software like this for Symbian back in its dying days; you could use it to make a mobile-friendly, self-contained version of any RSS feed you felt like pointing it at. That was in the days when mobile-optimised sites were just starting to become A Thing and few of the optimised sites were intended for 2.6-inch QVGA displays. Probably came out of them.

http://www.engadget.com/2010/05/03/nokia-launches-ovi-app-wizard-will-probably-lead-to-ovi-populat/ [engadget.com]

It looks like it has since been replaced by something with a bit more flexibility:

http://xpresswebapps.nokia.com/ [nokia.com]

Has anyone used this for non-trivial apps? (2)

QilessQi (2044624) | about 8 months ago | (#44619209)

I suspect that -- other than wiring up GUI elements to events -- there aren't a lot of interesting things you can do with a GUI-based code builder that you can't do more efficiently by writing actual code.

I gather that the idea is to lower the bar for "Hello World"-type apps, but once that's done, I have to wonder: are any serious app developers using this as a development bed for complex apps?

Re:Has anyone used this for non-trivial apps? (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | about 8 months ago | (#44619301)

It's not about efficiency, it's about ease of use. A massive number of apps out there are little more complex than the flashcards or calculator programming exercises used in every Programming 101 class. It's not designed to completely replace coding or be more efficient; it's designed as a way for inexperienced people to develop simple apps, which in turn inflates the number of apps available on Windows.

Slashdot is not the intended userbase for a program like this. The intended userbase is teachers that want to throw together a study guide app, kids that want to make an app for their club, moms that want to release a Family Newsletter app.

Re:Has anyone used this for non-trivial apps? (2)

0123456 (636235) | about 8 months ago | (#44619885)

Windows now has 3,000,000 Metro apps! Of which you might actually want to use three!

Re:Has anyone used this for non-trivial apps? (2)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 8 months ago | (#44619357)

I have to wonder: are any serious app developers using this as a development bed for complex apps?

Of course not. This is for people who, ten years ago, would use Visual Basic as a wrapper to run a cheesy script to do something.

And forget about bounds checking, input sanitation, data security and integrity and a whole host of other bothersome concepts.

Can''t wait....

Re:Has anyone used this for non-trivial apps? (1)

Kardos (1348077) | about 8 months ago | (#44619507)

Heh, I was almost starting to believe that Microsoft was working towards to shaking the "insecure, virus-infested, crash-prone, blue screen of death" reputation that they've built up over the years....

Re:Has anyone used this for non-trivial apps? (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about 8 months ago | (#44619419)

I suspect that -- other than wiring up GUI elements to events -- there aren't a lot of interesting things you can do with a GUI-based code builder that you can't do more efficiently by writing actual code.

And by the same token, if you can give people a good enough toolset, you have no idea of what they'll be capable of writing.

Code-less visual programming has been something people have been talking about for a long time, and I've occasionally gone looking for something in that family but never actually seen anything which is more than a proof-of-concept (or a horrible kludge).

I have to wonder: are any serious app developers using this

Who cares? I expect the 'serious' developers to use whatever tools make sense. But for Joe Smartphone, if he wanted to string together some basic tools to do something useful, I can see it being a good idea.

Of course, that it's on Windows Phone and a hosted thing means I'll never see it. I want something self contained on the device that runs in airplane mode.

Re:Has anyone used this for non-trivial apps? (3, Informative)

SQLGuru (980662) | about 8 months ago | (#44619581)

One thing not called out is that you can actually download the Solution File once you are done (also, you also have the option to deploy to devices outside of the app store). So, you can use the App Builder for prototyping and then get the solution code when you are ready to take your app further.

So, even if you view it as simple, it can be useful.

Obligatory clippy quote (4, Funny)

DeathToBill (601486) | about 8 months ago | (#44619239)

You seem to be writing an app. Would you like help?

Here's betting this will be just as useful.

How about.... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44619989)

"What algorithm would you like to use?"

Express algorithm.

Here are some programs to express that:

A Windows GUI

A command line

and a Java library for implementation on another platform.

Please select.

...

I don't know about you guys, but I hate typing. I don't like typing code.

There MUST be better ways of implementing algorithms then typing a shit load of boiler plate code.

Us experienced developers who have worked with a few languages will know this - it's all syntax - NOT technology!

Newbies don't get it. They think you have to type to program.

No you don't. This typing of these shitty implementation languages is horseshoeing!

To head off the "you equate typing with programming" ad hominem atacks - I'd point out that programming used to be about plugging wires into sockets. So, you're saying typing wasn't an improvement?

That's what I'm saying - GUI - drag and drop - some sort of visual programming is a step up from typing 1950s style human readable computer code - GEEZE!

So that's how Windows 8 metro was made? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44619241)

Program a program without programing the program for the program?

Puruse the forums of any ios/android app engines (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44619253)

If you check the unity3d forums, you will see a few hundred people that have a great idea for a game and it always reads sort of like this:
It's like, so basically... it's Skyrim for iOS/Android. So who wants to code this for me? Obviously since I am the idea man I will keep the MILLJIONS of dollars it will make, because writing code is easy, I just don't have time to learn because I am too important or have ADD. I did find some great free models on turbosquid though, just need someone to make them move.. what's it called, rigging? Oh and texture too. Since I did the hard part of finding these models, that last part should be really simple, but I'll pay you out of the HUGE profits of my game.

Well Microsoft, I applaud you. You have given these idea men, these mental giants, a fertile ground of milk and honey! We lowly coders and artists will sorely miss them in our forums, but wish them bon voyage on this, their great and noble endeavor!

Quantity instead of quality (5, Insightful)

Begemot (38841) | about 8 months ago | (#44619319)

check the top free apps [google.com] - none could be made without code
it looks like MS wants quantity instead of quality - no wonder the only informative thing TFA has is the number of users and projects.

Re:Quantity instead of quality (2, Informative)

SJHillman (1966756) | about 8 months ago | (#44619383)

Check out the bulk of Android apps... most of them could be made by a monkey flinging poop at a keyboard. It's not aimed at people looking to make The Next Big Thing.

Re:Quantity instead of quality (1)

UnknowingFool (672806) | about 8 months ago | (#44619765)

This new tool solves the wrong problem for MS. With a large number of apps, there will be some useful ones. This tool only pads the number of useless apps for Windows Phone so that MS can report a high app count to lure new customers. As far as I know, Windows Phone is still missing important apps that iOS and Android have (Instagram, etc). Some apps that do exist (Facebook, Spotify, Netflix, Audible) are behind the counterparts in other platforms in terms of features.

Re:Quantity instead of quality (3, Funny)

umafuckit (2980809) | about 8 months ago | (#44620181)

it looks like MS wants quantity instead of quality

How's that any different to 95% of the crap on the Apple and Google stores?

developer interest? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44619335)

a surge of developer interest during the current beta program has surprised even Microsoft

Is this another one of those things where the developer interest went from 1 developer to 3 developers and they're excited about a 300% increase in developer interest? I think we've been there before.

99 fart apps (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44619399)

Sing it with me

99 fart apps are waiting to be made,
99 fart apps are waiting,
Sign up to App Studio and make your own fart app,
98 fart apps are waiting to be made.

98 fart apps are waiting to be made,
98 fart apps are waiting,
Oh, you know how it goes...

Horrible, horrible memories... (1)

inject_hotmail.com (843637) | about 8 months ago | (#44619449)

Oh gawd, this is causing flashbacks of FileMaker Pro programming...I want to poke my eyes out with rusty daggers, and cut my right hand off with a drill press...

(For those who have had the pleasure of never being forced to "code" in FileMaker, it's a "database" programming environment similar to, say, MS Access in that it's a self-contained relational DBMS; however, adding "code" is done by using your mouse, with relatively few control structures. It's not free-form coding, it's predefined lines in a listbox where the "programmer" can add conditions to IF or LOOP blocks, iterative lines might not work sometimes, etc. Kludge City. All this designed for a 17" monitor with disproportionately-sized dialog controls. Imagine all the fun you can have!)

MS Access (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44619457)

This approach informed the development of MS Access and that certainly left behind no long-term maintenance problems.

I think it's a great idea... (3, Interesting)

lord_mike (567148) | about 8 months ago | (#44619539)

One of the big drawbacks of Apple is the idea that you should be able to easily use apple products to promote creativity, as long as the creativity doesn't involve creating an "app" or programming an Apple product in any personal way. At that point, you're shoved into massive restrictions, high cost, and weird programming languages to discourage kids and novices from coding. Android is much more open with their philosophy, but their tools are hardly user friendly for the curious would-be programmer. Microsoft is being smart here and sticking with their roots. While Apple diverged from what made them a big company in the first place (the openness and flexibility of the Apple II), Microsoft seems to be returning to their core philosophy of "Developers, developers, developers" of all types, shapes and sizes. Remember that Microsoft got its start with BASIC for beginning programmers, and one of their biggest products of all time has been Visual Basic--a tool for simple programming. Allowing people to easily create smartphone content for themselves is one easy and smart way to differentiate themselves from their competitors. It seems that after flirting with the idea that they must copy Apple, Microsoft has hopefully decided to do what Microsoft does best--make semi-open systems that are easy to program and customize for users.

Re:I think it's a great idea... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44619705)

So when Apple takes an existing language (Objective-C) and uses it for its development platforms, they're forcing you to "weird programming languages". When Microsoft invents their own language because they don't want to use anything that already exists (C#), it's not?

Re:I think it's a great idea... (1)

UnknowingFool (672806) | about 8 months ago | (#44619883)

One of the big drawbacks of Apple is the idea that you should be able to easily use apple products to promote creativity, as long as the creativity doesn't involve creating an "app" or programming an Apple product in any personal way. . . Microsoft seems to be returning to their core philosophy of "Developers, developers, developers" of all types, shapes and sizes.

So MS development tools work on Linux? What do you mean I have to have Windows to develop for MS? But the professional develop tools for MS (Visual Studio) is free with Windows, right? Oh I can get a free version that I have to download but it's not the pro version.

It seems that after flirting with the idea that they must copy Apple, Microsoft has hopefully decided to do what Microsoft does best--make semi-open systems that are easy to program and customize for users.

Flirting? They are still trying to emulate Apple but doing it poorly. Surface? The new management structure is eerily similar to how Apple is organized.

Eventually, one needs a non-existent widget (1)

WillAdams (45638) | about 8 months ago | (#44619687)

Once one runs up against such a limitation, one either moves on to a real programming environment, or a real programmer has to write a new widget / block to meet the need.

Not opensource, but free for people running Windows:

http://www.sanscript.net/ [sanscript.net]

Allow Sideloading (1)

alphabetsoup (953829) | about 8 months ago | (#44619757)

The best way MS can increase the number of apps available on their platform is to allow Sideloading. Right now the biggest problem for a hobbyist developer is not the lack of dev tools (VS is one of the best dev platforms), but the fact that I cannot run an app I make on my phone without paying MS an annual fee.

Allow hobbyists to write and run apps on their phones, and they might create something which they feel can be sold on the app store, at which point you can start charging them for a dev license. But not many hobbyists will pay upfront to tinker with their phones which they already own.

Basically, make it easy for people to run apps on Windows phone, and you will automatically increase the number of available apps.

Re:Allow Sideloading (2)

lord_mike (567148) | about 8 months ago | (#44619929)

Unless they changed things recently, getting a developers license for Windows Phone is trivial and cost free. Yes, you still need to apply for a license for sideloading, which is obnoxious, but it's only a minor hindrance.

Very interesting marketing decision (1)

Java Pimp (98454) | about 8 months ago | (#44619779)

Flood the app store with thousands of shitty apps so no one can find the ones that are actually useful. I wonder how well that will work for them.

Re:Very interesting marketing decision (1)

lord_mike (567148) | about 8 months ago | (#44619969)

Is is certain that these apps are meant for the app store? When Android had their app inventor program going, they specifically prevented those apps from going to the app store. The limitation could be removed by clever hacking of the apk, but Google really wanted these programs to be of very limited distribution.

Re:Very interesting marketing decision (1)

H0p313ss (811249) | about 8 months ago | (#44620319)

Flood the app store with thousands of shitty apps so no one can find the ones that are actually useful. I wonder how well that will work for them.

It's really not so different with iOS, it's just that there's hundreds of thousands of apps so even if there are hundreds of thousands of shitty apps the top 1% is very good and still represents thousands of useful apps.

This was Microsofts strategy for a long time: Developers, Developers, Developers. (Yet another thing that Apple stole?)

A solution to a problem that doesn't exist (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44619861)

Windows Phone's problem is not that apps are too hard to write. It is that the mega-low market share doesn't provide any incentive to code for that platform.

Re:A solution to a problem that doesn't exist (1)

UnknowingFool (672806) | about 8 months ago | (#44619949)

Bingo. Why would companies pass up the opportunity to code for a new platform and generate revenue? The revenue that they would bring in from a small number of customers isn't enough to pay for a programmer and support the app. Nothing personal against MS. It's just business.

Re:A solution to a problem that doesn't exist (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#44620081)

The interesting part, is that this vicious circle is what killed MS Windows' competition in the early 90's (Amiga, Atari ST, Archimedes). The more people moved to Windows the more incentive publishers had to develop for that OS and the less attention other platforms and OS'es got.

In an ironic turn of events MS in now on the losing end of that equation. As a former Atari ST enthusiast I understand _exactly_ what Windows Phone users are dealing with. You _know_ you have a great platform (better than the competition in some respects) but somehow nobody else gives a shit. The inferior product gets all the love and attention and you just can't figure out why. Economic logic doesn't follow tech logic.

Re:A solution to a problem that doesn't exist (1)

UnknowingFool (672806) | about 8 months ago | (#44620327)

Inferior is subjective. So far I haven't seen anything from WP7/8 that makes me want to switch from Android or iOS. I personally dislike the style of it myself but that's my taste.

Same as WP7 (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 8 months ago | (#44619911)

but a surge of developer interest during the current beta program has surprised even Microsoft with its scope."

Back when Windows Phone 7 was new, Microsoft released the number of developers (ie, number of free downloads for Visual Studio for WP7). It was something like 20 million downloads, if my memory is correct. If that number were actually representative, it would mean that there was one developer for every four users or something.

They released the developer number because the sales numbers were so bad they didn't want to release those.

They just want to bulk up numbers (1, Insightful)

umafuckit (2980809) | about 8 months ago | (#44620203)

Obviously this is just a ploy to increase the number of Apps on their store, to make it look more populated and active than it really is.

yea, because this will work... (0)

Xicor (2738029) | about 8 months ago | (#44620487)

microsoft is retarded. they should realize by now that every time they try and oversimplify something related to programming, they end up making it more difficult than actually coding...just look at the .net stuff in visual studio... it is totally worthless. or look at wordpress(which isnt done by microsoft), it is more difficult for anyone to use after the site is created.

ancient bullshit (1, Interesting)

Tom (822) | about 8 months ago | (#44620529)

Yes, creating software without having to know shit about software development has been the wet dream of the business monkeys at MS ever since they took the company over from the geeks.

But of course it doesn't work. Never has, never will. If you don't feel like putting up with those weird geek types who don't follow your MBA pseudo-logic and bullshit bingo, then get out of the computer business into something where actually knowing anything doesn't matter. Like, say, banking.

quantity != quality (1)

tehlinux (896034) | about 8 months ago | (#44620591)

>that it's far behind in the apps race

Yeah, the lack of stopwatch apps and Napoleon Dynamite soundboards are really holding the platform back!

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