Windows Developers Rejoice! Dev Program’s $99 Yearly Fee is No More!
Microsoft rule in the mobile market, much like the giant dinosaurs that once roamed the Earth several millions of years ago, is nothing but a distant memory with remnants of fossils scattered across the globe (for those of us who still have working Windows Mobile devices). At some point, Microsoft decided to try and avoid extinction by trying to evolve alongside a new set of species that were more fit to survive on this new era of mobile tech, and thus Windows Phone was born. Faster, heavier, and overall healthier than its dying predecessor, the new OS tried to expand across the globe to retake the kingdom that was supposedly its birth right. Fate as it is, does not believe in such things and its two biggest rivals (Android and iOS) were flourishing in what once was Microsoft’s playground. The reason for this slow and nearly null level of evolution and growth is not surprising. Every single living organism on this planet requires one thing to survive and thrive: food. In the case of mobile technology, the food is analogous to mobile applications. Android and iOS both have lots and lots of food available for them whereas Microsoft does not. Why? Developers, that’s why.
Microsoft’s CEO, Steve Ballmer, once said “Developers, developers, developers, developers…. AAAAAHHHHRGG”. In his ever famous sweaty rant regarding the company’s desire to gain this support for their up and coming platform, we all thought it was pretty clear that the company needed the support from the developer community. However, actions tend to speak louder than words (yes, even louder than Mr. Ballmer’s) and Microsoft’s lack of support for the community has been parallel only to Apple’s efforts in trying to keep people out of their work (with the only difference being that Apple does a far better job at marketing, hence they sell more). For those of us who have been with Microsoft for the early part of Windows Phone’s life (anything before Tango), we still remember the meteoric rise (and equally fast demise) of a tool called ChevronWP7, which basically allowed one type of device unlocking which enabled the user to sideload third party apps onto the device without having to go through the Windows Store, essentially simulating the ability that developers have. There are two other types of locks in Windows Phone devices: Interop unlock, which basically is root but for Windows Phone, and SIM unlock. The ChevronWP7 tool did not touch either of the aforementioned, but it helped. This is but one of the many things that developers got fed up with. The ChevronWP7 tool was later discontinued and the token that allowed for the sideloading of apps became invalid. Back to square one… however, Microsoft waived a year of their $99/ year fee for developers who had purchased Chevron (regular pricing thereafter).
Fast forward to today. Android and iOS are still kings of the mountain, with developers pouring in day and night. Microsoft, on the other hand, keeps on releasing update after update to WP (currently on 8.1) but it is not only the OS that makes up the platform. All main players require developers to have accounts (developer accounts that is) established before being allowed to push apps into the market(s). These have costs associated with them. Apple’s is $99 per year (again, you gain from Apple’s immense popularity and large user base, so you recover the investment rather quickly); Android’s developer program is a mere $25 for the lifetime of the account (this is by far a much better deal considering that many developers are young students. This model does great for catching new people who are getting into programming and app development); and lastly, Microsoft charges developers, just like Apple, $99 per year in order to push apps into the Windows Store. So, overall hatred against Microsoft, added to a small user base, and an exorbitant yearly fee seems to be the perfect formula to drive developers away. Having (finally) understood this trend, it seems that Microsoft did something about it and slashed the $99 fee into a one time $19 set up fee, thus making it more affordable for developers to get into Windows Phone development.
I have to admit that Microsoft did the right thing, particularly now that we know that Windows 9 is looming in the horizon. After the massive integration of both Windows Phone and Windows platforms (starting with Windows 8), it seems that the Seattle company will try to start off with the right foot with their new operating system and want to have as many developers supporting it. It would be interesting to see development for Windows starting up once again. Hopefully, Mr Ballmer will take on John Legere’s example and release not one, or two incentives to attract people, but a whole slew of them. Shake their ground, make them think positively about Microsoft and not like the money hungry (and developer unfriendly) company that they are famous for. Who knows? With enough developers, Microsoft could once again become king of the mountain.
Good move Microsoft…. good move….
You can find more information in Pocket Now’s original article.