Metro Apps – An opportunity to reach 250 million machines

At the BUILD conference this week, Microsoft unveiled the closely guarded secret that is Windows 8. Understanding that the landscape of computer-mediated devices and services is evolving rapidly, Microsoft has taken a new tack while remaining on the course of offering backward compatibility.

They say that any computer problem can be solved by adding another level of indirection, except the problem of too many levels of indirection. This is where Microsoft got bold. The new interaction and design language known as Metro has an entirely new execution platform. The Windows Kernel is there, but the API that “Metro style” applications rely on is called WinRT, and WinRT is a native interface. Keep in mind, you can still develop desktop applications using existing stacks and tools. But when it comes to Metro style apps, there is no more Win32, no more .NET. This is not a layer on top of windows. This is new, light, and build for speed.

While the technology change is stunning, the business implication for developers is gargantuan. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you think about writing a Metro style application.

  • You have the tools to begin developing now – let’s assume that gives you 9 months until it ships (that is a complete guess).
  • Windows 7 sold 250 million copies in its first year.
  • All Windows 7 machines will be able to run Windows 8 (there will be 500 million Windows 7 machines in use when Windows 8 launches).
  • You can build 1st class Metro style apps with C++, C#, VB as well as HTML/CSS/JS.
  • The tools for building the apps are free (500,000 downloads the OS preview and development tools in the first day).
  • Touch is not required to take advantage of Windows 8 Metro style apps – the work great with mouse & keyboard.
  • Metro Style apps will only be available from the Windows Store.
  • The Windows Store is empty right now.

It seems reasonable to project that there will be 250 million people shopping for Metro Style applications within the next 18 months. Are you comfortable letting this opportunity pass you by?