When did we get used to the idea that you had to pay money to release a program into the wild? The big news from Microsoft seems to be that now it will charge you an annual subscription of only $19 for creating public apps on either or both Windows 8 or Windows Phone 8.
Microsoft is working to unify the two elements of the Windows store, i.e Windows phone and WinRT apps, and a first step in that direction seems to be allowing programmers to have a single account for both.
This has the welcome spin-off of reducing the cost to individuals to $19 and for companies to $99. Previously Microsoft charged two lots of $49 to individual who wanted to produce apps for both phone and WinRT, and the charge to companies was $99 for each type of account, hence this is a good saving.
What you get for your cash is the ability submit your apps to either store using the same account. If you are already registered you can simply wait for a code to be sent to you for a free one year renewal that starts when your existing account ends. If you don't have an account then you can make use of a single registration form for both stores.
The announcement makes the point that for your $19 or your $99 you get:
.. your apps at the fingertips of millions of Windows 8 and Windows Phone users all over the world:
- Publish your apps in hundreds of countries/regions the Stores support.
- Make money from paid downloads, trials, in-app purchases, advertising, and subscriptions.
- Get detailed reports on the use and performance of your app.
This all sounds very reasonable and what company would find $99 a high price to pay to get their app on display in the store? But why not just pay the $19 and register as an individual?
The answer seems to be that Microsoft is keeping the distinction that only company accounts can submit desktop apps to the store. So the situation seems to be that a single individual account allows you to submit Windows Phone or WinRT apps to the store, but only a company account has the ability to submit desktop apps. This is one aspect of unification that Microsoft doesn't seem interested in.
For the individual programmer $19 seems like a small sum that makes no difference. However, the situation is a little more subtle. If Microsoft is going to encourage a thriving app economy it needs the weekend programmer to innovate things that a big, or even a small, company would not take a risk on. Any amount of money is a barrier to the casual programmer - even $19 with the possibility that the app might be rejected or make far less in revenue even if accepted. Building an app is a risky business and it can be very difficult to judge if what you are doing is worth even $19 - and that's $19 per annum. If you don't pay up your app is worthless pile of bits.
I ask again - when did we get used to the idea that we had to pay to get an app approved and sold?
Microsofties seem to have more than grown accustomed to the idea. To quote from Jennifer Marsman a Developer Evangelist for Microsoft focusing on Windows Store development for Windows 8.
"Whoo-hoo! Now, I personally don’t believe that developing for the Windows Store was ever that expensive (an individual account used to be $49/year, and it is $99/year for iOS developer registration), but it has gotten even better! Starting today, you can develop for both the Windows Store and the Windows Phone Store for the single low price of $19/year for an individual account. "
In addition Microsoft has launched a competition in conjunction with Nokia to encourage you to create the apps it really needs:
"As an added incentive, we’ve partnered with Nokia via the DVLUP community to give you an easy way to learn more and complete challenges as you develop for both the Windows Store and Windows Phone. Along the way, you’ll earn points that can then be redeemed for great prizes (for example, Nokia Lumia phones and more). DVLUP is currently open to developers in more than 20 countries. To participate, register for the DVLUP program and take advantage of the two new challenges available today: