Microsoft has launched Windows Phone App Studio. Will this be enough to tempt developers to create apps, and will this in turn attract users to the platform?
According to the Windows Phone Developer Blog:
Windows Phone App Studio is about giving everyone the ability to create an app regardless of experience. It also can radically accelerate workflow for all developers.
It provides an environment in which creating an app become a four-step process:
To make app creation even easier there are supplied template - currently 13 of them including My Family, and ones for weddings, sports teams, hobbies, film and restaurant reviews. All you have is select the appropriate template add content - images, videos, RSS and Twitter feeds - choose and links, with a layout preview that shows exactly how it will appear and behave on your phone.
You can also create an "empty app" without a template and this is only slightly more difficult. If you want help Rob Miles has produced a screencast to walk you through the process.
So primarily this is a tool that removes the need for coding to be used to put together fairly rudimentary creations for personal or "friends and family" use. At the same time it has a secondary role for those who are skilled coders - you can use it for prototyping and then export the code to Visual Studio to add functionality.
Even so Windows App Studio isn't going to be useful in creating blockbuster games and it is difficult to see how it is going to produce a flood of commercial apps to boost the Windows Phone Store.
There is also a barrier to those who are tempted to dive in and try out the new app creator. This is beta software that requires using not only a Microsoft ID but also an invitation code. So many would-be users are greeted by a message that states:
We are processing requests for invitation codes. You can expect a response within the next 24 hours. We thank you for your patience.
On the other hand Microsoft has finally removed one huge disincentive to developing for Windows Phone - paying for the privilege of uploading to programs to your own phone. It has now changed its policy so that anyone can now unlock and register 1 phone to load up to 2 apps.
In addition there's a time-limited off (expires August 26) to register Dev Center account for $19 rather than $99. So maybe Microsoft has been listening to us after all!