Shocker: Windows 8 is an Android killer

By Daniel Sharp on May 30th, 2012

I’ve just come from another testing meeting. Seven of us around a table looking at an Android app that’s in the mid-stages of development. We’ve found unique issues on each device, every device on the table was running a different version of Android, with different resolutions, capabilities and specifications. Getting this right is going to be time consuming…

Meanwhile, for the past seven weeks we’ve also been working on a super-secret project building magazine apps for the Windows 8 launch. In those seven weeks, we’ve managed to create a solid first version, that works across all resolutions, laptops, desktops and tablets, whether they use a touch screen, pen or mouse. Development was easy.

How many Android devices are tablets? How many are running a reasonably new version of Android? How many Android users actually purchase through their devices? And, perhaps most importantly of all, are you willing to release an application where you can’t guarantee that every user can have the same, great experience?

Some people will find the Windows 8 “Metro” way of thinking problematic, but, in our case, it meant that we could create an application that every Windows 8 user would already know how to use. Using tiles and grids meant that we could use the tools that are baked in to the operating system – the tools that scale up and down and reorder dependent on the screen size.

The fact that you can develop native applications for Windows using HTML and JavaScript is huge: in our case, it meant that every single engineer in our company already knew how to develop for Windows.

If you’re looking at a smartphone application then Windows 8 isn’t for you; it’s not for smartphones. But if you’re looking at a tablet application, take a good hard look at Android and the figures. I took one look at them and I’m not convinced.

And that’s why I have paused all our Android development in favour of Windows 8.

Why? Because those figures spoke for themselves. In Q1 2012, there were 17.4 million tablets sold, 11.8 million of those were iPads. 4.8 million of those were Amazon devices leaving 800,000 to share between Android, Nook and other random e-readers and tablets.

Before you say it, yes, I know the Kindle Fire runs a forked version of Android, but it was forked from Android Gingerbread, meaning that if you’re planning on making an Android tablet app and you’d like to use any of the APIs that were released after February 2011, it won’t run on the Fire.

Furthermore, we make apps for publishers, and Amazon have their own magazine store. If you want to see your magazine on the Kindle Newsstand then you’ll have to make a Kindle compatible file – not an Android app.

Working with Windows 8 is simple and enjoyable: we spend our time adding new features and improving performance. Working with Android is complicated and painful: we spend our time trying to make it work on the thousands of different variants, which is less than ideal and simplicity always wins.

It’s a no-brainer.

Daniel Sharp is co-founder of Stonewash.