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Glimmer of Hope: Windows Phone Popular Among Hobbyist Devs and 'Explorers'

Being a hobbyist programmer, one of the things I found most interesting in a recent mobile dev survey is the high percentage of my ilk among Windows Phone developers, which perhaps provides a starting point for a resurgence of the struggling OS as Microsoft looks ahead to Windows 10 for a mobile rebirth.

"A massive 55 percent of Windows Phone-first developers are Hobbyists and Explorers," stated new research from VisionMobile Ltd. "All other developer segments are under-represented."

Hobbyists are "moonlighters building their own apps to learn and have fun," motivated by "fun, creativity and self-achievement." Explorers are "independent developers gaining experience as a side project to seize on future opportunities."

So I'm definitely a hobbyist. I've created working Windows Phone apps because I love Visual Studio. I've loved Microsoft tooling since I found out you could stop a program and inspect a variable -- in VisualJ++, of all things.

Unfortunately, Microsoft hasn't fared well in the mobile platform wars, and is rolling the dice on Universal Apps and Windows 10 to catch up to overwhelming market leaders iOS and Android.

Hobbyists and Explorers Make Up 55 Percent of Windows Phone Developers
[Click on image for larger view.] Hobbyists and Explorers Make Up 55 Percent of Windows Phone Developers (Source: VisionMobile)

And that's despite steadily growing developer mindshare and technology differentation, VisionMobile said.

"That Microsoft has so many developers prioritizing the platform at all is impressive," the study of more than 8,000 developers said. "It's a testament to the strong developer ecosystem they've built around their tools and technologies. Those tools are absolutely first class and many developers used to working with them are unwilling to leave them behind for less polished offerings. This makes Windows Phone an excellent starter platform for those with experience in desktop or server-side development looking to learn about mobile development."

While Windows Phone was dubbed "the platform for experimenters," the study pretty much reconfirmed the common view of Android as "the platform for everyone," iOS as "the platform for professionals" and mobile browser as "the platform for reach."

Tying Explorers for top billing at 23 percent of the surveyed universe were Hunters, described as "experienced developers building an app business and focused on the money." A far higher percentage of iOS developers are Hunters than any other group.

The Web guys had the highest percentage of Enterprise IT respondents, described as "CIOs and IT managers using apps to increase organization efficiency and reduce costs."

Along with experimenters, VisionMobile saw hope for Windows Phone among students who were taught with Microsoft tools. "These are also excellent candidates to get started with Windows Phone," it said. "Persuading developers already using other platforms to commit resources to Windows Phone is much harder."

Tackling that job is Kevin Gallo, who wrote a Windows blog last month claiming "Windows 10 is empowering developers to dream again."

"We are working to make Windows 10 a unified, developer platform for ALL of our devices so you can reach the greatest number of customers with your work across phones, tablets, PCs, Xbox, IoT devices and the new Surface Hub and HoloLens opportunities," Gallo said.

"We're also doing the work necessary to help make sure that apps and games look great across a full range of devices, display surfaces and input models," Gallo continued. "The Windows 10 platform will build upon the universal Windows app framework released with Windows 8.1 to provide developers the tools to deliver new app experiences across devices with a minimum amount of additional work."

Well, I, for one, want to stay with those "first-class" tools. I've never tried any iOS stuff and I haven't been too happy with my Eclipse and Android Studio experiences. So I'm glad Windows 10 will be a free upgrade and hope the underdog rolls a winner.

Posted by David Ramel on February 27, 2015