Microsoft: is it time for quality over quantity Windows 8 app competitions?

Microsoft Australia today announced a “December of Apps Developer Challenge” on its La La Ninja developer community website. Developers have the chance to win one of 40 Asus Vivo Tab RT tablets. Although the competition seems to make a great Christmas present, it’s unfortunate Microsoft is once again promoting quantity over quality for an app development competition.

Like some of the Windows Phone app competitions before it hosted in Australia and around the world, Microsoft is once again incentivising app developers prioritize quantity and speed, over what I’d argue is the hallmark of Apple’s app ecosystems, quality.

Since some blogs and even Microsoft evangelists love to spell out the large and growing number of apps in the Windows Store, peeking at a majority of the new submissions on MetroStore leaves much to be desired. (Seriously, some of the apps have the default template cross icon.)

Admittedly this is a problem that affects all app ecosystems, I just think it’s misguided that Microsoft’s developer evangelists are actively promoting this practice with prize incentives.

  • Qualifying apps must be published in the Windows Store between December 1st 2012 and 12 Midnight AEDST December 28th 2012.
  • The sooner you publish your new apps the sooner you’ll receive your device. Devices will be delivered within 30 days of accomplishing the challenge.
  • Publish 4 new apps for a Asus Vivo Tab RT. The offer is limited to 1 Asus Vivo Tab RT per developer.
  • Apps must be new and published to the public Windows Store, and excludes updates to existing apps.

At a rate of one app per week with absolutely no criteria or judgement of quality factors such as functionality, usefulness and design, the addition of the first come first serve clause makes this pretty much a race to the bottom.

Commenter Phillip Haydon adds, “4 apps in such a short timeline, promotes people to create shit quality apps. I’m really disappointed this competition exists. You should be getting people to create high quality applications that actually benefit end-users.”

Well…, David, Winston and I will be working on many updates to MetroTwit for Windows 8, but we’ll just have to wish for an Asus Vivo Tab RT under our Christmas trees.

Update: On a serious note, Microsoft knows how to run and has run quality-based competitions. Award winners by people and judge’s votes, by ratings or by downloads.

19 insightful thoughts

  1. It is easy to understand this decision. Quality is a subjective thing, what I think is good you may think is bad, so it makes for something that cannot fit on KPI.

    So for Microsoft to incentive their staff they need measurable items like app count. So they will be measured on app count, which means to meet their goals they run promotions like this.

    I am not saying that this is their only metric, I am sure average ratings etc… do come into it – but I am sure this is one of the more important ones. Plus there is a bit of silly math here, where if you have more apps you are more likely to get those with the high enough ratings to push other metrics so more apps can make other metrics easier too.

    This isn’t a world wide thing, South Africa is pushing quality over quantity: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/southafrica/archive/2012/11/16/get-your-game-on-app-awards-2013.aspx

    I would expect their numbers to be based on similar things (albeit different numbers) so this could indicate a difference in the dev eco-system in the countries, where South Africa maybe hitting enough apps already thus allowing for a quality check?

  2. Search the Win8 market for “calculator”. At last count there were 395. If you take that 10K number and extrapolate, it means there are about 250 unique Win8 applications :(

    1. Funny, I did a search for “calculator” in the apple app store and came up with 3396, what does your extrapolation show for unique apps there.

  3. There are some real gems on that “MetroStore”:
    -”Welcome Sign” (WOW you can write text on the screen!!!1! Only $1.49)
    -Literally dozens of french “Aire d’un Parallelogramme/Cube/Triangle”,”LitresToMcube”, etc. apps that only apply a simplle formula to a number (such as “divide by 1000″) . Seriously, there must be a french guy somewhere who has spent a week submitting apps, or maybe it’s a school assignment somewhere?

  4. I do not agree. There are rules behind this! Each application must be sufficiently different and useful.
    It is true that there are bad applications that passes the store but they will be removed as soon as Microsoft will notice them.

  5. I agree that quality is a subjective thing, but unless you have a big team of developers, the care and attention of each and every application will be overlooked, unless of course your application is just a farting app.

    I think they should of made it at the two pps mark, I’d rather see two okay/decent apps, than 4 mediocre/sample/farting apps.

  6. Let’s face it. The chances of anyone developing a reasonable high quality super usable app in such a small time frame are relatively slim.

    I think the problem at the moment is the classic chicken and egg problem. App developers are reluctant to port their quality apps to Windows RT due to the lack of install base. Users on the other hand are reluctant to buy Windows RT because of the lack of specific apps they have come to know and love on other platforms.

  7. I disagree. Let me give you my personal example.

    I took part in a Windows Phone competition last year to write four apps. I painstakingly spent many days writing a Learner practice exam (with over 200 questions) based on the Victorian road rules and it barely had many downloads in the past year (even when it was free). http://bit.ly/YImaYo

    I spent 4 hours writing this other Joyce Meyer app (http://bit.ly/11sNvxx) and have not released a single update since then but check out the reviews for that app. It averages over 50 downloads a day, has over 400+ reviews and still has a rating of 5 stars. This is way more than the official app released for iOS (http://bit.ly/YrHO4n) which only has ~230 reviews with a 4 star rating.

    A competition like this is a huge motivation for all of us devs that procrastinate and keep putting off writing that first app. Personally I feel this is a better way for Microsoft to spend their money than spending on training sessions where they reach only a few devs at a time.

  8. Greetings & Salutations

    I agree with Long: It is time for a competition based on App Quality — and this competition is happening in the Windows Store today. Nothing better than users betting with their own $ on apps. As a user of Windows 8 Apps, I have paid for MetroTwit.

    On the competition side, this is not the only thing we do or promote in Australia. #AppFests, Virtual #AppFests, individual guidance, technical support, encouragement, motivation, community involvement. To name a few.

    I agree with Merill: some developers need to justify their after-hours work to the people around them; and a competition such as this helps.

    Other developers love making deep, quality apps. In the Microsoft DPE AU App of the Day I celebrate these deep apps (such as MortgageFinder)

    So, whilst these does generate some controversy & upset some people — perspectives I understand; let’s not forget that Windows 8 (and Windows Phone 8) are great developer platforms with Stores that give us all ways of showing off our artistry.

    nhodge@microsoft.com
    Nick Hodge

  9. Wooo, didn’t think I would ever get quoted.

    Nick, yes it really does help justify their after hours work. But do they justify pumping out crap, farting applications, bible/koran quotes, and other useless apps, or do they justify having a really awesome idea and being rewarded and recognized for it?

    You’re rewarding people for creating 4 rubbish applications in 12 days. Is it even possible to truly understand what’s involved in developing a metro app from scratch, in your personal time, with enough time left to create 4 apps?

    Even when given the time, apps are rushed to market and we end up with things like Cut The Rope, which was so ridiculously laggy on Surface RT that we have 1000s of negative reviews saying the device sucks because it’s laggy.

    I’m not suggesting not doing a competition. But I would rather see a competition that gave a decent amount of time like:

    “Hey, have you got some spare time over the X-Mas period, in between spending time with family and shopping for friends, want to earn yourself a little gift? Submit 1 app between now and December 25th, and let us know a couple of your other ideas, and in return, the first 40 unique submissions will be given a Asus Vivo Tab RT to help them develop their ideas!”

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