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Why Publishing on the Windows Phone is Like Walking Barefoot On Broken Glass (toshl.com)
189 points by Beat-O on July 14, 2012 | hide | past | favorite | 92 comments

What I find fascinating is the app store URL. It includes en-US and the app is identified by a GUID so you have no chance of working out what it is other than clicking on the link. Locales of fr-CA and fr-FR worked but not en-UK or en-GB.

Apple has a country code, the app name and a numeric id. But the app name is just decoration and is ignored, so you could easily mislead by putting in anything you want. From the country code it looks like they believe only one language is spoken in any country (eg I couldn't select between French and English for Canada). The ids aren't in numeric order - probably some sort of timestamp instead.

Google uses a descriptive URL without country or language parts, and then the app is identified by package name (bundle id equivalent for the iOS crowd) which looks fine to us techie folk and mostly follows being the DNS name with some extra gunk such as com.rovio.angrybirdsspace.ads

Amazon Android URLs are amazon.com/<App Title>/dp/<ID> where the app title is just decoration and can be changed to anything and ID is hexadecimal(ish).

They all have various issues. I think locale information as part of the URI path is silly. Titles in the URLs is nice but open up social engineering attacks. As a techie I like the Google approach of identification, but that too is prone to social engineering (to my knowledge they do not verify a correspondence to the publishing organization DNS). But it is prettier than random numbers. A GUID is Microsoft's hammer and solution to everything. In this case it just makes the URLs unnecessarily long.

I disagree that the long URL is a problem because I don't see people typing in mobile app store URLs. Either they search on the name or click a link. I do agree that it would be nice to have an app name that matters somewhere in the URL.

I'm betting you are on iOS :-)

Links come from all over the place such as email and websites. I hope people have got into the habit of checking links before clicking on them!

In any event on Android from a web browser not on your device you can go to the Play store web site and install apps on your device.

It looks like you can do the same thing if you are on a system that has iTunes installed for iOS although it is more clicks and possibly involves cables.

Actually, I'm one of those Windows Phone guys and I run CyanogenMod on my HP TouchPad, so I am familiar with the web versions of the Play store and Windows Marketplace.

I find I usually click on App URLs from sites like Engadget, that I trust.

On Planet Android there are frequent posts along the lines of "10 best apps for X" (where X is something like exercise, cooking etc) or roundups of new games for week. It is reasonable to assume the posts are written because they are read.

Can you get an install to happen to your device when going to a Windows Marketplace page on a desktop (without tethering your device etc)?

Microsoft have always had a funny habit of using GUIDs for everything.

"Offensive" context example: Imagine you're a woman in some mostly-islamic-and-not-so-women-rights-friendly country, you use this app on your phone and bang, your husband sees the loading screen joke about "other toys" (and of course he has an iphone and doesn't know about this app and the joke) ...only he can't remember seeing those toys himself so... who did you buy them for then? ...nex: let your ultra-violent imagination run wild

I can see how this would sharpen you up and make you ready for a bit of the old ultra-violence.

Horrible article. As someone who has created and published a Windows Phone app before, let me say that it is a pretty smooth experience. Developing with C#/Silverlight is a breeze, and MS has a good developer portal set up. The majority of the problems described in the article sound like the fault of the developer, not Microsoft. If an app ever gets rejected during the submission process, they list out all the reasons why it was rejected, along with the parts of their guidelines which detail out the rules.

Also, "the page is confusing and the statistics poor"? I don't understand how you could get confused by anything in the developer page. And how are download numbers from any desired time range considered poor statistics?

It's frustrating that an article like this could get so much attention on HN. If you want to have a nightmare of a time developing apps, try developing for BlackBerry. Or deal with Apple's multi-week process of app submissions.

Have you even read the article? Most of the problems they had was because Microsoft refuses to acknowledge my country. And there exists Microsoft Slovenia FFS!

Also he clearly describes what's wrong with Silverlight and app submission form (can't use space, only works in Safari, etc).

He also said that they didn't get any specific reasons as to why the app was rejected.

Maybe it was rejected because your 'quip' sounds like your scanning a users data for juice?

Umm I'm not part of the Toshl team. I only know some of the guys. And the give full disclosure: my company is working with Toshl's parent company on some totally unrelated projects.

I know you have a privacy policy; but I'm just saying someone in certification could take it the wrong way.

I agree that this article probably wasn't the best but it does describe major problems for developers of Windows apps, many of which weren't the fault of the developers: they couldn't obtain a developer account simply because Microsoft doesn't allow for it in their country, and Microsoft additionally doesn't have the 'technical ability' to move apps from one account to another which would solve a lot of the issues that the developer describes. Also, the developer states that they weren't told specifically which parts of the app were considered 'immoral', and they didn't exactly have plenty of time to fix the app - their app had already been unavailable to their users for a month. Up to this point, their experience with Windows is similar to Apple's, but the fact that their efforts at promoting their app were thwarted pissed them off, especially after their previous bad experiences. Because of all this, your comment gives the impression that you hadn't read the post.

Why do you find developing for BlackBerry and Apple worse?

Can you point out which apps you created and published?

I'm not sure why they don't just pull the app. They admit that it's bringing them virtually no users and it's a frustrating experience. With only a 1.3% market share (1), what reasons can there be to bother with it?

(1) http://blog.nielsen.com/nielsenwire/?p=32494

Funny thing is that the ancient, discontinued Windows Mobile has 2.9% market share, more than twice of that of Windows Phone 7 Mobile Pocket edition, released October 2010 (21 months ago)!

It took android a couple of years after it was launched to actually take off...

That's inaccurate. HTC had a record-setting quarter with the introduction of the G1 at the end of 2008, and the Dream was also a bestselling device. By the second year Android was outselling iPhone (which had been the fastest selling phone in history up to that point). Android was, by all reasonable measures, an explosive and rapid success. One could argue it took a few months to "take off", but its sales numbers have vastly outpaced Windows Phone, even from the very first months. By the time we were 21 months into the story it was obvious to anybody paying attention that Android was going to be Apple's primary competition in the smart phone market.

Windows Phone is a flop. It may be good (I wouldn't know). But it is demonstrably not popular.

It's fantastic.

Either it'll eventually take off, or else either Apple or Google will copy all the good ideas and I'll switch back. Either way works for me, frankly.

(Well, no, that's not entirely true. I'd prefer it take off next year and Nokia survives intact, because nobody else is making hardware that isn't hopelessly bland looking.)

What's fantastic about it? I have a new Lumia (I make apps) and it's really not very great. The hardware is nice, but the software... It looks nice at first but it happens to annoy me no end compared to iOS / Android after a while. I still cannot put my finger on it what that is. It's also massively instable for me; someone here told me that must be hardware issues so I had it replaced; same issues. 3 out of 5 times when someone calls me and I decline the phone simply reboots. Two different phones, latest OS version. Metro is very inefficient with screen space (I'm a coder, so 'normal' folk might not care about that) and it feels very awkward and instable; I see the Vodafone logo far too often (which happens after a reboot, if you have Vodafone).

Anyway; what do you find fantastic about it?

Comparing my Lumia 900 to my old Evo (HTC):

I greatly prefer the look of the tiles to the widgets/apps mismatch on the home page. And the ability to be able to pin so many different things to the home page from inside of apps, instead of going to a separate "add widgets" section, is very useful... I don't have to think about "oh I should see if this app has a widget I can pin."

I've found the Skydrive Office integration to work much better than the Google Docs app Google provided for Android. Faster loading, better controls, and the ability to pin stuff to the start page with ease. OneNote is also the best note management app on a phone I've ever used.

I really like how they did the "people hub" thing of centralizing all the info/connections you have about someone in one place. (Though it's annoying that the messaging app doesn't support FB "messages", just FB "chat", so I also have the FB app installed in case someone sends me one of those.)

The overal design language is great. (For a good example of a third party app getting it, compare the Android Weatherbug app's UI with the WP7 version.)

I really prefer the use of vertical scrolling on the home page to swiping left/right to get to other home pages—I always forgot about stuff that wasn't on the home page with Android, and find a quick flick to scroll down my whole home page a much better way of seeing everything I want in front of me.

And in my case, it's been far more stable than my Evo ever was.

My biggest complaint is that the gmail client isn't as good.

I agree about OneNote; I always liked that. I'll check out weatherbug. Vertical scrolling versus swiping I guess is taste; I find it very annoying to do that quick flick for some reason. But that's just taste.

The email client (the native one; i'm not sure if you mean another one?) is horrible. And that's one of the things I cannot wrap my head around; this is the company who makes the most sold email client/server software in the world right? The native email client is simply buggy and when used as gmail highly instable (I have over 100.000 mails in my inbox; it just crashes randomly). I drank the gmail koolaid and i'm used to it now; I never throw away and I don't use folders. The WP email client really doesn't like that...

Funny thing. The only time my Lumia crashed it was because I really messed up with the app I was developing.

About space inefficience, with Metro I can see at a glance the most important things. You know, less information density -> more focus.

For me, the best features are fluidness (I still see last generation Android phones which are laggy), the live tiles are great to have all the information at a glance, and I really love the Metro design. Also, the deep integration with Twitter and Facebook makes it a really good system.

Yes, I have heard that (stability), but when I invite people over to demonstrate said stability I am able to crash the thing every single time. There are apps in the Windows Market which just crash the entire phone when you start them. That shouldn't even be possible? But yeah this is all blahblah and bullshit unless I can show it; I just have a feeling people are not using there phone. When I have a smartphone I LIVE that thing; I use it for work fulltime instead of a laptop; my android or iphone 4 crashed 0 times (at least I cannot remember it as it has been at least 4-5 years since it happened) doing that while the lumia simply crashes 4-5 times per day. And like I said; we develop apps; we have a lot of Windows, Android and iOS devices in the office; the WP ones are by far (with such an annoying stretch and no-one using them that most clients tell us to forget about devving for them) the most instable to work with and develop on.

>because nobody else is making hardware that isn't hopelessly bland looking

I think the Sony Ericsson lineup from 2011 was quite pretty and managed to differentiate themselves quite well from the bland Android crowd. Even the hit Samsung phones are quite ugly in my opinion.

It's all subjective, though, but I still like my phones small.

Sometimes I think it's best for a developer to take a chance instead of playing it safe because it can bring a greater reward. They chose a platform they enjoyed and which they could get in on the ground floor. As they say, fortune favors the bold.

As an example, if The Omni Group decided to go to Windows instead of NeXTStep, there's a possibility that they would never be successful as they are now.

Explains why they tried, doesn't explain why they are sticking to it, unless they imagine the story, both in terms of market penetration and developer support, is going to get considerably better.

Many analysts believe that WP will see more success which is where it starts (with consumer interest). Many devs put up with Apple's flawed and constantly evolving policies because they believe there is financial success waiting on the other side which isn't entirely untrue.

the Windows Phone platform is going through some churn. With the new Windows 8, apps can share the marketplace so you can target the Windows installed base with your apps too. If you have already spent efforts developing the app, leaving it there seems worth it.

Unless you build an app optimized for small form-factor mobile touchscreen devices, in which case much of the same Windows installed base will find it more convenient to use on their Android and Apple smartphones.

1.3% of ~a billion strong device market can still be a lot of customers in a 13 million target device audience. Not as big as the other players by an order of magnitude, but many folks the size of app dev teams make livings off small town shops serving less than a thousand customers.

I don't know what markets Windows Phone is used in though.

if you look at a device like the Symbol MC50 and think about how much nicer it might be to integrate actual phone service with it, so there may be room in the market for Windows Phone PDT's and the like (the Symbol MC50 is basically a portable data terminal with WIFI capability running Windows Mobile.

Again it may depend on your market.

I'd imagine the allure of getting in early, perhaps?

It know it's one of those irrational "the things you can't say on TV are the things you can't say on TV" kind of situations, but sexual innuendo and financial software don't mesh.

I know, I thought it was a bit too much. They really can't see how some people might be offended?

Who would get offended by that? It's not even close to offensive.

If I heard a joke about naughty toys in a movie? Or some good friends made fun of me while out drinking and said something like that? Sure, no problem.

But in a finance app? Not okay. If I'm trusting this company's app to manage my finances, they should show a professional level of distance and respect, and not have some robot joking about my sex life. It's personal, it's potentially insulting, and it's in a context where this kind of subject should be left alone.

And that's saying nothing of the fact that in countries like Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Qatar, people are probably not anywhere near as open about sexuality as we are in the United States and Europe. If you want to market a product in those countries you should respect that.

> If you want to market a product in those countries you should respect that.

They should. But here's the problem: the subset of things that offend any country in the world, is the superset.

And the cultural and moral values applied, are not 'international'. They are extremely American. And some of the things it outlaws, may be a crucial part of the identity of another culture.

There are cultures that consider females not wearing a headscarf, to be offensive. There are cultures that treat blood (even in cartoon form) like the US would treat a nipple, like Germany. There are cultures, that will be offended, just because the store is open on Sunday.

I live in Holland. We consider Apple's App Store to represent Christian fundamentalism. That's how we call that set of moral values.

Apple risks getting sued for discimination and 'promoting hate', by publishing those guidelines. I wonder what they'll do, when they see that reaction.

I don't disagree, but in this case the sex toy joke was obviously not relevant to the product and could be easily removed.

No, it's not offensive at all. But software can cast a net across seven billion people and there are plenty who would be upset at the idea of even the slightest innuendo. It's irrational, it's not fun, and it's kind of a sad commentary on humanity, but these are the rules of the game.

Apple manages to struggle along with equally "offensive" jokes in Siri.

The rules themselves can also be offensive. I know Apple blocked the free streaming app of the public tv here in holland originally.

The government was pissed, and considering legislation because the fact the app was not allowed was considered to be offensive. The app is allowed now, as an 18+ app.

And honestly, thats what we should do. Sue, legislate and full out war of the whole concept of these kind of policies. Stores playing culture police sounds like part of a dysotopian nightmare.

And the rules are so so so American. Sex is bad. Violence is good. Lying about products is allowed, but oh dear if kids get to see a niple.

The weird thing is, i doubt Apple realizes just how offensive their guidelines are themselves. Ah well, thell have their day in court.

> No, it's not offensive at all....and it's kind of a sad commentary on humanity,

So what you are saying is that if it's not offensive to you then clearly everyone else is wrong?

I was close to being offended before I realized that it was supposed to be an offhand joke. And then I was still a little offended, and I can see how some people really would not like that said about them.

edit: i'm trying to explain what about it offends me. I guess that it's making assumptions about my sexuality which is pretty personal, or making light of my sexuality which is pretty important.

Wow, sorry to say but you're too prude for the internet. A church seems like a better place for you.

1. It's a finance app, not the internet. 2. I go to church on a regular basis, does that mean I can't visit the internet as well? 3. You seem very insensitive to people who are different from you. 4. I don't generally go around the internet whining about every little thing. But amishforkfight specifically asked who would be offended, and I said, me.

Note the country list: "Indonesia, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Iraq, United Arab Emirates"

The offensive content problem may even have something to do with the appearance of their "monster" character being confusingly similar to typical portrayals of the devil (red character with horns), which itself is can be an offensive image in many cultures regardless of context. That's why feedback is so important in these review processes, especially with something so subjective.

As an aside, the devil thing isn't isolated to non-Western countries either. Linda Branagan famously recalls one instance of where the BSD "Daemon" mascot, which also looks devil-like, nearly got her into real trouble in Texas: http://rmitz.org/freebsd.daemon.html

Reading this story, its interesting how similar Texas and some places in middle east can be. Dust, deserts, oil, lots of guns, and... fanatics (to avoid calling them fundamentalists).

Texas isn't a homogeneous entity. You'll find the same ridiculousness in rural areas of any state.

From the link:

Me: ``Oh, well, see, this isn't really the devil, it's just, well, it's sort of a mascot.''

Native: ``And what kind of football team has the devil as a mascot?''

I call BS.

College mascots that are devils, off the top of my head: - Duke Blue Devils - Arizona Sun Devils - Dusty, from a branch of Texas A&M

All of which have been there for decades.. and since Duke and Arizona are regular NCAA champion contenders, it wouldn't be a surprise.

Malaysian here. We do have a large, extremely devout conservative demographic here, so I can see why Microsoft would choose to be on the safe side. Plenty of foreign artistes were banned from holding concerts here due to perceived lack of morals.

On the other hand, our newspapers regularly publish raunchier content without much fanfare.

It's a fascinating place really.

It's all about age. Older people impose restrictions on younger people - because they can and enjoy it too.

Who goes to concerts? Younger people. Who reads newspapers? Older people.

In Malaysia's case, it's more because of the way race and by association religion is split almost 50-50 among the local population.

The result is that Malaysia has a large enough non-Muslim population to avoid becoming a full-blown theocracy like Saudi Arabia, but still have a large enough religious base to be considered a 'conservative' country.

>It's all about age. Older people impose restrictions on younger people - because they can and enjoy it too.

Yes, god forbid they do it because they know any better, because of experience and such...

Check your theory again in 20 years.

What I'll be thinking in 20 years is irrelevant. I'm an adult now and so I have the right to decide for myself right now.

Maybe not.

However, if that's the case, the review team should point that out, specifically.

It doesn't? I thought it was pretty funny.

Write your own app without sexual innuendo



Windows might not be worth it for most developers. But it can be very worth while for a few.

Some months ago we had someone post how well their app was doing on Windows Marketplace vs Android's and Apple's simply because there's so little competition. In Apple and Andriod's marketplaces their app was just one out of thousands but it was so much easier to find and advertise on Windows' Marketplace that the Windows phone sold the most units of all 3. Their windows phone app made the developer more money than the other 2 combined.

So it all depends on what you're developing and who your target market is. Despite the tiny market share and other problems, Windows Phone users aren't app-phobic. They want apps too.

I am envious of your patience and persistence. However, I'm confused about your refusal to censor yourself.

Rather than get rid of unnecessary syncing messages referring to sex toys you instead refused to publish the app in China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Iraq, United Arab Emirates? All because you didn't want to censor yourself? Who are you trying to impress? You're a business, not a freedom fighter. You're preventing people in other countries from enjoying your app. Why punish the people of a country based on the controlling manipulative laws their politicians put in place. Everyone's country is imperfect.

Chris, I think you missed the part that they don't know why the app is considered immoral. They're just making a guess that it's that particular message. If they take it out, and the app is still immoral, then what?

I can't speak for other countries, but for Malaysia, that sentence alone probably won't get the app into any trouble.

I have a feeling this is a case of somebody at Microsoft erring too much on the side of caution.

I have to agree. I have published 12 apps on Windows Phone and ported 2 to Android and 1 to iOS, and my experience has been exactly that. There is less competition for small developers. My apps are not earth shattering or new in any way, I was just learning how to code and thought it would be cool to try and earn a few extra dollars doing it. The one app I have that is available on all three platforms did substantially better on Windows Phone. In numbers, I got about 1500 to 2000 ad impressions a day for 6-7 months on wp7 which has settled down to about 500 a day after 1.2 years. Android has been consistent at around 1000 a day for 4 months, however the pay out from ad mob vs microsoft pubcenter has been dramatically less. As for iOS, it hit about 2000 impressions the first day and has dive bombed since then. Now steady at about 300 a day. Interestingly it pays the most and the clicks on the ads are massively higher than Android. Like 50 clicks per 300 impressions. I think on iOS the user as so many more options, why would they open my app? If I was a large shop, I would take that into consideration. For reference, the app is called Critter Cards- Toddler if anyone is interested.

Not the exact thing you're talking about:


From the post: Kik, a developer of cross-platform mobile communication apps, says something really strange happened when they launched their Windows Phone 7 application last June: user growth across the iOS and Android platform both accelerated significantly.

So I posted an app in the market place that got rejected the first time because I didn't include a privacy policy. I forget how much detail was included in the feedback when they told me this but it didn't take long for me to fix it and resubmit it. While I will agree it'd be nice if they sped the process up, its not slower than the competitions and it seems be about on par. Being on par isn't great though, and they should seek to excel and be better than apples process. Not sure how much that would help but its definitely a place to start. Anyways I'll be releasing another major update for my app soon so we'll see how it goes.

Does anybody have a positive experience with publishing to the Windows app store that they'd like to share?

I haven't published anything to the App Store or Google Play, so I can't compare, but I have nothing bad to say about publishing my app (and its updates) on the WP Marketplace.

That's a pretty worthless example with nothing to compare it against. Had the developers released it on iOS or Android and had more success on Windows Phone then you would have an argument otherwise you really don't.

So much for Balmer's "developers developers developers developers developers developers developers developers developers developers developers developers developers developers...."

Windows Phone 8: Gaining Apps, Software Developer Support: http://www.thevarguy.com/2012/07/12/windows-phone-8-apps-mob...

Windows 8 -- sorry if you bought into WP7... But this time...

If you read the article you'll discover that developers are interested but few are actually writing apps or activley planning to write apps for it.

I think that is a fair summary.

They say it's the same problem they would have with the apple/andorid store.

Big corp doesn't have nice ways of changing shit, this isn't specific to M$.

Apple can treat their developers like shit because they provide access to an enormous marketplace of users. If Microsoft thinks that they can operate the same way, the windows phone platform will be stillborn.

android ecosphere's pretty light-handed.

I think the exemption of GPL'd apps because of how they modify them is the primary one that makes me so angry...

To me it looks like when they published their app from the US, they got all valid reasons for a rejection. The fact that Toshl's app was present for an year with all these faults is not a good argument for being automatically accepted.

Remember it was first published under local Microsoft's own account. It probably wasn't even subject to the same review process.

Not impressed by this rant. The author admits some of the problems also happened on the App Store, and complains MS won't help them promote the app at this time. The reasons for which the udpated app was rejected at first seem valid to me (though specific info should have been given for the inappropriate content...).

Is it really expected that a developer should be able to move an app between accounts? Were they not aware of the limited audience of WP users? This should not come as a surprise after the second version of their app is done.

I will however agree the publishing portal is poorly implemented.

Walking barefoot on broken glass actually isn't that hard.


Could it be that the trouble with developing for a mobile OS lumped in the 'other' category is that it is not a major ecosystem?

iPhone and Android app stores are well-worn paths for hundreds of thousands of developers world wide - right or wrong?

Its not true when they write: World outside the few largest markets does not exist

I am from denmark (hardly a large market) and had no problems creating a dev account and publishing apps but they are correct that not supporting as many countries as apple or google is wierd, but in the beginning android did not want to sell apps to danes either.

To be honest the app itself looks rather awesome.

Not sure what's the best way to generate users on WP but I do hope you get enough users and continue to support the platform.

Probably one of the most aesthetic apps on WP7, I for one will be using this from now on.

VP of Windows Phone at Microsoft just responded to the article in the comments. Looks like the blogpost made quite a splash.

What's "Windows Phone" and why should anyone care?

Have they decided to drop Windows Phone yet?

At least when they do the screen won't shatter!!!!1

Link title should add "in Slovenia". It's more accurate, and it will save HNers time by giving a clue as to probable major contributor to the issues experienced.

Sorry, but that's just totally wrong. They had 1 or 2 issues caused by being a Slovenian company (not being allowed to publish apps, and the inability to switch the owner of an app). All the other complaints would apply to any new developer.

- Even after registering a US company they couldn't make an account for it, even with a US credit card.

- The certification process was horribly broken. The app had already been approved once, but now it suddenly got into a vortex of rejections. One reason at the time, rather than an up front list with everything wrong with it.

- They report the publishing tools as being crap.

- Microsoft just fucked over their WP7 developers and users by making sure that WP7 apps can't get any visibility in the app store.

That last point should be particularly chilling. Some people have argued that the horribly mishandled WP7->WP8 migration isn't that big a deal for existing WP7 users. They'd say that developers will continue targeting WP7 for everything except games that need native code, or apps that need hardware features like NFC. Well, clearly it's not so. If you want an app to have any visibility, you'll need to target Windows 8.

(This also looks like yet another giant middle finger directed at Nokia. They're going to be forced to sell WP7 on low end phones for years, since the minimum hardware specs of WP8 are just too high at the moment. And now it becomes clear that MS is actively trying to drive developers off these devices onto the non-existing ones.)

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