Mike Isaac

Recent Posts by Mike Isaac

Social Apps Are Late to the Windows 8 Party

Microsoft had a big day last week with the launch of Windows 8, the single largest change to the company’s legacy operating system since 2009.

But social apps — one of the most popular app categories — aren’t showing up to Microsoft’s launch party.

Neither Facebook nor Twitter have built applications for the Windows 8 platform. Neither have other popular applications like social discovery app Foursquare or Quora, the question-and-answer Web site.

The largest critique from early users of Microsoft’s new release is the paucity of apps available for the platform. Windows 8 uses a different kind of “modern style” application, optimized to work across tablets and smartphones as well as the desktop. And not every third-party company has been willing or able to devote resources toward building a version of their app for Windows 8.

It looks like at least some of the companies never had any plans to bring native apps to the Windows 8 launch in the first place. Twitter on Tuesday announced that it was in the process of building a “great” native application for Windows 8, though didn’t anticipate releasing it for another few months.

Facebook, too, hasn’t built a native app for Windows 8, and has not yet announced any plans to do so.

Quora continues to focus on the most popular and growing platforms, iOS and Android, according to a post from Quora product designer Anne Halsall. Same goes for Microsoft’s mobile platform: “We have a few things on our list to get to before we start looking at Windows Phones, but I’m hopeful that someday we will,” Halsall wrote.

No response from Foursquare when I asked if something is in the works.

To be fair, Windows 8 threads some social functionality into the OS itself, much as Apple did with its recent Mountain Lion update. Users can connect their Facebook and Twitter accounts to their Windows 8 profiles, and can update and browse statuses from within the “people” application. And obviously we’re able to access all of these applications through the Internet Explorer 10 browser that comes stock with the OS.

But this misses the point. Part of Microsoft’s pitch for the new software is interoperability among multiple platforms — from desktop to tablet to smartphone. And it’s specifically optimized for touch, hence the slick tile-based interface. The whole charm of building an OS that operates smoothly across platforms is having apps that take advantage of that very capability. If I’m forced back into the browser for this, there’s no real advantage to using Facebook on Windows 8 over any other platform.

It is perhaps a smart move for third-party social developers to wait and see what sort of traction Windows 8 has before pushing out an application for the platform. After all, devoting resources to building for a new platform costs time, money and (wo)manpower. Outside of hiring dedicated Windows developers, that would mean pulling people away from working on the major platforms like iOS and Android.

Still, Windows is the most-used desktop operating system in the entire world. The new OS has already been installed on more than four million systems in the first week since it went on sale (now just another 396 million to go.) If the demand is there, it’s a safe bet that the apps will come.

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