Microsoft shooting itself in the foot by withholding the Windows Phone SDK?

We're only a month away from Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 being released, but is Microsoft shooting itself in the foot? Windows Phone Central has had access to the Windows Phone SDK for a few days now, but what about every established developer on the platform? Unfortunately this doesn't appear to be the case - as our Jay Bennet knows too well.

We're not entirely sure why Microsoft hasn't released the SDK to the community yet, which makes the upcoming launch a fairly tight deadline for developers who wish to create new apps or update existing ones that are already available on the Store. But there's another issue. Windows 8 is set to be released and will need apps and games at launch to have a successful start and build momentum.

You want access? You can't handle the access!

Fellow Windows Phone developer Bill Reiss, has published an insightful article on his blog going into detail how Microsoft is potentially causing issues that could hurt the Windows Store. The Windows Store is open for all developers to submit content to, but Reiss notes Microsoft has hurt relations with Windows Phone developer community, which could play an important role in the immediate advancement of the Windows Store.

"The holding back of the Windows Phone 8 SDK has been another issue. Loyal Windows Phone developers (who are very likely to be working on Windows 8 apps) are not happy with the limited access to the SDK. Unless Microsoft announces some incredible new secret feature for Windows Phone which warranted all of this secrecy there’s likely to be an all out revolt."

The company has been extremely secretive when it comes to Windows Phone 8, especially with press not being able play with the loaded operating system on new hardware, but is this secrecy coming at a price?

Reiss continues to explain how Microsoft could progress from its current predicament - from opening up new developer contests and giveaways to providing a crisp and clear message what technologies will be supported in the future.

"Make an announcement that every new Windows RT device sold will come with a $20 (or $10 or whatever) credit for buying apps. Developers will be encouraged to create quality apps to get a piece of that pie."

We can't help but agree with Reiss' suggestions, but will Microsoft take action? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Source: Bill Reiss

Rich Edmonds
Senior Editor, PC Build

Rich Edmonds was formerly a Senior Editor of PC hardware at Windows Central, covering everything related to PC components and NAS. He's been involved in technology for more than a decade and knows a thing or two about the magic inside a PC chassis. You can follow him on Twitter at @RichEdmonds.

  • I was denied early access to the SDK, guess my app isn't popular enough.
  • Retracted.
  • I'm sure it is not feasible to release the SDK without the secret parts and release the rest later. But the continued delays are starting to become worrisome. Announce and let's get the show on the road!
  • They are letting the iPhone hype train die down. 
    It makes sense.  Let the iPhone launch.  Let the iPhone soak up all the good and bad press.  Right now if they announced WP8 it would just get lost in the iPhone noise.
    Then launch WP8 when websites will actually dedicate a week or two to WP8.
    In addition they probably want to pull an Apple.  Announce WP8 and have it available to purchase a week or so later.
  • I agree with you ryuh3d.
  • +1 the only thing a press release now would do is give eyefone fanatics fuel.
  • +1 not to mention the release of wp8 is closer to Christmas looks to me perfect for MS to do there moves. No hype over any other high end device plus Christmas everyone wants the new gadgets it's a win win for M$
  • +100
  • yes but without quality "stable" apps we will get panned again by Apple and Andriod.
  • I really dont know what delays you are talking about?????. The OS is right on schedule and they have already explained the SDK, so i dont see any delays in anything to do with WP8
  • +1
    (So when will WPcentral update this horrible comments implementation and add +/- features?)
  • If they really have a big announcement planned next month, I support them keeping things close to the chest until then. We're all aware of the dangers of releasing information too early. Also, as history has shown time and time again, even the most controlled releases have leaks that could jeoperdize any advantage they hope to have. I think Microsoft has learnt from this (and from Apple's success at keeping things a secret), and are not risking anything by releasing the entire SDK. At least, that's my thought on this. I understand developers are frustrated by not getting access to the entire SDK, but they'll have plenty of time to develop apps when it becomes publicly available.
  • I was about to say the same thing about Apple. They have a long history of keeping iOS iterations a state secret until they're ready to present them. Doesn't that include SDK access? If not, how have they been able to release the SDK to devs while keeping features a secret?
  • A $99 annual developers account gets you access to the SDK several months before the next version of iOS releases. No deep, dark state secret.
  • Right, but in the past how HAS Apple kept changes in iOS secret until they were ready to present them if devs already had access to the latest SDK months before said presentation? It sounds as though access to the SDK wouldn't reveal much of anything.
    The whole thing doesn't seem to make much sense.
  • The scarry thing is that the SDK has leaked and so far no one has found evidence of a big surprise  At this point if the end October comes and there is no big surprise that will become the story.
  • that is not the final SDK and i would imagine the one that has leaked is still locked down. If MS released the full final SDK to all devs right now, everything would leak within the first hour of someone loading up the SDK, not what MS wants. I completly understand why they are doing this. The devs that do have access right now are ubder very strict NDA. Just be patient guys the goodness will all be revealed in October.
  • Pretty sure they'll keep it locked up until it's done. Obviously it ain't done yet.
  • You're probably right, but I also think they really don't want people to deduce the features by reading through the SDK well in advance of the official product launch. We've seen this done a few months ago where all the tech sites gave a run-down of all the features from the leaked SDK. While it's great for us avid enthusiats, it can be disastrous for Microsoft.
  • We received the sdk, and we are quite pleased with it.
    There are great new areas to explore, maybe not 100% complete, but enough until the coming official full release.
    I don't see great problems for MS due to this limitations, wp8 devices can still count on 100.000 apps, WinRT store started from 0, that's why the Win8 SDK was released first.
  • Pretty dissapointed by the limited release of the SDK so far. Got some app ideas i'd like to start working on, to get something into the store early.
  • You will, hold on to your ideas.. Chances are those ideas might change for the better..
  • You can start with current SDK to prototype compatible code parts, the final release is near the corner and you will easily port your code there :)
  • The current SDK doesn't have any of the new APIs.  The longer they wait to launch it, the longer it will be until there are any quality WP8 apps available.
  • Does your app use 100% new api only ? Sure...? No UI, no is, no live API? If you plan to use c++ only, start with w8 SDK ;)
  • I think you'll still have plenty of time to work on your ideas once the SDK is released. The main challenge Microsoft faces is trying to build momentun without prematurely publicizing any big ideas they might have. The way I see it (and this is my speculation), they plan on building momentum by releasing their big ideas (and the SDK) as close to launch day as possible. This gives the competition little time to adapt and incorporate into their products and beating them to the punch. I'm certain all of us would do this if we were in Microsoft's shoes.
  • You got that right
  • I really don't know much about building apps and whatnot, but can't you develop an app for Windows 8 first and then easily port that to Windows Phone 8?  I hear it's a fairly simple process to do and the SDK is already out for Windows 8.  Unless yours is a phone specific app... like needing GPS or something, I would think developing for both Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 is the smartest way to go anyway... like how iPad and iPhone apps are the same download.
  • It is not that easy. WP8 SDK is a different platform (thus different code projects are needed) than W8. You might be able to share code between the two, but I doubt you'll be able to share UI directly. I would think that if you took your "snap view" UI and put that into the WP8 app, that might work.
    I don't have the SDK but someone I know does, and you have to create separate projects for both Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8; that basically means you can't easily share stuff between them.
  • Let me be the first to say "NO".. Microsoft needs headlines, and all you information hogs can wait. I hate it when sites spoils the info. I want the information to hit me like it does when I watch E3. I want to be wowed. I want to hear a whole group of people applauding and giving Microsoft credit for innovation.. Look at what happened to the Apple keynote.. That does not happen often. I'm very happy Microsoft is keeping features under lock and key. I just hope, for Microsoft sake, its worth the wait
  • I do not agree.  Developers probably want access to the SDK so they can use all the new WP8 APIs to code apps.   If they wait until a week before they launch devices there won't be anything but crappy WP7 apps.  The MS app certification process can take a week or more alone....
  • there will be WP8 coded apps on release, not just 7.5 apps in the store. All this bitching and whinning just makes me laugh so hard.
  • I'd say JayTBennet is a pro developer (wpcentral app) who deserves access to the do probably dozens of others who simply don't have access. The more I think about it, the more this is looking like an underdog goof-up on Microsoft's part. Even if there's something epic in store with WP8 that hasn't been revealed yet, and a big *if* given there's no momentum on MS' part to push it, why clutch onto it so close to the release?  Anyways... even if WP8 was all that, it's not going to translate into solid sales until the OEMs and carriers push it to the consumer. Despite whatever limitations WP7 has, it would've done great on the market had the other OEMs pushed it as hard as Nokia. Even if Samsung and HTC end up with several million WP sales, the overall WP marketshare might have been 2-3 times bigger than present.  
  • I'll be honest I really thought MS would grant me access so I could work on the WP8 version, but no such luck. I'll just focus on v3 of our app
  • If MS had granted you access to the SDK, everything within it would have been plastered all over the internet. thus MS did not grant you access.
  • Posting NDA leaks on this site might make things a little harder for you working with MS. ;)
  • WP Central is a great app for us enthusiasts.  However, I assume MS is focusing on the core apps like Facebook, Twitter, 3rd party Xbox Live games, things that new users from other platforms look for.    
  • Yes they are. What's the point of hiding everything when every major player already released their new phones. The problem of hiding the sdk for so long is that slowly people will lose all interest in the OS.
  • My friend, I'm sure your not blinded by the immense amount of competition out there. Its in Microsoft's best interests to keep things under raps close enough to street date.. If you give it all away now, you might as well tell Apple and Google.. Here you go, have fun.. I support Microsoft in having to save the best for the keynote.. Microsoft is taking this right out of Apple's playbook..
  • But the problem is that with no public sdk available, only top devs get extra time for app development, others have to sit and wait. This will lead to very limited number of apps that would take full use of the features which in turn leads to very limited number of apps available at start. And what stops people from trying WP? Exactly.. Apps. And its not like their competitors would integrate new features overnight to battle WP.
  • People will be more excited once they know later on. If features are all leaked, then that kills the whole purpose of keeping features from being leaked. I understand everyone wants the SDK in full, but that will spoil the announcement late October.
  • As far a s the give away goes, MS has plenty of those and contests and I don't see them stopping that trend. I believe they should at least give more detail, but on the other hand, if you're trying to keep a secret you shouldn't because it will surely be leaked
  • This conportament from Microsoft should be a push for developer to realise application to both WP7/8 with the actual SDK
  • Microsoft does not benefit from leaked information..
  • At this point the withholding of anything is stupid.
  • I tend to differ.. The time will come.. Its not too far off..
  • I love wpcentral, but I would not give access to any web site app developer access to features the can jeopardize information that should be kept away from being leaked out on the web. So as much as I support you guys, I say NO. Sorry, wait till then.. Your not going to hate on Microsoft. It may build excitement. No more spoilers..
  • The thing is, I'm not employed by WPCentral, so would be perfectly able to withhold it, of course I do see your reasoning and imagine that MS thought something similar
  • Yes, as much as I prefer the real web to an app. The iPhone just taught someone's daughter in my office how to play the piano, not the awesome app, but the iPhone. Its magical. WP8 can't be at launch if we have such a long delay of solid apps.
  • the app did that the iPhone didn't.
  • Not to the end user simpleton, it is one and the same.
  • We say the app did it, but let's say it was my mother, she would say iPhone did it.
  • Well at this point it better be something that makes it worth it.  They have been pretty awful at keeping secrets so if this is something big and awesome, I'll be the first to give them their props on pulling this off.
    But we still have no word on a reveal date, right?  I'd imagine it'll be something big as no US carrier info or release dates have been announced either and are probably all being saved for that date. 
  • There trying to be more like apple... Keep it quiet until its out
  • Yup.. Great idea
  • It's a tried and tested formula that has continually succeeded for Apple in building momentum and generating excitement. I don't blame Microsoft for adopting it!
  • But apple can do that with such a foothold in the market. I love WP, but it needs a strong push in the beginning to get people to use it and get others to leave their ecosystems. Once it has a strong hold, then it can pull an Apple.
  • To those who cited "the competition" as to why Microsoft keeps mum: Do you realize that Apple has JUST released iOS6 and that a new version with features possibly(!) copied from Microsoft won't be released before 9/2013? And if you mean Google I think they don't need "ideas" from Microsoft. Also Jelly Bean was released quite recently actually, so no harm from there neither.
    In short: I don't understand it.
    Anyway, I hope that the top devs who already work with the WP8 SDK are creating something which will be maintained. In contrast to the game devs who ported old but popular iPhone games to WP7 and WP7.5 but somehow forgot to make them feature equal to the iPhone version and also forgot to maintain the apps...
  • As a developer with the WP8 SDK I can say there's no need for anyone to worry. You have the Win8 SDK and you can use .NET just as you would WP7. An early release would be great but for developers this should be nothing new. They also have to focus on polishing the platform for release because if they get flooded with app submissions before its even out, that bogs the entire process. There's greater access to devs with the WP8 SDK but that also means greater potential to screw things up.
  • +1
  • While the lack of an SDK is a bad thing what is even more a shot in the foot is the lack of advertisement. If they advertised the upcoming phones half as much as they have been advertising Internet Explorer 9 on TV, then this phone would be a far larger hit that it is going to be. An app store with some apps in it would be a boon as well at launch. They need to get some of the big apps over as well. Google+, Pandora, etc.
  • As advertising is geared towards mass consumers, I think it is too early to be pushing out expensive marketing for phones that people can't touch, see, and most importantly buy. Even if the advertisements came out now and drove people in to the stores to inquire about the new phones, its a safe bet that staff in those stores couldn't speak with any authority on the upcoming phones and would just push them to get an android or iPhone then and there, as opposed to waiting. Personally, I think it would be far more effective to advertise once the products are actually available for typical consumers as opposed to those who might pre-order an unlocked version on a website.
  • Nope. Backward compatibility.
  • What is the deal with Microsoft? Its seems fairly clear that they need to open up. Competition may be fierce but it looks like they really are shooting themselves in the foot right from go.
  • Does anyone else laugh really hard at Ballmer memes? this one got me good. haha.  I'm interested to see if MS can hold that wow factor they have been talking about for this whole time.  Maybe I will get a free magical unicorn in my box with my lumia 920 and suface tablet that sings and dances.  Wow factor right there.
  • Let's not forget wp7-7.8 apps will run on wp8 even if the full SDK hasn't been out it's not like we will have more users on wp8 than on wp7 on the first months. Honestly not everyone can upgrade right away & there is not a lot of user that didn't go for the iPhone just to wait for the lumia 920.
  • Actually the fact that the SDK is withheld to "qualified" developers is a good thing. Making people sign NDA's tends to make people think twice about running their jaws.
  • Would like to read an article about the leaked SDK that focuses on the development process not on features in the emulator. How stable and final does the preview SDK feel? Is there support for native code already? How do unchanged WP7 apps run in the WP8 emulator? Maybe the answer to all those speculations can be found there? I think there isn't a giant hidden feature in WP8. What we know so far is already amazing. With great marketing they finally can compete in a big way.
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  • Richard,
    Why does your article refer to the Windows Store and then reference the Windows Phone 8 SDK?  Are you confusing terms? 
  • I think it will not necessarily be a single "zOMG!" feature, but rather, a combination of features that will make for a powerful and complete mobile OS. They already said, unlike Siri, that Tell-me will not only work at the OS level, but work at an individual app level. By re-branding Zune Music and Video into Xbox, it will allow them to implement similar voice commands as Xbox/Kinect. Familiar commands like "Xbox play" "Xbox pause" etc... We might see quirky features like being able to watch a video on an actual home screen tile. Yea, not exactly the best way to watch a video but will serve the purpose of showing off the power and flexibility of WP8.
  • "...there's likely to be an all out revolt".
    Lol!  What a drama queen.
  • This might not matter in the end as Reuters is reporting that Nokia is pricing the Lumia 920 higher than the Galaxy SIII.
    Article here:
    With such a miniscule market share the key is to win hearts & minds as well as marketshare. This means selling your product cheaper than the other guys. As most people associate windows phone with nokia if they price their handsets higher than comparable android sets in the US it will kill the platform. As if windows phone needed yet another obstacle to overcome now the biggest and best known device manufacturer is going to make price yet one more consideration for the buying public? As it is now this upcoming launch will be a sink or swim proposition for microsoft and the entire windows phone platform. If they don't do it now they never will and the platform will be dead in the water.
    I want the windows platform to not just survive but thrive, and this coming from a loyal and happy android user. I sure hope microsoft and the rest of the parties involved like nokia, htc etc.. don't f*ck this up!
  • actually if you check your facts at launch the s3 is priced higher than the 920 also the iphone is priced higher at launch than the 920, and the 920 does a lot more than both of those phones in the US the price will be lower than what they retail for in europe.
  • Prices might be lower for North America.
  • Microsoft is doing right by holding back
  • Give me 20 bucks to buy apps please. And i hour there is a secrature. That would be good.
  • There is a saying "The best is always saved for last". Samsun showed the Galaxy S 0.3, Crapple showed the iPhoney 5, now WP8 is the best to show them all up!
    If they showed everything now it would take fhe momentum of buying WP8 when it comes out.
  • I'm a huge WP user, but even I'm getting worried at this point. The app gap is real, I have three apps that now has me using my S3 more than my Titan 2. Major apps. Get the SDK out there and get some developers moving already. If there is no big feature reveal then I'm truly worried at that point.
  • The only thing that bothers me about all this is how some developers are treated like royalty with early access to developer devices, the Preview SDK, etc. To me it seems like there's a "cool kid's club" in regards to the WP developer community, and then... there's everyone else. If you're not in the "club" you miss out on all the cool toys like the SDK. They'll gladly invite you to the party (so you can request early access to the SDK) but will shoot you down if you don't have what it takes (not enough app downloads, sales, etc). Cool club? Sounds like one to me :s This could've been handled better and that whole mindset needs to go. They need to start levelling the playing field now so it's not so obvious (at least for me). As a developer I don't want to know there's double standards so sort it out MS. Give the "cool kids" monetary, discount, and other perks but give the development tools/SDK to everyone. It's not exactly mind blowing in its current iteration anyway. Peace out yo! XD
  • Nope it's definitely not a cool kids club. It's usually a metric based off of how downloaded/popular your app is and how well you can and have showcased the wp7 ui and platform.
    There's no politics or inside info and if you stop to think of the logistics, it costs MS time and money to be working with devs on unreleased sdks. Patience.
  • Witholding the SDK because of the iphone app is absurd. People who want the iphone will get the iphone, and those of us who want WP still have to hide in the shadow of the iphone? Who cares what this big secret is? realease the damn thing so we can grow the eco-system.. you know the #1 thing everyone who does not have a WP complains about?
    A better ecosystem is greater than any secret thing hidden in the SDK. More app = more easy for android and iphone users to switch. When they go to buy the iphone and there's no competition to compare with guess what they are gonna get? an iphone!
    The only logical conclusion is that it's not ready.
  • It doesn't matter. By giving access to the "big boys" first MS can guarantee that the first wave of WP8 specific apps are of passable to excellent quality.
    The are still over 100k+ wP7.x apps available to download for WP8 users. New users won't even now that they are missing something, they don't even know what SDK stands for or all the feature set changes.
    Lets face it, there are a lot of trash apps in the store, a lot of "my first app" attempts. Made only the more noticible by certain categories that don't have a depth of mediocre to good alternatives. So if we can avoid the unnecessary NFC tip calculators from popping up for a few weeks its only going to make the ecosystem look stronger.
  • It is probably just not ready.  I think we have to face the facts that Microsoft REALLY needs to push this out there this holiday season and they will push it out ready or not.  That means it may take a few months for everything to be working smoothly and the ecosystem to start picking up.  It also means that the media will try and label it as a failure, but this time next year it will probably be picking up and time will tell.