Guest Post: For Surface to succeed, app development will be key

Editor’s Note: This guest post comes from Kerry Butters, a contributor for the consumer information site Broadband Genie.  A writer with a passion for all things technology, Butters specializes in security, gadgets and social media.

There’s been much speculation that Microsoft’s upcoming line of Surface tablets could be the devices that will finally pose a challenge to Apple’s dominance of the tablet market. Analytics firm Gartner predicts the iPad will retain a 61.4% share for the whole of 2012, a feat considering the stiff competition being waged by Amazon’s Kindle Fire line of devices and Google’s hyped Nexus 7.

The success of any mobile device really lies within its app store and Apple, Google, and to a lesser extent Amazon, have established rich app store ecosystems. In order for Microsoft to make the Surface devices a success, they will not only have to be great tablets with attractive price points, Surface will need to attract developers. As we have seen with RIM, this isn’t necessarily an easy feat — even their promise of a $10,000 bonus for successful developers wasn’t enough to attract more apps to the flagging Blackberry platform.

Currently, iOS supports more than 700,000 apps for the iPhone and the iPad. Google Play, the official Android market has more than 600,000. Meanwhile, although Windows Phone has just passed the 100,000 app milestone, the RT version of Surface will only run Metro apps and the Windows 8 version will only run existing Windows applications.  Surface devices will need an app ecosystem able to rival Google’s and Apple’s, especially if the RT version of the tablet is to be viable. However, according to a recent report from The Register, it seems that only pre-approved developers will be able to make metro-style apps.

Although the report suggests that this restriction may only apply to Windows smartphones, with Microsoft not releasing more developer information until Sept. 12, the company’s actions seem to be indicating that it is prepared to take its time to establish its app ecosystem. Thus it seems that Microsoft’s attitude might end up being the deciding factor in the fate of its Surface devices.

The open, easy to work with Android platform is the most popular mobile OS in the world for a reason — despite its security issues — and Surface will suffer if Microsoft makes it too difficult for developers to make Metro-style apps, considering there will be new coding standards to get to grips with, even for existing Windows app developers.

All-in-all, it’s difficult to see how Surface is going to make a real difference to the market in the short-term, and only time will tell if Microsoft’s venture will eventually dethrone main rival and market leader Apple.