With the pervasive nature of computing now things are different. We used to call software ‘programs’ or routines and they used to run on mainframes. Then we started calling them Applications and they ran on midrange and desktop computers. Now, they’re just Apps connected to services, and they run on freaking everything.  This change has made it possible for individual developers working in their spare time at home to become very successful software vendors.  but there is a fundamental difference between a successful App, and just more marketplace fodder. Part of this is what you put your app on.

When we look at the three App Ecosystems, we have iOS, Android and Windows.  These mobile devices are changing the way people think of computing. In many cases people are happy with just a tablet running what traditional computer users would consider a restricted set of features. Things like an iPad, Galaxy Tab or Surface RT. While others need more horsepower or screen real estate.  After all, other than machines like the Surface Pro, tablets really aren’t geared for compiling code or mapping genomes. But the device people chose affects their computing lifestyle. For your App to be successful, it needs to be as much as part of that users lifestyle as possible.

The Android and iOS Briefcases

If you compare these three ecosystems, iOS and Android devices are like a briefcase. You can carry them around and put whatever you want that suits the things you like to do in them. But, it’s all pretty much just dumped into the briefcase. When you want to do something, use one of your apps, you have to dig around in the briefcase, find the right pocket, then take the app out and use it. When you want to use a different app, you drop the one you are using back in the case, dig around and get the other one, and use it. But, the experience between apps is completely different.

You may have two news reader apps that provide you access to the same news feeds, and they will look and operate completely differently. Your brain has to spend cycles recalling the differences, changing to suit the new app and remembering it’s version of searching for articles, or categorising feeds. Every app implements search differently. most of them can’t share data with your other apps, or social networks and the web. Even though they are on the same device, nothing works together. Everything is a very isolated experience. This legacy style of app interaction has become quite trite.

The Windows Lifestyle Devices

Now consider the Windows ecosystem. With a Windows 8 or Windows RT device, the Apps are integrated with the device. When you chose a Windows 8 / RT device, you are choosing something that you like, that fits your style, and is part of your digital lifestyle.  When you want to use an app, they are easy to find and start. When you are using one app, you can dock it, press Start and open a second app or more.  When you add an app to your device, you are adding features to your lifestyle device. This is because apps integrate with the device. Your apps can share information with each other in a consistent manner. Slide in from the right, tap Share. They print scan and play to other devices consistently, swipe in from the right, tap Devices and select what you want to send the document, image, song or movie to.

If you have two news apps, you already know how to search for articles even if you have never seen the app before. You swipe in from the right edge, and tap Search. If you want to get to the settings for your app, you already know how, you don’t have to hunt around figuring out where they put settings, or close the app, go back to the settings on the device change something then re-open the app. All you have to do is swipe in from the right edge and tap Settings. With everything being integrated, your app becomes part of the users lifestyle. Your app adds features to their lifestyle device. You aren’t just another thing they are going to drop into the briefcase. Your app enriches the whole device. This is the future of the computing lifestyle.

When you are writing apps for Windows (and trust me you should or in 18 months you will wish you had), be part of the users lifestyle. This is not so easy to do on Android and iOS. Your app will be briefcase bait. But in Windows, your app enriches the users computing lifestyle.  Users are catching on to this, get in early.