Sunday, January 1, 2012

The need for a different Marketplace

My grandmother always said that in the first day of a new year you should do what you would like to do the rest of the year. Even if the last year I didn't had a lot of time to blog I always wanted to so here I am wanting to start the year with my blog.
So what is wrong with the current version of the Marketplace? I could say nothing really, but there is so much that could be improved/changed. I am referring here to the marketplace of all major mobile platforms: Android, iOS and Windows Phone. They are more or less the same. Right now I have experience as a developer with Windows Phone marketplace and as a customer/consumer with all three of them. The marketplace was/is one of the greatest marketing/selling instrument in the software industry. In theory it gives the opportunity to everyone to sell their ideas/software all over the world. I say in theory because it enables developers to do that, but it doesn't make it easy.
One of the biggest problems I see for the moment is the number of applications. I am looking at the Microsoft "race" to catch up with the number of applications in the marketplace. In this race the number is the priority and the quality comes second. The result of this race is that the marketplace get filled with "junk". It is the same situation on all the three platforms, but today the analysts judge the success of a platform by the number of apps in the marketplace. Let's face it there are 500.000 application in the Apple marketplace and, maybe, not even 10% are quality apps. When I say junk I say applications that don't bring any innovation, written as fast as possible and thrown into the wild just to have an application out there. From my experience (I have a small application in the marketplace) in order to have a decent application there is a lot of work to be done in developing and maintaining it. Having so many applications in the marketplace "kills" the opportunity marketplace gives you if you have a quality app because it makes it almost invisible. If today you have a quality app and you publish it will be there with (I will take the Windows Phone marketplace numbers published by today 01.01.2012) other 451 applications published the same day. Does you application stand any chance? Some will say yes, I would say the more apps are in the marketplace the harder will be. You can only count on the people that are trying new applications. So inevitable a quality app will go down (maybe a little bit slower ) with the others and you have to find other methods to get it "visible". Another consequence of having a lot of applications published every day without a quality check is the degrade in the service offered to developers. I remember that when I wrote this post: the quality of certification the service was great. Things changed a little in the last two months (I think they had an increase in the number of applications to certify) the certification time jumped from two days to more than a week. More frustrating is seeing applications like this one published in "bulk":

So is it worth having thousands of applications without any quality filter (just rules on how to write your app)? I would prefer a quality marketplace, but maybe having both is better. It's like when you go to the market to shop: if you want products that cost less you go in one place, if you want quality products you go to another shop, if you just need one product you go in the first shop you find. The marketplace in the marketplace could improve a little bit on the quality part. It would need quality reviewers that would select the apps for the "quality" marketplace. It is easier than to go on all review websites and look for top applications on each platform. A place in the marketplace where you go when you don't know what you really want but you would like to try some quality applications. Apple, Google and Microsoft should not be the quality reviewers but continue to do what they do and then the best reviewers/websites on each platform should intersect their chosen applications (easy to say and hard to do). It is not a bullet proof mechanism.
Other suggestion regards the reviews specifically bad reviews. In this moment if you want to make a concurrent application go down you just go and slowly start to make bad reviews in all the marketplaces. (it is a situation I am dealing with). I would suggest that, if someone makes a bad review and give one or two stars, he should be "forced" to write a reason. This should help the developers understand the problem, and, if it's not true at least ask the review to be removed. Also the reviews should be disabled when the application is hidden. For the hidden applications the reviews don't make any sense.
Being able to publish a beta version of the application in the marketplace is an awesome feature, but in this moment, for me is almost useless. You have to find your beta testers, but it is a difficult task. So there should be an "open" beta option. This way anybody that wants to test the beta and has a link to it can do it with a limit of 100 users (more or less like the hidden apps but limited to a number of users).
In my opinion 2011 was a great year for Windows Phone even if the market shares don't reflect it . The 7.5 version is a great step forward and I hope that 2012 will bring us another big step. I still think that the application list is "ugly" and not really usable, we need some way to group applications (maybe an evolution of the "folder" concept).
I really hope Microsoft will make Apollo an EVOLUTION and not a REVOLUTION.

Happy New Year to all my readers! A better year to everyone.