When I got up this morning, I read the following e-mail from The Windows Phone Apps Team which I had received some time that night:
"Thankyou for your interest in the Windows Phone SDK 8.0 Developer Preview program, designed to help our active Windows Phone developers ready their apps for Windows Phone 8. Unfortunately, you were not selected for participation at this time; […]"
Being the grumpy developer I am, I'm not prepared for that kind of news before I even had the first cup of coffee, so I immediately posted the following on Twitter:
That produced a bit of responses, and looking around I realized that others are in the same situation. But instead of continue the whining, I'll try to reason a bit why Microsoft is doing a bad job with their selection process.
When Todd Brix first posted about the preview and how it would be a closed program negative comments started to drop in immediately. I decided to wait for the real deal that came on September 12th. By that time Microsoft clearly had realized that developers were really unhappy with its decision and a full paragraph of explanation and excuse on why they're not making the SDK publically available yet was added. Fair enough, the arguments seemed reasonable to me. The application process – not so much.
The decisive detail is that the whole program very much focuses on applications. To be more precise, one single of your apps that you could choose to apply for the program. This is also reflected by the fact that the notification email was sent by the "Windows Phone Apps Team". Not the dev team, or the phone team, the apps team.
Not knowing which of my apps would provide the most potential interest for Microsoft, I simply chose one that uses a quite large range of the phone's features. Apparently, that didn't hit a sweet spot in the review process and I got rejected. The reasons of course remain unknown to me – did the application not have the feature set Microsoft is interested in for testing? Is it because it was only downloaded a few thousand times? Maybe the reason is I had created it so flawlessly that it will run without any problems on Windows Phone 8 (gotta always keep up your self confidence :-)).
But, let's come back to the point about applying with a particular app only for a moment. I suspect that maybe that decision was made (pure speculation here) to have the possibility for an automated selection process. You can simply choose apps that are wide spread and downloaded by a lot of users, or analyze applications for particular APIs that you want developers to test – no human interaction would be required for that.
But… what about all the other people in the community that have no popular apps, maybe not even a single app in the marketplace so far, but still could provide valuable feedback and have dedicated a good amount of their life to the plattform? Let me give you some examples:
We have a lot of people that work on open source components or frameworks for the phone. I'm not necessarily talking about my own projects which – again – only have downloads in the very low thousands all in all, but some guys that are really contributing much more. Is it less worth to maintain a component that is used by hundreds of apps in the Marketplace than having an own, single successful app?
What about those people that write articles, blog posts, provide help in forums, people that appear on conferences and produce webcasts, give trainings on phone topics? They obviously have to know the platform or at least parts of the APIs by heart, they often have received and collected feedback on problematic areas, bugs, convoluted topics of the development environment, and provided workarounds to others. Those people are multipliers in the community, and I'm pretty sure that some of them have a more accurate picture of what's going on with developers than Microsoft ever will. Why wouldn't you be interested in feedback from that folks? Because… they don't have a suitable app in the Marketplace? Seriously?
A guy on Twitter posted: "Someone leak that SDK please". Obviously people have different motivation to get their hands on these things early. Some are just curious, want to ride on the edge out of pure interest or other reasons. I think that those with successful, popular apps probably have the motivation to keep up the success on the new platform version, to get a smooth transition to keep the money flow high - do you really want them only to test your platform? Because there's this other group of people with more idealistic reasons. Some simply enjoy the platform, and want it to be a success and contribute improvements to it simply out of personal interest. I, on the other hand, like reviews and analyses of architectures, design ideas, code. And apparently I have a talent for letting software crash with nasty bugs by just looking at it :). For me, getting access to a leaked version of some SDK is of no use – because that would disentitle me from saying "look at the mess you did here" to someone, which I truly enjoy.
The current selection process is not only locking out important people and their valuable feedback, it's potentially driving them away from the platform completely. It's all about showing some appreciation for your biggest fans, Microsoft.