Microsoft recently unveiled the Windows Phone App Studio, a tool to make it easier to develop apps for Windows Phone smartphones. Microsoft is hoping it will help expand the volume and variety of apps available in the Windows Phone Store, but it's an especially useful tool for businesses that want to use Windows Phone.
What's that? You're not a programmer? Good news, then--no coding skills are required to use the Windows Phone App Studio. It's a free, Web-based service (currently in beta) that provides a variety of templates and essentially lets you drag and drop design and function elements to create an app without writing a line of code.
A blog post from Microsoft explains, "Getting started is easy--just create a Microsoft account, choose your template, and begin adding your content. Windows Phone App Studio does the rest. When you're [sic] app is ready to go, you can download the app to your own phone, or share it with others by publishing it to the Windows Phone Store."
Offering the app through the Windows Phone Store still requires a developer account--but Microsoft is offering those at a discount right now as well. For those who do know a thing or two about programming, the Windows Phone App Studio will also produce the source code and allow developers to incorporate more advanced capabilities.
From a platform perspective, additional apps in the Windows Phone Store shouldn't really matter. Bragging rights over having the most apps are irrelevant when the vast majority of of apps available are useless. With about 150,000 apps and counting, the Windows Phone Store has the standard bases covered already.
From a business perspective, though, it's not about having lots of apps--it's about having the right apps. The iOS and Android platforms may each have nearly a million apps available in their respective stores, but that's not helpful if your employees need to use a specific custom application to get their jobs done, and you need to equip them with a mobile app that enables them to be productive on the go.
You can develop your own iOS or Android apps or hire a developer to do it for you. Windows Phone has some unique business advantages, though, in terms of its tight integration with the Microsoft services and applications most businesses depend on, and the Windows Phone App Studio makes creating a custom app a simple, point-and-click effort that takes less time, and costs less money, than developing custom apps for another platform.