Will Xcode Be Coming To Windows Soon?

Clearly Apple has shown their affinity for putting software out there for the Windows crowd. To date Apple has produced nearly a half dozen software applications for the Windows platform. These offerings include Quicktime (and the Pro version), iTunes, Software Update, and most recently, Safari. So what is to be Apple’s next foray into the Windows software arena? Let’s take a deeper look at the situation.

With the exception of Quicktime Pro, the software in question is all freely available to Windows users. Offering these programs up with no obligation creates the perfect opportunity for would-be Apple consumers to test the waters and get a feel for what ‘the other half’ are raving about.

iTunes is obviously a companion to the popular iPod music player (though I’m not sure ‘popular’ cuts it with more than 100 million sold in the past 5+ years…), but gives a decent view into the simplicity that the marriage of Apple hardware and software are known for. The iPod has proven to be somewhat of a ‘gateway drug’ in terms of converting users of the mp3 player to Apple computer owners. (see, Halo Effect as a Business Model)

Safari (version 3, beta) was released to the public not quite a month ago on both the OS X and Windows platforms. The Windows version was immediately found to be quite buggy, but was just as quickly patched-up. It is beta software afterall, and that’s the purpose for which it’s been released! But now Windows users fed-up with Internet Explorer can get a taste of the speed and ingenuity that Apple offers in it’s wide array of software products on the Apple platform.

So back to the question at hand: What may be Apple’s next software release for the Windows platform?

The knee-jerk answer might be, “Well iLife of course!” There are however, a couple problems I see with this answer. First off, it costs money. Granted, $79 for the amazing range of functionality and consumer-power-tools that iLife includes (iPhoto, iTunes, iMovie HD, GarageBand, and iWeb) is a steal, but when Windows and 3rd party developer offer similar software on the Windows platform (in many cases, free or nearly so), it may be a hard sell convincing a Windows-user to plunk down the money. The second, and much larger problem, is that iLife is so simple because of it’s tightly-knit connection with the Apple-developed hardware platforms. The user experience is heightened ten-fold when all their hardware works seemlessly with their software. Without direct control over the wide array of hardware that Windows users are working on, iLife may seem more like a black eye than a reason to take the next step into the Apple World.

iWork may be slightly more viable as a Windows software offering from Apple. There’s less hardware integration to hold it back, but it relies quite heavily on Core OS X functionality, not to mention the tie-ins with the iLife apps. The design capabilities are extremely easy and fun to use, but there could be an awful lot lost in translation without the operating system and ‘companion’ applications support found on the OS X platform. Oh, and it’s also $79, so there’s that fiscal barrier-to-entry yet again.

There are a host of other applications that Apple puts out that may be hits on Window as well – Final Cut, Motion, Shake to name a few – but I believe there are three keys to the most plausible answer. The software in question needs:

  1. To be interesting to a large cross-section of the user population
  2. To be free, or nearly so
  3. To create a desire to move to the Apple platform completely

Based on these criteria, I believe Xcode will be the next software offering from Apple for the Windows operating system. Software developers are becoming a dime-a-dozen (not a bad thing, mind you) and the number of Windows devs around must be tremendous. (At WWDC 07 there were many comments about the huge number of developers – new to the platform – that were there.) Xcode is currently offered for free under the Apple Developer Connection, so it wouldn’t require potential developers to ante-up just to see if they liked it. And most importantly, the great tools that Apple builds to hook-into the vast power and functionality of OS X should be a great argument for a developer to make the Switch and pounce on a new Mac.

I realize there are many more requirements behind the scenes for something like Xcode to work as intended, on Windows, but I wouldn’t put it outside Apple’s reach. They’ve shown their desire and commitment to powering their company forward, and I feel Xcode on Windows is the next big step they’ll take in doing so.