Brainstorming skinning for 2011

Published on Saturday, October 30, 2010 By Brad Wardell In OS Customization

I’m slowly putting together the 2011 business plan for Stardock. Where to budget what.  It’s a difficult challenge this year because the Windows market isn’t just fragmented but the tech market is fragmented (iOS has become a serious venue for development).

Our business model for skinning has slowly broken down over the years. Years ago, we would come up with app ideas and then look out on the net to find someone who has made something similar and work with them on a royalty basis. 

Nowadays, the expectation of quality is such that you can’t really get away with having some college student making this stuff in his spare time for some extra money and our seasoned developers have moved on to other things or are juggling many different programs at once.

For example, I’d love to do a full blown WPF DesktopX successor.  But we’re having a devil of a time getting DesktopX 4 out the door as-is.  A WPF desktop creator might be a big hit or…it might be a huge amount of work that amounts to very little.

As Windows itself has gotten nicer looking by default, the demand for software fix the Windows experience has naturally declined. I use IconPackager, WindowBlinds, ObjectDock, Fences, and DeskScapes.

I think there’s a lot more that could be done with DeskScapes going forward.  IconPackager is a lot tougher because the time versus pay off ratio doesn’t work out.  WindowBlinds still has a lot of good stuff we can do for that.  ObjectDock 2 just came out and there’s a lot that can still be done there.

We already have a couple of new things in store for next year but increasingly, our focus is on things that improve the experience of Windows less via eye candy and more by modernizing the experience.  Anyone who has used an iPad (or Windows 7 mobile) can really see how rickety Windows (and MacOS for that matter) have really become.  Not because they’re overly complicated but rather because their user experience was designed during a different era. 

The whole Windows experience needs a serious overhaul but such an overhaul wouldn’t be cheap and it might amount to nothing if users didn’t like it.

I know I’m more than a little annoyed that Microsoft has taken their eye off the Windows ball. WPF and Silverlight are awesome – on Windows.  Microsoft needs to quit putting mindless suits in charge of things and get some people with common sense running the show.  Windows need not to a legacy platform, it just needs a revisit from a 2010 perspective.

And so that’s what I’m looking at.  The challenge is finding developers who are willing to work on a royalty basis rather than a salary basis.  People to share the risk in creating cool new things.