What is the cost of developing a Microsoft Surface application?
February 13, 2012 9:17 AM   Subscribe

What is the cost of developing a Microsoft Surface application? How many development hours might it take for a simple app? A more complex one?
posted by tronfunkinblo to Computers & Internet (7 answers total)
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posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:23 AM on February 13, 2012

Hard question to answer because there are a lot of variables here. Surface applications are generally built by someone with a deep understanding of WPF or XNA, XAML, C#. That would be a developer who uses Visual Studio on a regular basis and has had real development experience. For the presentation layer, you would need someone on the design side, easiest tool here would be Expression Blend. So you would need two people minimum if you're doing it right.

In addition to that, there are more specific skill sets needed that relate specifically to the Surface: multi-touch, SDKs, etc. It's a pretty esoteric development environment and there are not a lot of people doing it. (Hint, go look in Redmond).

You should explore the Microsoft forums for Surface developers and ask around there.

Assuming you could find someone, I would go out on a huge limb and say 40 hours for a simple app. Two to three times that for a complex app. A good developer who knows what the hell they are doing is unlikely to charge less than $100 an hour. So $4,000 for a simple app and $8-12k for a complex one.
posted by jeremias at 10:29 AM on February 13, 2012

I would guess at least $200/hr.
posted by rhizome at 11:07 AM on February 13, 2012

Whatever amount you arrive on, budget twice that and be prepared to pay 3x that or to walk away with an unfinished/incomplete/buggy app.

If you want a realistic estimate, you should spend a few days writing up a basic set of requirements, potentially including mockups using something like Balsamiq, and shop it around to consulting firms or freelancers (if you have some way of vetting their technical abilities that is more indepth than "they sound smart" type stuff). Picking the cheapest one will be a mistake, so don't do that. Pick the one with the best track record and most reasonable response to your requirements. Consider adding a requirement you don't actually want as a reasonableness test. Be prepared for it to cost a lot more than you expect, particularly since the Surface itself is not cheap.
posted by feloniousmonk at 2:50 PM on February 13, 2012

(Note: I've been developing Surface apps since before Surface was a publicly available product. I also founded an agency that builds these sorts of things.)

The answer here depends greatly on your definition of "simple" or "complex", as well as the level of experience of the person building it.

It also depends on if you're trying to make some kind of basic prototype app, or something you want to ship to lots of consumers. The former might not need to look great and the occasional crash might be acceptable, and could be developed by a single developer. The latter needs a lot more thought and polish, and would require a team consisting of a developer, graphic designer, interaction designer, tester, and project manager.

All of these concerns apply to any type of custom software development, not just Surface. If you follow up with more details about what you're after, I could guess at a number of hours. I wouldn't translate that to a dollar amount for you as it's going to vary depending on who does the work, but rhizome's guess is not unreasonable.
posted by endquote at 4:27 PM on February 13, 2012


We're actually the team potentially developing this for a series of retail stores with a team that does consist of developers, designers, tester, project manager. The finished app needs to be solid and tested.

A simple app would be generally focused on showing some content. Images, text or video.

A complex one would be focused on 'wow' factor. Maybe a game, map integration etc.

My gut feeling is that development for these systems easily runs into the tens to hundreds of thousands but I haven't really found many resources to quantify that feeling. Even solid iphone apps can easily run up $100,000 in development cost.
posted by tronfunkinblo at 7:27 AM on February 14, 2012

A six-figure budget is not unusual for such a project, but again, it really depends on the scope of the project, the size of the team, and what your rates are. If you have specific questions about technical issues around Surface development, feel free to contact me. The developer forums linked above are a good resource as well.
posted by endquote at 10:52 AM on February 14, 2012

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