In December 2016, we removed the beta tag from PlanGrid for Windows and released V1.
PlanGrid started as a solution for construction workers on the jobsite five years ago. We built an app for iPad and iPhone, and, a little later, for Android. Both are highly rated by our customers, but it takes more than just those physically present at the jobsite to complete a project. Project managers, architects, estimators, inspectors, designers — and more — split their time between the field and the office.
We recognize that collaboration is only successful when the whole team can use PlanGrid, no matter what hardware they’re using; and in the office, almost everyone uses a Windows computer (laptop, desktop, or tablet).
Looking at the operating system distribution across enterprise computers, it’s clear that Windows is dominating. Below is a distribution chart of the two largest operating systems (Windows and MacOS) as seen by the “world” and by PlanGrid users:
The desire to create a native Windows application for PlanGrid was echoed by our customers; we have a vibrant feedback loop that helps us build with our users in mind at all times. First, our support, sales, and professional services teams speaks with customers on a daily basis, and sends that feedback to the product team. The product team supplements this feedback with follow-up customer interviews. Then, the entire R&D team — engineering, QA, product, and design — prioritizes the requests and builds a healthy product roadmap.
Thanks to our customers, we recognized the need to build a native Windows application, but the question remained: which Microsoft technology should we build on? Universal Windows Platform (UWP) is the latest framework from Microsoft in which all Windows Store apps are written, and is the evolution of XAML-based technologies.
The caveat with UWP is that it only runs on Windows 10. Our experience in the field taught us that enterprises are historically slow to update to the latest operating system — the following graph illustrates this:
Adoption of Windows 10 for our customers is almost 2x the world adoption. This is largely because the construction industry has embraced Surface tablets, which are always sold with the latest version of Windows. Despite that, almost 50% of our customers are still running Windows 7/8/8.1, so we had to build with everyone in mind. We decided to build a traditional desktop/WPF app that runs on Windows 7 and higher.
After the general release, it’s clear we made the right decision. Below is the distribution graph of Windows versions over time as observed by analytics built into our application:
As expected, Windows 10 share jumped while Microsoft was offering a free upgrade. This upgrade expired at the end of July ’16 and the adoption of Windows 10 slowed down significantly. We expect enterprise to gradually upgrade to Windows 10 over the next three years as their IT contracts expire and they upgrade employee PCs (which, on average, are usually on a two-to-three year refresh cycle).
In our next Windows post, we’ll discuss the technical challenges associated with building a modern Windows application and how the team overcame them.
About the author: Mark Vulfson leads the mobile engineering teams at PlanGrid. Prior to PlanGrid, Mark worked at Microsoft for many years after graduating from Oregon State University with a degree in Computer Science. He is based in San Francisco.