There was never a doubt that iOS and Android are much bigger than Windows when it comes to mobile OS adoption, but a report by MetroStore Scanner that the Windows Store has only recently broken the 50,000 app barrier is both a little embarrassing to the company and at least a little alarming to developers who are looking for long-term homes for their apps.
By comparison, iOS is tracking to hit 800,000 in April and Android is tracking to hit 900,000.
The fear of developers is manifesting in a slowdown of new apps. In November, 2012, the average daily count of new apps submitted to Windows Store was a brisk 400, not far from the 600+ per day that are submitted to the App Store and Google Play. However, this number dropped to 150 a day submitted to the Windows Store in February, 2013.
Windows is fighting back. Their Windows Store website is a virtual billboard of encouragement and incentives for developers to build on their platform, representing the push they’ve made in recent weeks to rejuvenate interest. It seems to be working at least a little as PCMag reported that the daily submissions have jumped so far in March to 280. This spike is due to their “Keep the Cash” promotion that rewards developers with a cash bonus of $100 per app submitted up to $2000. The promotion is running until June 30.
They are also enticing developers with a higher revenue share than their competitors, up to 80%.
The problem isn’t the platform. It isn’t the devices. It’s simply adoption. Windows Phones are not seen very often in the wild (at my company of over 100 smartphone users, I know of 2 people with Windows Phones) and despite clever advertising and marketing ploys by Microsoft, they simply haven’t taken off as well as they had hoped. It’s hard to encourage developers to build on a platform that few people are using. Revenue share is not just a percentage. People have to be using it as well.
The reality is that there’s not a huge difference between 50,000 apps and a million apps when it comes to practical use. The vast majority of apps submitted to any platform have a challenge getting any traction at all. Maintaining that traction is even more difficult without major buzz. If Microsoft really wants to make their phones successful, they should consider embracing a “better apps” mantra rather than trying to bump up their numbers in a race that they can’t win.
If there’s one aspect of the Windows platform that is appealing to developers, it’s that there is a much stronger support infrastructure than with the competitors. Windows as a platform has the potential to be a more robust arena in which app developers can play. By going after “better” rather than “more”, Microsoft would be able to play on quality over quantity, something that would be appealing to mobile device users if it could be shown to be true. Proving it is another issue altogether.
With all of this, one has to wonder what chance BlackBerry has if Microsoft hasn’t been able to get traction.