When legions of PC users dip into Windows 8 for the very first time in late October, theyll be greeted by a Start screen that only runs what Microsoft is calling Windows 8 appstouch-optimized programs designed for the new operating systems live tile interface.
The tiled Start screen can't be skipped, so for better or worse, Microsoft is foisting a brand new software ecosystem on the PC-loving public. Sure, any Windows 8 device running on an x86 processor will still be able to run traditional software (now called desktop applications), but by pushing the new apps to the very front of everyones Windows experience, Microsoft is betting its future on the new tile-based interface and its only compatible apps.
The only place to get the new apps are in Microsoft's own curated Windows Store. So as the Windows Store goes, so goes Windows 8and Microsoft itself.
But the clock is ticking. Today is Oct. 1 and Windows 8 launches on Oct. 26. Microsoft has entered its home stretch. With less than a month remaining, will the Windows Store be ready for its big software coming-out party? We picked the brains of more than a dozen top analysts and developers to get a handle on a situation thats beginning to look quite worrisome.
The Windows Store by the numbers
Conventional wisdom says that a modern software ecosystem needs a large number of apps in order to be successful. For perspective, consider that the Android and iOS platforms boast 675,000 and 700,000 apps respectively. Granted, only a tiny fraction of those apps are worth downloading, but even taking that into consideration, the Windows Store looks to be in serious trouble.
According to WinAppUpdate.com, an app counting site run by independent analyst Wes Miller of Directions on Microsoft, the Windows Store didn't even crack the 2,000 app threshold until September 21. Or, to put it another way, the entire Windows Store inventory currently comprises just 0.3 percent of the Google Play Store.
"Is the Windows Store lagging? To me, yes. I'd much rather see a much higher number a month before launch," Miller told PCWorld.
The current dearth of apps gives the Windows Store an abandoned, neglected feel. While the Games section shows a pulse of life, the Social, Productivity, Shopping and Food/Drink areas look particularly barren. The low number of apps is a catch-22 for Microsoft, says Rob Enderle, the principal analyst of the Enderle Group.
"Developers don't want to develop for you until you have enough users, while users don't want to use your [device] until there are enough of the key apps," Enderle says. "That is the critical weakness of the Windows Phone store, and the Windows 8 store is even younger than the Windows Phone store. There's a content problem for the Windows Phone store, and I expect there to be content problems with the Windows 8 store, as well."
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