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Microsoft's long-term Windows 8 app strategy may backfire, say analysts

Gregg Keizer | Oct. 2, 2012
As the countdown clock ticks toward Windows 8's launch later this month, Microsoft has still not shown that there will be enough apps to drive users toward the new OS, said analyst Patrick Moorhead.

He's sticking to that view.

"October 26 will send a message to developers, particularly consumer [app] developers, as to whether they should stay on the sideline or step up and create an app," Moorhead said, speaking of the quantity and quality of the Windows Store's inventory at launch. "All of the focus needs to be on the consumer side, because there's not enough in Windows 8 for classic laptop and desktop users to make a move."

Ballmer provided proof of his long-term strategy with Windows 8 and Windows RT apps simply by stepping in front of developers last week. "You can develop a simple app in 30 days, but you can't develop a complex app in that time," Moorhead asserted.

Microsoft will undoubtedly strut apps from major software and service providers on Oct. 25 when it hosts a launch event in New York City, ones it's saving for a splash. And the company could spin AWOL apps in a way that will make customers delay judgment, Moorhead said.

"If, for example, a Facebook app is not ready on Day 1, but they come out on stage and promise that one will be within 30 days of launch, or within a specific time, that will be acceptable," said Moorhead.

Microsoft seems sanguine about the Windows Store's app count and even the composition of its content: The company has said little about the Windows Store and its apps, and nothing specific about the goals it has for the app market.

Miller noticed that, too. "The entire Windows 8 development cycle has been largely a black box for me," he said in a Friday post to his personal blog. His comment about Microsoft's increased secrecy has been echoed by other analysts, who have criticized the company, on and off the record, for not keeping customers in the loop as it has in the past.

Microsoft's courting of developers this late in the process shows that the company knows it's not yet made the case for Windows 8, Moorhead added.

"With the hundreds of millions of seats expected on Windows 8, it's a much better value proposition than Windows Phone, which has a very low market share," Moorhead said. "But because the current crop of Windows developers work in .Net, not Metro, Microsoft knows it needs to pull in people who develop for iOS. But [those developers] are sitting on the fence."

True, others have said.

In a survey of more than 5,500 mobile app developers jointly conducted Aug. 22-28 by Appcelerator and research firm IDC, only 33% said they were "very interested" in developing for Windows 8 tablets. iOS on the iPhone and iPad, meanwhile, garnered 85% and 83%, respectively, while Android phones and tablets collected 76% and 66%.


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