There are now more than 50,000 Windows 8-only applications available in the Windows Store, a big jump from when Windows 8 launched, but a far cry from what the company projected just before the launch.
According to the website MetroStore Scanner, the store has 50,341 apps on the shelves, finally reaching that number over the weekend after more or less growing steadily at 10% per month since last October. There was a spike in December perhaps as part of the Christmas rush.
ANALYSIS: What if Windows 8 flops?
But back in October Microsoft predicted it would have an inventory of more than 100,000 by the end of January, and now nearly two months later has just half that has materialized.
It's bad news for Windows 8 and Microsoft because by the company's own admission applications designed for the touch-friendly operating system are essential for attracting customers to it. Compelling apps mean more converts.
Getting apps has proven a challenge, with the latest enticement being an offer of $100 to developers for every Windows 8 app they get placed in the Windows Store up to 10. They can reap the bounty for an additional 10 Windows Phone 8 apps in the Windows Phone Store. "Offer good only to the first 10,000 qualified applications published in the Windows Store and/or Windows Phone Store, or until the end of the promotional period, whichever comes first," Microsoft says.
That's $1 million Microsoft is ponying up to stimulate apps development in this promotion alone. That doesn't include the cost of developer trainings and a generous royalty agreement for the most popular applications.
While 50,000 apps is a benchmark, it's coming too late for it to be considered a positive benchmark.
Jettison Windows RT?
Meanwhile, Microsoft is using the same Windows Store stats to defend Windows RT, the hardware/software platform based on ARM chips that runs a light version of Windows 8 and can handle only Windows Store Modern applications.
Windows RT came under fire recently from IDC, which suggested Microsoft dump the package. It is intended to compete with iPads, but hasn't made strong inroads so far. Nevertheless, Microsoft's corporate vice president of Windows planning told CNET that "as the number of apps grow in the store, that value promise only gets stronger."
That value promise was based on a narrow set of circumstances. "Let's say you drop that PC in a pool. Well, you get a new one and then you just redownload [the apps]," he told CNET. "That's the kind of model people are used to with a phone or tablet today. I can maintain all the apps in the [Microsoft] store and reset with a single switch. So, on Windows RT, the user experience stays consistent over time."
Despite the attack on Windows RT, the full Windows 8 software that supports any app that runs on Windows 7 is getting praised as an operating system for tablets.
Moor Insights and Strategy says in a whitepaper that Windows 8 tablets offer more than one advantage over Apple's tablet. "Enterprise IT can and are deploying iPads but are doing so at an increased cost, time and complexity than PCs," the paper says.
These tablets are PCs only without the keyboard, and so have a the manageability of a laptop with the touch centricity of Windows 8. The Intel Clover Trail processor gives the devices performance per watt that is comparable to that of the iPad, the paper says. "Through the combination of Intel Clover Trail and Windows 8, HP, Dell and Lenovo have created tablets that take the best the consumer elements of the iPad and adds to it enterprise features IT wants in their next generation tablets," it says. "Enterprises should immediately evaluate the latest enterprise tablet offerings from HP, Dell and Lenovo and make their decisions on future deployments incorporating those additional options."
Acer likes Windows 8
Acer President Jim Wong had some nice things to say about Windows 8 tablets recently during a financials conference call.
According to StreetInsider.com, Wong expects sales of tablets in general to pick up over the course of 2013.
According to the website, "More importantly, Wong said that momentum in Microsoft Windows 8 devices has been improving. Acer Chairman J.T. Wang echoed the sentiment during the company's conference call, saying that Microsoft "has done some good things finally" to revitalize the Windows ecosystem."
Tim Greene covers Microsoft and unified communications for Network World and writes the Mostly Microsoft blog. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @Tim_Greene.
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