Windows 8 will run Windows Phone 7 apps? That's one way to jump-start Microsoft's struggling smartphone.

Among Windows Phone 7's many woes are its relatively small number of apps compared to iOS and Android devices. But that may well change, because it appears that apps written for Windows Phone 7 will also run on Windows 8, giving Windows Phone 7 developers access to the world's biggest base of technology consumers.

There are approximately 30,000 apps now available for Windows Phone 7, compared to about 425,000 for iOS and 250,000 for Android devices. That puts the struggling Windows Phone 7 at a severe disadvantage against its competitors, because apps sell phones.

Making the problem worse for Microsoft is that Windows Phone 7 has only a 1% share of the U.S. smartphone market, versus 40% for Android, and 28% for iOS. There's not a lot of incentive for app developers to write apps for a platform with only 1% market share.

It appears, though, that apps written for Windows Phone 7 may also run on Windows 8, which would dramatically change the equation. Windows is by far the dominant operating system for computers worldwide. If Windows Phone 7 developers could potentialy sell their apps to the many millions of people who will run Windows 8, there would be plenty of incentive to write Windows Phone 7 apps.

Because Windows tablets will be based on Windows 8, rather than Windows Phone 7, it means developers would be able to target that market as well by writing for Windows Phone 7.

Nvidia makes graphics chips and the Tegra chips found in many smartphones, and Chief Executive Jen-Hsun Huan says that apps written for Windows Phone 7 will also run on Windows 8...or at least, he thinks they will. CNet interviewed him, and reports that "he believes that apps written for Windows Phone 7 will run on Windows 8." That's certainly far from definitive. It would make sense, however. Microsoft will have a very difficult time attracting developers if apps they write for Windows Phone 7 won't also run on Windows tablets.

If Jen-Hsun Huan is right, it may help Microsoft boost Windows Phone 7 with an infusion of plenty of new apps. If he's wrong, it's another problem for Microsoft's smartphone operating sytem.

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