Lack of Windows 8 apps may have helped cause Steven Sinofsky's downfall

If you're looking for one of the reasons that former Windows Chief Steven Sinofsky is gone from Microsoft, look no further than the Windows 8 Store -- its lack of apps may have accelerated Sinofsky's departure. So reports the New York Times, and the report may well be on target.

There has been plenty of speculation about why Sinofsky left, with some people believing it was because of Windows 8's poor reception, and others saying it was because he was difficult to work with and more interested in protecting turf than in cooperating with other Microsoft business units.

The New York Times points to another factor: The largely barren shelves of the Windows 8 Store. The Times says this about one of the reasons Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer wanted Sinofsky gone:

"Mr. Ballmer was also frustrated by the relatively sparse selection of applications available for Windows 8. Mr. Ballmer has long been an advocate of the importance of independent developers in making Windows successful."

Ballmer is absolutely right that independent developers have been of the keys to Windows' success. Windows became a monopoly not because it was a superior operating system to the Mac's, but because Windows was where the apps were. People flocked to Windows because the apps they needed and wanted to run were on it, not because they were in love with the operating system itself.

Ballmer has been so focused on the importance of independent developers that it led to an infamous video in which he was recorded at a Microsoft developer's conference acting like an escapee from a madhouse on amphetamines chanting "developers, developers, developers, developers..." in a sweat-soaked shirt.

Clearly, the man cares about developers. And he has every right to do so, because of how instrumental it has been to Windows' success. That must make the sparse shelves of the Windows 8 Store all the more galling to him. Both the Apple App store for iOS and Google's Google Play store for Android have more than 700,000 apps available. As for the Windows Store, by my count today it has only 10,452 of them.

Apps help sell devices, just as in earlier years apps helped sell Windows PCs. Without a healthy ecosystem of developers and apps, it will be very hard for Windows tablets to make any inroads against iPads and Android tablets. So although a lack of Windows 8 apps is certainly not the sole reason for Sinofsky's departure, I think the Times is on target in pointing out it could have been a significant one.

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