Will the lack of good Windows 8 apps kill Windows tablets?

New research shows that Windows 8 has barely half of the most popular iOS apps, and that's one more reason that Windows 8 tablets simply haven't caught on. Apps sell tablets, and unless Microsoft closes the app gap,  Windows tablets may never make it.

Nick Landry, product manager at Infragistics, which makes user interface development tools, has found that Windows 8 has only 54% of the most popular mainstream iOS apps. Many of the apps are must-have apps for many people, including Instagram, Vine, Pandora, Facebook, and YouTube. Also missing are business-oriented apps including LinkedIn. Also missing are popular apps including Google Maps, Groupon, and Foursquare. And you also won't find many news-oriented apps such as Flipboard, Bloomberg, and BBC News. If you want to do online banking with an app, you're out of luck if you use Windows 8 and have Citibank or Chase accounts.

Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy, told Computerworld:

"The numbers just reinforce the challenge that Windows 8 still has in apps. Windows 8 still doesn't support the No. 1 social app, Facebook, the No. 1 paid-content app, HBO GO, the No. 1 sports app, Watch ESPN. These, and others, are the same apps that I've been griping about for over a year, and they're still not supported.".

To be fair, Microsoft has said that apps for Facebook and Flipboard are on the way. But it's not clear when they'll be here. And that still leaves out plenty of important apps that are missing in action.

This lacks of apps isn't likely to hurt Windows 8 on traditional computers. Windows 8 apps tend to be tablet-oriented, and not well-suited for desktops and laptops, as least for now. But on tablets, the lack of the most important apps is deadly. Tablets are essentially machines for running apps. If there aren't enough good apps to run on a tablet, why bother buying it?

The longer there's an app gap, the more difficult it will be for Microsoft to convince people to buy Windows 8 tablets. Moorhead warns:

"Most of the top apps are still not supported by Windows 8. Not only is that a major issue on its own, but Windows 8 now has a reputation for not having the right apps...Even when Microsoft rounds out the catalog, Windows 8 will have a lingering perception issue with consumers."

The research about a lack of Windows 8 apps comes out at the same time that new figures show Windows 8 tablets starting to gain some market share. New figures from IDC show that 1.8 million Windows 8 tablets were sold in the second quarter of 2013. That gives Windows 8 a 4% tablet market share, up from 1% a year ago.

That's good growth, but 4% is still only 4%. And part of the reason that Windows 8 has that high a market share is that the rest of the tablet market slowed during the quarter, possibly because no new iPads were released.

For now, there are no serious signs showing that Microsoft is closing the app gap. Unless it does, it's unlikely that Windows 8 tablets will ever get significant market share.

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