Microsoft's $7.2 billion buyout of Nokia's handset business hasn't solved one of Windows Phones' biggest problems: an inability to attract developers to write apps for it. Does the app gap mean Windows Phone is doomed to its also-ran status?
Bloomberg reports that despite the buyout, developers are still staying away from committing to writing Windows Phone apps. It interviewed developers and analysts, and came to this conclusion:
Interviews with more than a dozen developers show that the odds remain stacked against Microsoft -- even with the Nokia deal, which is set to close in the first quarter of 2014. Developers said that while Nokia's handset business gives Microsoft a ready pipeline of Windows Phone devices, it isn't enough to overcome a lack of users, or the cost and confusion related to the technical specifications of writing for the company’s phone and tablet devices.
For example, William Hurley, a co-founder of Chaotic Moon, which makes apps for companies including Walt Disney Co., said that Chaotic Moon's most recent game Dragon Academy brought in more in sales on Apple devices in a single hour than were generated in sales of all of Chaotic Moon's apps on Windows Phone for an entire year. Unsurprisingly, Hurley said he's not working on a Windows Phone version of Dragon Academy.Every other developer contacted by Bloomberg echoed his comments. Popular apps including Pinterest, Instagram, Uber, and Flipboard still aren't available for Windows Phone.
This problem has been pointed out my many analysts. Back in May, Canalys noted that the Windows Phone store lacked many of the popular apps available for iOS. And a Gartner report in August warned that the app gap is seriously hurting Windows Phone's chance to gain market share. Also in August, Nick Landry, product manager at Infragistics, which makes user interface development tools, found that Windows Phone has only 64% of the most popular mainstream iOS apps. And David Yoffie, a professor at Harvard Business School, told Bloomberg:
"The lack of applications that exists for the Windows platform is a critical deterrent in customer adoption."
It's this simple: Unless Windows Phone attracts more developers, it won't achieve mainstream success, despite the $7.2 billion Nokia deal.