Is Microsoft finally about to close the Windows Phone app gap?

It's been a very good week for Windows Phone, with a new survey finding that the number of developers planning to write apps for it has doubled, and with an Instagram app finally arriving. Does this mean that the app gap is finally closing?

A Strategy Analytics poll of more than 1,600 active mobile developers found that more than 32 percent plan to support Windows Phone in the next year, compared to only 16 percent who said the same thing last year. That's big news, because Windows Phone faces a severe app gap compared to iOS and Android. Back in May, Canalys found that the Windows Phone store lacked many of the popular apps available for iOS. And the app gap has serious consequences. A Gartner report at the end of the summer said that the app gap is seriously hurting Windows Phone's chance to gain market share. So any sign of the app gap being closed is very good news for Microsoft.

Developer interest still lags behind that of iOS and Android, but a big reason is that those platforms have far more developers already writing for them. So it makes sense they would continue to be write for those platform. David MacQueen, Strategy Analytics Executive Director, Apps and Media Research, says that:

"Naturally Android and iOS were the top platforms, with 84 percent and 68 percent respectively of developers targeting those platforms. That’s primarily down to the huge installed base; we asked developers why they were supporting particular platforms and the top answer for both of these platforms was the user base. 74 percent of Android developers and 65 percent of iOS developers cited this as a reason for their continued support."

Also good news for Microsoft is that Instagram app is now finally available for Windows Phone. That's important, because it's not really the volume of available apps that are important as much as that high-visibility, popular apps be available. So the Instagram release is a big deal. Unfortunately, though, the app is less than fully featured -- you can't record video with it. Still, it's a start. And recently the Vine video-sharing app was recently released for Windows Phone, some more good news.

Of course, Windows Phone still has a long way to go to court developers. Bloomberg recently reported that Microsoft faces an uphill battle in getting developers to sign on. The news service found:

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.

The Strategy Analytics poll shows that's changing. But it's not changing fast enough. And as long as far more developers are interested in writing for iOS and Android than for Windows Phone, Microsoft faces an uphill battle.

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