Windows 8 app store growth slows

Analyst links Microsoft's $100 cash-for-apps promotion to slowdown

Microsoft launched a Windows 8 app-for-cash promotion this week because growth of the company's app store has slowed this quarter, an analyst argued today.

"Month-over-month growth has slowed to just 10-15%," said Sameer Singh of Tech-Thoughts in a Friday blog post. "In response, Microsoft has launched a promotion, offering developers $100 to publish an app on the Windows Store."

That promotion, dubbed "Keep the Cash," kicked off Tuesday. Under its rules, developers who publish new apps to the Windows Store -- the mart that distributes Windows 8 and Windows RT "Modern" apps, the full-screen, tile-based software formerly known as "Metro" -- are rewarded with $100 per app, up to a maximum of 10.

The promotion ends June 30.

Singh used MetroStore Scanner to measure app growth. That website, in turn, relies on a counting algorithm created by Wes Miller, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft, who tallied Modern apps at his own WinAppUpdate.com site until last December.

According to MetroStore Scanner, after a 52% increase in December 2012 over November, gains slowed dramatically. January's total was 10% higher than the previous month's, while February posted a 9% gain. So far this month, with about a week to go, the Windows Store app count is 12% higher than February's.

As of today, the Windows Store boasts nearly 50,000 apps.

The uptick in December could have been fueled by several factors, including interest around the just-launched Windows 8 and the relatively small starting count, but it also got some inside help. Last September, Charlie Kindel, until mid-2011 the general manager of Microsoft's Windows Phone developer experience, said Microsoft was urging its own developers to build apps in their spare time.

Microsoft had used that tactic before, Kindel said, to drive up app counts for Windows Phone 7.

If Microsoft's own engineers did take time to create Windows Store apps, it was a short-lived effort, Singh said, again pointing to the MetroStore Scanner data. "At a certain point, those employees would run out of time, motivation or simply ideas to continue building apps," he wrote. "As this artificial boost is lost, it becomes more difficult to add apps to a fledgling platform."

Singh linked the slowing of the Windows Store's growth to the Keep the Cash pitch. "The timing of this promotion suggests that there is a causal relationship with the app slowdown," said Singh in an email reply to questions today.

The two events -- Keep the Cash's kick-off and the slowing of the app store's growth -- put Windows 8 and its limited-feature offshoot, Windows RT, in a difficult position. Microsoft, after all, has tied the success of those two operating systems to the Modern app ecosystem. CEO Steve Ballmer has repeatedly pitched that opportunity to developers by touting the number of likely Windows 8 machines to be sold this year.

Windows app store growth
After a spike last December, the Windows Store's growth slowed dramatically, dropping to 8% to 12% in the first three months of 2013. (Data: MetroStore Scanner; image: Tech-Thoughts.)
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