Microsoft's app gap: Just 54% of the top-100 apps are on Windows 8

Redmond's acquiring a reputation, and not a good one, that will dog it for years, says analyst

Microsoft's Windows 8 app ecosystem badly needs a jolt to make it competitive with iOS and Android on tablets, an analyst said today.

And it's looking like that won't happen anytime soon.

"Most of the top apps are still not supported by Windows 8," said Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy. "Not only is that a major issue on its own, but Windows 8 now has a reputation for not having the right apps."

And that reputation will stick -- and the taint stink -- long after the developers of the must-have apps have created something for Windows 8. "Even when Microsoft rounds out the catalog, Windows 8 will have a lingering perception issue with consumers," Moorhead contended.

Moorhead, who has been critical of Microsoft's app strategy since before the launch of Windows 8 last October, was reacting Wednesday to an analysis of the current state of the Windows Store, which distributes Windows 8 and Windows RT "Modern," née "Metro" apps.

Nick Landry, a Microsoft MVP (Most Valuable Professional) and product manager at Infragistics, a New Jersey maker of user interface (UI) development tools, came up with a "must-have" list based on the top 100 iOS apps, then dove into the Google Play, Windows Store and Windows Phone Store outlets to count how many Android, Windows 8 and Windows Phone versions were available.

Of the 100 apps on Landry's list -- everything from ABC News and Citibank to HBO GO and Zillow -- the Windows Store had just 54, slightly more than half.

To Landry, who heads Infragistics' mobile development tools group, the 54-out-of-100 was impressive. "I don't know about you, but for a new platform that is less than a year old, having 100,000 [total] apps -- including 54% of the top 100 apps -- is not bad at all," Landry argued.

Moorhead begged to differ.

"Kudos, first of all, to [Landry] for doing this. It is a very nice analysis, and for me passes the smell test," said Moorhead. "But I reject the notion that it's been less than a year. It's been two years."

He was referring to the September 2011 debut of Windows 8, when Microsoft began distributing a preview of the OS at its BUILD developers conference, where it touted Windows 8's radical UI and the app model that would battle Android and iOS on tablets.

"The numbers just reinforce the challenge that Windows 8 still has in apps," said Moorhead. "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."

Although Facebook has yet to appear on Windows 8 and Windows RT, in June Microsoft said that the social network had committed to developing an app. CEO Steve Ballmer, who announced the future Facebook app as well as one from Flipboard at this year's BUILD, did not set timelines for either.

Apps comparison chart
Windows 8 doesnt stack up against iOS and Android in a measurement of top-100 app coverage. (Image: Nick Landry, Infragistics.)
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