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

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Landry cited other examples of AWOL apps, saying that many were also missing from the Windows Phone Store and concluded that their omissions from the Windows Store were for similar reasons, including, he said, "Because some of these developers (reportedly) love sticking it to Microsoft, or they just don't feel the platform is important enough."

To Moorhead, Microsoft has run out of excuses and at this point, if it wants to play with the Android and iOS big boys, it simply has to have comparable app coverage. Half doesn't cut it.

"If there's a viable alternative to Windows, and there is, and you're a consumer, you're going to try to mitigate your risk," said Moorhead, referring to potential customers' rejection of Windows 8 and RT because it fails to deliver on apps. "It's more than a numbers game. What if HBO is your favorite channel? What if your bank isn't supported?"

Until Microsoft can overcome not only the app shortage -- and Moorhead wasn't talking about store tallies, which every platform backer likes to brag about -- it won't overcome both the perception that it fields a sub-standard ecosystem and the reality that it can't deliver the most sought-after software.

"Look at the history of Android," said Moorhead. "Even though it's been moving up in app coverage for two years, it still has a reputation that it doesn't have enough apps."

Landry counted 95 Android versions of his top-100 app list.

So what's Microsoft to do? Persevere, obviously, as the company has promised.

"With consumers, you get one shot ... unless you essentially relaunch," said Moorhead. "But you need a reason to relaunch. Windows 8.1 would have been that relaunch."

Now he's not sure Windows 8.1 will be impressive enough, and that enough of the missing apps will be in the Windows Store this year, to convince consumers that it is a new day for Microsoft and tablets.

So far, Microsoft's Windows tablet strategy has failed to produce big returns. But it has gained ground. In the quarter ending June 30, IDC estimated, approximately 2 million Windows-powered tablets were shipped by Microsoft and its OEM partners, an increase of 11% over the previous quarter. Windows share also increased, from 3.7% in the first quarter to 4.5% in the second.

So it's moving in the right direction.

But until Microsoft closes the app gap, it's going to be a hard climb out of the single-digit cellar. "It is going to be difficult for them, and they're going to have to go through a period where the perception [of inadequacy] remains. They should really push to educate consumers about when they're going to add apps," said Moorhead.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at  @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His email address is

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Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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