Windows Store's app growth recovers from winter funk

Months of talk about Windows 8.1 and lower-priced, smaller tablets may be behind app submission increase

Submissions to Microsoft's Windows Store, after stalling earlier this year, are again on the increase, perhaps because developers have been reinvigorated by talk of Windows 8.1 and this week's BUILD conference.

According to the MetroStore Scanner website, which tracks the number of new and updated apps that appear each day in the Windows Store, submissions bottomed out in February at an average pace of 142 new apps daily. Since then, that average has steadily increased from 258 each day in March to 580 per day in June so far.

The total app count -- an oft-cited metric, though of disputed value -- has more than doubled since February, climbing from around 44,000 that month to more than 97,000 as of today.

"The app count certainly seems to be in better shape," said Sameer Singh, an analyst who covers the mobile market from his Tech-Thoughts website. "Monthly app addition has been remarkably stable over the past three months at 13,000 to 15,000. [each month]."

Singh attributed the app submission increases and the resulting climb from the winter's trough to several factors, including the expectation among developers that Microsoft and its hardware partners will soon start shipping smaller and less-expensive tablets powered by Windows 8 or Windows RT.

"Developer enthusiasm may be higher because of the run-up to BUILD," said Singh in an email reply to questions before the developers conference's kick-off. BUILD opened yesterday and runs through Friday in San Francisco. "[They] are [also] hoping that smaller, cheaper Windows 8 tablets increase the platform's penetration."

Microsoft trumpeted the shift to smaller and presumably less-expensive tablets yesterday during BUILD's opening keynote, reinforcing comments company executives had made earlier this year that hinted Windows 8.1, the free upgrade that debuted as a preview Wednesday and will ship this fall, would support devices with displays smaller than the original 10-in. minimum.

Most forecasts have smaller tablets -- those with 8- or 9-in. screens and smaller -- stealing the majority mantel this year from larger form factors, like the iPad and Surface Pro.

App counts are not the only ecosystem health metric; in fact, although vendors like Microsoft, Apple and Google regularly cite numbers -- Microsoft did yesterday, saying that the Windows Store had 100,000 -- some experts have discounted or downplayed quantity, arguing that what's really important is the quality of the apps and participation by top-tier developers and service suppliers such as airlines and banks.

Wes Miller, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft -- who last year created the Windows Store counting algorithm used by MetroStore Scanner -- implicitly made the quantity-quality point Wednesday in a tweet. "Looking in the store today ... there's someone flooding it with poorly-localized German cookbooks," Miller said, and quickly followed that with, "They're royally screwing up the MetroStore Scanner."

Microsoft did announce that a native Windows 8/Windows RT Modern app written by Facebook would debut this fall. Facebook was among the most glaring absences from the Windows Store, one that had been repeatedly cited by critics to point out the app ecosystem's failings.

Windows App Store chart
After a sharp dip in January and February, the average number of new apps added to the Windows Store daily began climbing. This month was the first time the average exceeded 500. (Data: MetroStore Scanner.)

This article, Windows Store's app growth recovers from winter funk, was originally published at

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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