Windows Store and the 3rd Party App Situation

So the third party app situation, out of the gate, is the biggest issue I can see with Windows RT. Obviously, with ARM processors, typical x86 legacy programs are out, so you’re forced to rely exclusively on the Windows Store for third-party applications. Within the Windows Store itself, almost all of the applications are compatible with both x86 and ARM architectures - Microsoft claims around 90% off the apps on the Windows Store at launch are compatible with both Windows 8 and Windows RT, and it appears that a lot of developers will be releasing applications on the Store for both platforms simultaneously.

The problem is that currently, there aren’t that many apps, and of them, not many are very good. Obviously, we’re still a couple of days from launch and I’m expecting a significant uptick in the number of quality apps on the 26th particularly, but also over the coming weeks and months. As the new versions of Windows gain market share, the Store will grow and mature.

Let’s talk about the Store itself. It’s a bit of a mixed bag. Yes, the Metro visual style looks great here, as it does almost everywhere else. Metro just lends itself well to anything involving lots of rectangular pictures (or app icons, in this case). Unfortunately, the Store is a bit poorly organized, and it’s difficult to find really relevant applications. The “Top Free” list needs a “Top Paid” companion, and there absolutely needs to be a “Sort by most reviews” option. Those two things would make it significantly easier to find the high-volume, headlining applications in any given category. I also really, really want the option to see all applications made by a specific developer (like, say, Microsoft.) The inability to do so is a pretty significant oversight from where I stand. These are all pretty simple fixes, just a few extra organizational options that would go a long way to making the store easier to navigate.

For right now, the best apps I can recommend on the Store are staples like Kindle, Netflix, Evernote, and Wikipedia, along with news and shopping apps from USA Today, NBC News, eBay, Newegg, and Popular Science. Other notable applications include IM+ and a number of internet radio apps like iHeartRadio, TuneIn Radio, and Slacker. In addition to those and a number of applications and games from Microsoft and Microsoft Studios - Xbox SmartGlass, Fresh Paint (a new paint application), OneNote MX (the Metro redesign of OneNote, still a preview), the Modern UI version of Remote Desktop, Reckless Racing, Hydro Thunder, etc - there’s not much out there, except maybe Fruit Ninja.

There’s still a lot of 3rd party stand-ins for applications that will get first party support, like a BBC News application actually developed by BBC and things like that. These independent apps can sometimes be good, but are almost always outdone by the first party ones. It’s just a matter of design and quality. I know that ESPN is slowly but surely bringing out their suite of applications - their cricket and football (soccer) apps were both released recently, which indicates that Scorecenter and their other applications for online radio and live video will all hit the store in the near future, but they’re just one developer. I just don’t know how much time it will take for a majority of those applications to be released. Skype isn’t currently available in the store, but will be on the 26th, which makes me wonder how many new applications will hit Windows Store in time to coincide with the official launch date of Windows 8. I want to revisit this a week from now, or even just two days from now, to see where things stand.

I’ve seen a lot of early reviews of Windows RT-based tablets decry the app situation, but I’m assuming the growth will occur significantly more quickly than it has for, say, Windows Phone, for one simple reason: this is still Windows. A very different kind of Windows, yes, but it’s not like people will stop buying Windows computers. Windows Phone has had issues gaining marketshare over the last two years, but starting tomorrow, 85% (or more) of computers being sold worldwide will be running either Windows 8 or Windows RT. There are too many people out there with new Windows systems for developers to somehow just stop releasing Windows applications.

It's important to remember that devs aren’t creating apps for Windows RT specifically, they’re creating new applications for the new Windows UI, which just happens to cover two very different hardware platforms. Nobody worries about the state of Windows 8 applications because all of the legacy desktop apps will still work, but the Windows Store will develop and mature at the same pace regardless of whether you’re looking at Windows 8 or Windows RT. Everyone worrying about Windows RT tablets and third party apps should have the same concerns about touch-centric apps for Windows 8 tablets.

But regardless, we’re still missing some huge applications at this point: Facebook, Twitter (though Rowi makes for a good stand-in), Dropbox, Pandora, Yelp, any kind of Google service, anything from Adobe, and generally useful but not necessarily headlining financial and bank-specific apps. Check back with us in a few days, because I don’t think the Windows Store will stay as sparsely populated as it is currently, but until that changes, there will be questions. 

Skype for Windows RT: The New Messenger? UI Performance, Storage, and USB Compatibility
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  • faizoff - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    I just got done fully reading the Surface review. This should be a good one as well. Reply
  • EnzoFX - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    Sure was.

    Win RT is promising, it really is all about the tablet experience. Which is why I don't understand their decision to have the desktop and access to all the underpinnings. Surely a real power user won't limit themseles to RT, and simply go for the 8?

    Is it to have developers make desktop-centric arm based apps? That seems counter intuitive. They could have easily made Office into a Modern UI style app. What is the real point in the end? Maybe I missed something.

    My only other criticism is little things that sometimes show me lack of focus. 4 edge swipes? Couldn't they have streamlined that down to 2 max? and why must some things just be too hidden, or even not even accessible via the Modern UI?
    Reply
  • Leonick - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    "Is it to have developers make desktop-centric arm based apps? That seems counter intuitive. They could have easily made Office into a Modern UI style app. What is the real point in the end? Maybe I missed something."

    Considering developers can't make desktop apps for Windows RT that isnt it...
    I'm guessing MS was simply too lazy or "didn't have time" to build a metro equivalent for everything for Windows 8 and will likely continue the work for the next release, as long as the desktop is still there they could also put Office even on RT with minimal effort.

    But yea, it's odd.
    Reply
  • blanarahul - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    I am really interested in seeing Windows RT with Quad Core Qualcomm S4 Pro. 40% faster CPU, 100% faster GPU than Tegra 3. Power friendly. It should make RT shine even more. In fact I believe that the APQ8064 was made for Windows RT. Reply
  • karasaj - Friday, October 26, 2012 - link

    This is exactly what I was thinking and hoping Surface would have come out with. Reply
  • Krysto - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    "The odds of that situation arising seem relatively low, so my bet is that the strength of the ecosystem will be a non-issue a month from now."

    Really? A month from now? Can I hold you to that? It will be at least a year before Metro store gets even tens of thousands of apps. I think you've been reading too many Microsoft PR statements ready, and it's starting to influence your objectivity, and now you're just using Microsoft's words as your own - while thinking to yourself that they are your own words.
    Reply
  • StevoLincolnite - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    Right... Because you're really going to browse and install 10's of thousands of Apps. (With the majority being fart of flashlight apps anyway.) Reply
  • munsie - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    So when it was Windows vs Macs back in the 90s, the argument was always that there were more apps on Windows, why would you buy anything else? But now that there are more iOS apps vs Win RT apps, it's that most of them are "fart of flashflight apps"?

    More apps isn't just more junky apps -- it means that more experimentation/innovation is happening as well. It means that there are apps being built for the long tail, not just the mass market appeal. Think about apps targeting very specific users, like doctors, lawyers, engineers, etc. These apps aren't the ones you see at the top of the charts, but are the ones that sell platforms.

    Microsoft more than any other company should understand what Apple has accomplished with the iOS App Store.
    Reply
  • andrewaggb - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    Yes and no though. Developer tools are much better than they were in the 90's.

    Many of these apps are already cross platform with ios and andriod, and many others already have windows versions or silverlight/wp8/xbox 360 versions that can be ported much easier.

    Many of the popular dev tools used by smaller/indie developers already support exporting to different platforms, so if they don't support windows 8 yet, they will soon enough.

    Plus Visual Studio is great.

    Not to say Apple's accomplishments aren't amazing, they are. Nobody could have envisioned the success they've had in such a short time.

    Apps will come. There's no money to be made right now anyways, nobody has devices, it'll all sort itself out in a few months. I think 1 month is optimistic, but within 6 months the apps will be there.
    Reply
  • StormyParis - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    Well, the 90's argument was "1- why pay more 2- for slower, less expandable hardware that 3- is missing some key apps or even whole categories of apps and 4- is fading", so really, a series of issues.
    In the present case we get , 1- why pay the same or less 2- for slower, but a lot more expendable hardware that 3- has a killer app, though it's missing many key apps and all of the non-key ones but 4- will probably surge.

    BTW... Google "75% Of Apple's App Store Is Ignored by Consumers" for a fun fact, if it is indeed true.
    Reply

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