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06 Dec 2012

Cracking the Windows 8 Chicken-and-Egg Conundrum

The conundrum: app developers want to see a large base of Windows 8 devices in play. Consumers want to see a well-stocked Windows 8 app store. Which side will make a leap of faith first?

Microsoft appears to believe it’s the developers who will relent. In this pre-launch interview, Keith Lorizio, Microsoft's vice president of U.S. sales and marketing, reveals that:

“The company has targeted 100,000 apps to be live on Windows 8 within 90 days of the launch…[and] expects some 400 million units of Windows 8 to be active by July, 2013.”

As of this writing, Windows 8 is just past the one-month mark and boasts more than 20,000 apps. Not bad for a debut, but not quite in alignment with those expectations. Meanwhile, Windows 8 sales figures reported by The Next Web (TNW) on 27 November showed:

“40 million licenses sold in just over a month, or 32 days. Broken down on a day-by-day basis, that’s more than 1,250,000 licenses sold per day.”

Again, that sounds like strong performance, but it’s not the momentum needed for that July 2013 target Lorizio spoke of in October.

Still, TNW notes that Windows 8 is selling at a 45.8% higher rate than Windows 7 did in its first two months—and Windows 7 was touted as “’the fastest-selling operating system in history’” in its early days.

NERD power?

If current sales figures and app count don’t point us to a definitive chicken-and-egg outcome, maybe NERD can help. That’s Microsoft’s New England Research & Development center (for reals). BloombergBusinessweek reports that NERD had 21 computer science interns developing Windows 8 apps over the summer. Some of the intern apps are now sold in the Windows 8 store, with more to follow—but that only accounts for half a dozen apps.

In the same report, David Hilal, an analyst at FBR Capital Markets, pointed out a softer incentive for developers (especially new ones) to set their sights on Windows 8:

The field isn’t as crowded as it is for apps built for Apple or Google operating systems…’You can get a lot of downloads with Apple, but there’s a lot of competition.’”

Soft sell

Windows 8’s single development environment, support for multiple programming languages, and open payment system have also been put forth as developer incentives, but in a survey of 5,000 mobile software engineers conducted by IDC and Appcelerator, “53 per cent of app makers quizzed said a large install base is their number-one criterion when picking a platform to write for.”

On the consumer side, holiday season discounts may boost second-month Windows 8 device sales and bring good cheer to those betting on sales instead of app tallies.

What really matters

But are numbers what we should be counting, anyway? Wes Miller, a Research Vice President at Directions on Microsoft, may have cracked the chicken-and-egg conundrum before it started on his WinAppUpdate blog:

“The Windows Store doesn’t need a large number of apps to be successful. It needs a number of great apps that drive people to the platform.”

Are you with Wes, or still (forgive me) counting chickens? Lay it on us (ouch) in the comments.

What's your take?