22 Mar 2013

Windows 8 App Growth Already Slowing

Windows 8 Store - App Growth

According to data from MetroStore Scanner, the growth of Windows 8 apps has noticeably slowed in Q1 2013. According to the data, the Windows Store is expected to top 50,000 apps by the end of March, but MoM growth has slowed to just 10-15%. In response, Microsoft has launched a promotion, offering developers $100 to publish an app on the Windows Store. Let's take a look at the reasons for this surprisingly early decline in growth.

Paying developers to build apps for a platform isn't likely to build genuine developer interest in a platform and seems like a desperate move. To Microsoft's credit, they seem to understand this:

We believe the best apps come from those partners who are invested in the platform and own their experience now and in the future. Of course, we are always working to spark creativity with new developer audiences and sometimes try limited incentives or contests, like Keep The Cash. However, it is not representative of an ongoing program.

 $100 is unlikely to attract large developers, so I would have to assume that this promotion is meant for small, independent developers. But the timing of this promotion, combined with the chart above, tells me that Microsoft is feeling some pressure.

In a recent post, a former Microsoft employee explained just how Microsoft managed the early app surge in the Windows Store - Microsoft employee moonlighting, Pushing the size of the Windows PC base and Developer tools. The first two reasons may have a lot to do with the current slowdown:

Microsoft Employee Moonlighting - Not a Permanent Solution

Microsoft has apparently used this approach for Windows Phone as well. Unfortunately, getting employees to build apps in the spare time was never likely to be a long-term solution. At a certain point, those employees would run out of time, motivation or simply ideas to continue building apps. As this artificial boost is lost, it becomes more difficult to add apps to a fledgling platform.

Windows PC Base - Not Focused on App Downloads

I had touched upon this earlier, in my post on the PC replacement cycle - The average Windows PC buyer is not as sophisticated as an average Mac buyer, and therefore, the usage of the average Windows PC would never involve downloading apps. This has already proved true for the Mac App Store, and app engagement on Windows 8 PCs is likely to be even lower. Low consumer interest in Windows 8/RT based tablets has done nothing to rectify this situation.

Goal of Microsoft's "Keep the Cash" Promotion

Microsoft's promotion is primarily aimed at low-end publishers. Their prime concern at the moment isn't app quality, but quantity. Unless the app growth on the Windows Store remains strong, Microsoft has very little chance of attracting many major developers to the platform. Of course, strong tablet sales would help, but that seems like a pipedream at this point.