We've said it before and we'll say it again: If Microsoft (MSFT) really wants its Windows 8 brand to take off, it will have to deliver on the apps. While users are slowly becoming more acclimated to the Windows 8 system and sales are better than expected, Microsoft's 120,000 apps in the Windows store pale in comparison to Apple's (AAPL) 700,000, putting Apple far ahead of its rival. For months, Microsoft has been trying to address this discrepancy by appealing to more developers, but last week the company took things to a whole new level by trying to recruit studios that produce solely for Apple.
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According to an article by MIT Technology Review, Microsoft recently held a not-so-secret meeting with dozens of Apple app developers at its Mountain View, California, campus. The two-day session focused on giving iOS developers of all kinds a better grasp on how to make apps for its Windows store. The developers were fully briefed on the various features of Microsoft's new system and were allowed to ask questions on how to maximize their apps' presence. The focus of the meetings was on developing for Microsoft's PCs and tablets, two areas where Microsoft is sorely needing help, but some attention was given to building apps for the Windows 8 phones as well.
Microsoft has a great reputation for supporting developers. Some members of various studios, like Tim Burks, founder of Radtastical, thought Microsoft's tools were stable, predictable, and well-documented. Burks considers developing for Microsoft to be a "high priority" and expects that his team will be able to build great apps for the system.
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However, a notable concern for developers is that -- unlike Apple, which shares an operating system for its smartphone and tablets and uses a different OS for its PC -- Microsoft shares an operating system for its PCs and tablets, but gives its smartphones their own software. This can make things a little confusing for iOS programmers who will now have to consider how to develop apps that can be used for both PCs and mobile devices. Still, most iOS developers seem to have reacted well to the meeting, and are hoping to create new apps for Windows 8.
However, the success of this meeting may be diminished by the fact that Microsoft's other rival, Google (GOOG), is ready to wage war with the Bing developer. In response to Microsoft's tentative place in the market and its recent ads accusing Google of "Scroogling" customers, Google's director of app product management, Clay Bavor, recently announced that the company has no plans of developing apps for any of the Windows 8 systems. This could be a major issue for Microsoft, considering how much bad press Apple's iOS 6 received after it cut out Google Maps from its system. While the Windows phones provide a great opportunity for Microsoft to turn users onto Bing, if consumers are forced into using hotmail accounts or (God forbid) a Bing Maps app, it will only demonstrate how weak the company’s app ecosystem is.
Resolving this app issue should be a major priority of Microsoft's team, as it's one of the major advantages it has over Research In Motion's (RIMM) BlackBerry line. An analyst from Seeking Alpha firmly believes that there isn't room for three in the smartphone market. Microsoft should be wealthy enough to tempt developers with better deals and afford the costs of porting software... but if RIMM reclaims its market share with BlackBerry 10, those developers will likely flock to RIMM in order to be where consumers are headed.