(Dan Taylor/Heisenberg Media )
How bad is the app store situation on Windows Phone?
Bad enough that when Intuit announced today that it was stopping development of its popular Mint personal finance app for Windows Phone, users went absolutely nuts.
"There’s so much about the Windows Phone app that we love — and it’s hard for us to say goodbye to it — but we are confident that this change will help you get even more out of Mint," says in an officical blog post announcing the discontinuation of support.
Mint goes on to recommend logging in to the service via the web browser, since all their account information is still saved online.
Except there's a problem with that, too. If you go to Mint's website from a Windows Phone's browser, users report that it takes you to the Google Play app store. For the Android app. That doesn't work on Windows Phone.
Users are furious.
"Your developers are lazy and your management is incompetent if they thought screwing over the users was the right action," says the top-voted comment on the blog post, in part.
"Well I guess Mint doesn't get my business then. Way to stay behind the times, hopefully your management doesn't choke the whole company out on a few years," says another comment.
It spilled over onto Twitter, naturally:
— Aaron Hall (@GoodThings2Life) October 22, 2015
@mint Seriously? Dropping your Windows Phone app with Universal Apps available? Say goodbye to another customer.
— mikepoz90 (@mikepoz90) October 22, 2015
An Intuit spokesperson declined to comment beyond the blog post, but did note that this move means that the Mint team can hunker down on the iOS and Android versions of the popular app.
Microsoft's developer dilemma
This whole episode just highlights Microsoft's ongoing Windows developer dilemma.
Microsoft currently has about 3% global smartphone marketshare.
Meanwhile, Apple's iPhone is a non-stop money making machine with the most lucrative customer base in the biz, and Google Android is the most popular operating system in the world.
That means that the lion's share of mobile app developers either ignore Windows Phone completely, or else end up neglecting it once they realize that the return on investment just isn't worth it — just as Intuit found.
Microsoft sells upwards of five million phones per quarter, hence all the angry users. But it's a drop in the bucket in the bigger picture.
With the new Windows 10 operating system, Microsoft tried to break the cycle with the concept of "Univeral Windows Apps," which lets developers make one app for the desktop and then have it work on phones and tablets, too.
As many of Mint's jilted Windows Phone fans have noted, Intuit could have made a Universal App for Windows 10, and that still would work on the forthcoming Windows 10 Mobile operating system, and Windows desktop computers, too.
But Mint doesn't have a whole lot of incentive to do that. The Mint website works in every desktop web browser. And a Windows 10 app wouldn't solve the problem of focusing on just two platforms.
And so, we see Microsoft's dilemma in minature: There just aren't a lot of reasons for developers to make Windows Phone apps or Windows 10 apps. And without those apps, it can't sell more Windows Phones. The vicious cycle marches on.
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