The Windows 8 app platform: how is it going? A few clues from developers

One way of looking at Microsoft’s Windows 8 strategy is as an attempt to establish a new tablet platform. By welding the tablet platform to the desktop platform, Microsoft ensured that every customer who wanted the latest Windows release would also get the tablet release, though some are stuck with keyboard and mouse to control it. The downside is that some users who would have upgraded to Windows 8 if it had been less radical will stick with Windows 7. Microsoft is betting that despite the controversy, the hybrid operating system is a better bet for the difficult task of creating a new ecosystem than building a completely new tablet operating system that few would have purchased.

So how is the new platform doing? I asked on Twitter for developers with apps on both Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 to let me know how the rate of sales or downloads compare.

One was the maker of Cineworld, a cinema listing app for the UK and Ireland. He reported:

my cineworld app has about 1.8K downloads a month on WP.. on #win its a few hundred

The other was an app for fans of Manchester United football club called 1st4Fans:

Windows 8 is 70/day. Windows Phone is 130/day

Another was the maker of Barcode Generator:

Barcode Generator stats say 32K download since Aug and several hundreds dwn/day. Looks pretty good, isn’t it?

The author of TweeterLight says that he has “more downloads of W8 app in 1 month than WP7 app in 1 year”, showing that not everyone is finding the phone platform bigger than the tablet platform, though a key factor is that there is an official Twitter client for the phone but not for new-style Windows 8:

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TweeterLight is also a paid-for app, which means fewer downloads and perhaps avoidance of the Twitter throttling that has afflicted the free clients.

Others are reporting a boom in Windows Phone downloads, like Lestyn Jones who says:

I’m finding that my #win8 app downloads are slowly growing where as my #wp8 have skyrocketed.

Put that together with the Cineworld stats – 1.8K per month for an app that is only relevant in the UK and Ireland. It does look as if Windows Phone has been considerably reinvigorated by the launch of Windows Phone 8.

Returning to Windows 8 though, my initial reaction was that these responses are not an impressive start for Microsoft’s new platform, considering the wide usage of Windows on the desktop.

My further reflection though is this. I find myself more willing to try out new-style apps on Windows 8 than desktop apps either on Windows 8 or previous versions, thanks to the ease of installation and removal, discovery through the store, and the additional security of the app sandbox. An interesting question to ask then: if Microsoft had not created this new app platform, how many of these niche apps would have been downloaded as desktop applications?

Despite its imperfections and mixed reception, at least Windows 8 now has an app platform.

This is a small sample and other reports would be welcome.

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4 comments to The Windows 8 app platform: how is it going? A few clues from developers

  • Another question is how much money the Windows 8 apps will eventually make. Android famously has lots of downloads but very little money changing hands.

  • Tom

    Free apps are necessary to establish the platform as viable. However, it’s the paid apps that will determine the profitability of the platform.

    Microsoft used to track what they called the “attach rate” for Windows. In other words, do they just get $50 for the OEM license, or do they also sell a copy of Office? Historically, attach rate has been great on business PCs, and terrible on consumer PCs.

    The app store gives Microsoft a different type of “attach rate.” They no longer have to sell a copy of Office. They just have to sell *something* in the Store — *anything* will do, whether or not it’s made by Microsoft.

  • My app in top 5 best selling apps in my category (actually was number one in the most markets for the last month) and featured in the category hot spot for the last month. It’s gets about 50 downloads per day and just 2-3 sales per day. Not very bad for the beginning but not very impressive either.

  • tim

    That’s interesting, thanks. Agreed those are disappointing figures; will be interesting to see what happens when Surface Pro arrives.