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Microsoft's cash-for-apps pitch to devs smells like desperation, says analyst

Gregg Keizer | March 21, 2013
$100 per published app makes company look like a cheapskate, adds another.

Microsoft yesterday kicked off a promotion that rewards Windows 8 and Windows Phone developers $100 for each app that they publish in the company's app stores.

Dubbed "Keep the Cash," the promotion is Microsoft's first overt cash-for-apps program, a tactic rivals Google and Apple have never used to attract submissions.

To one analyst, the $100-per-app pitch was an ill omen.

"It looks a little desperate," said Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy. "It sends the message that Microsoft is having a hard time building out its app categories. And it doesn't bode well for the Windows Store."

Microsoft distributes Windows 8 and Windows RT "Modern" apps -- the full-screen, tile-based software formerly tagged as "Metro" -- through the Windows Store; smartphone apps, which do not run on Windows 8 or Windows RT, are channeled through the Windows Phone Store, a separate mart.

Keep the Cash will award a $100 virtual Visa card -- good only for online purchases -- to a developer for each app he or she publishes, with a maximum payout of $2,000 total for 10 Windows Store apps and 10 Windows Phone Store apps. Those apps must be submitted and published to the appropriate Store by June 30. Microsoft said it's capping the number of rewarded apps at 10,000, meaning it's putting $1 million on the line.

The promotion is intended to delivery quantity, not necessarily quality, the experts said.

"Clearly, they'd like to populate the stores as quickly as possible with more apps," said Ezra Gottheil of Technology Business Research. "But it seems they want to try to pull in the 13-year-olds, because $100 is not at all meaningful to an established developer. Maybe they're looking for the next generation of kid geniuses, and hoping to find the next killer app that comes out of nowhere."

Currently, the Windows Store has nearly 49,000 apps, according to the MetroStore Scanner, a website that uses a counting algorithm created by Wes Miller, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft. Miller stopped tallying apps last December.

"They're trying to spur interest," said Miller in an interview today. He agreed with Gottheil that Keep the Cash was aimed at amateurs and hobbyists. "But I'd rather see a smaller number of high-quality apps than a larger number of lower-quality apps,"

That was Moorhead's point as well.

"This doesn't solve their fundamental challenge, which is to get A-list apps onto the app store," said Moorhead. "What they're going for is the long tail, a very long tail [of the number of apps], which is important, but it doesn't solve the problem that they have, such as the lack of a Facebook app, the lack of support for important apps like Time-Warner's TWC-TV."


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