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No apps, no success for Windows 8 and RT, say analysts

Gregg Keizer | Sept. 11, 2012
The success of Windows RT, and to a lesser extent Windows 8, will hinge on the quality and quantity of apps in the Windows Store next month, analysts said today.

Although a lack of apps may affect Windows 8 less than Windows RT, since the former can run traditional, or "legacy" apps on the Windows 7-style desktop, a lightly-stocked Windows Store could stymie sales of touch-based PCs, tablets and so-called "convertibles" -- hardware that combines elements of both tablets and notebooks -- powered by Windows 8.

"Windows 8 is going to do just fine, particularly because consumers won't have a choice," said Moorhead. "But the hardware being trumpeted is not as inexpensive as a tablet, and more expensive than a traditional notebook. People are going to pay more for that touch screen, and they're going to want to know what kind of apps they can run on it."

Cherry agreed.

"If there's little you can do with [a new touch-enabled PC], it will naturally throttle the market," Cherry said.

Today's Windows Store situation, of course, won't be the same on Oct. 26, analysts acknowledged. Both Cherry and Silver believe that Microsoft is purposefully withholding some apps to tout them next month during the launch of the new operating systems.

"We don't know how many have been submitted, we don't know what's in the pipeline," said Silver. "And that blends into the next point: Windows 8 will be a huge market that developers can't afford to ignore."

Even so, Silver wondered why Microsoft hasn't made more of upcoming apps. "They do need to get stuff in the store pretty soon," he said. "And while they may be waiting to make some major announcements, we think they need to introduce a major application a week to build momentum."

The lack of publicity around the Windows Store is puzzling, agreed Moorhead, who blamed Microsoft's new, more secretive communications strategy, which he has criticized before.

"The level of excitement and the value proposition about Windows 8 has been in question," Moorhead said. "They've changed the way they communicate with the public; they've been in 'stealth' mode for a long time now. And because of that, there's a healthy amount of skepticism about Windows 8 out there."

Silver has noticed the change, too. "Microsoft decided it wanted to be more like Apple [with Windows 8]" he said, ticking off a number of similarities, from the way it debuted the Surface tablets to the "walled garden" approach to apps and the Windows Store. "Part of that is more secrecy," Silver added.

But the lack of apps could be more than a tactical move, said Cherry, who has been working on a "Modern" app of his own for weeks now.

"Look at the one Office app Microsoft has released, OneNote MX," said Cherry. "It has minimal functionality. If Microsoft's own people have trouble creating a good app, I have to assume it's hard to do."

 

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