Microsoft now has 200,000 apps available for download in the Windows Phone Store, the company said. But before congratulating Microsoft on hitting this milestone, try this exercise: Name ten.
Maybe you can. But Microsoft still struggles to put high-quality, popular, and unique apps in front of its mobile audience, even though the company dedicated a recent blog post to suggesting ideas to drive user downloads, and increase both user engagement and the geographic reach of the apps themselves.
In June 2012, Microsoft's Windows Phone Store crossed the 100,000-app mark for Windows Phone, demonstrating that app developers continue to believe in the power of Windows Phone. Todd Brix, the general manager of the Windows Store, noted the new milestone: "The current holiday shopping season and all the great promotions are just underway, and we're already seeing momentum build with the Store surpassing 12 million transactions per day and Windows Phone Store surpassing 200,000 apps," he wrote.
Microsoft also has established an industry-leading 51 connections with carriers, allowing users to bill their apps through their wireless bill, rather than typing in a credit card.
Nevertheless, Microsoft still hasn't really solved the problem of exactly which apps to download. Third-party knockoff apps are still prevalent in many cases. In some cases, those third-party apps--YouTube being a good example--are actually better than the original app itself, leaving users to wonder whether to strike out on their own or commit to the brands they're most familiar with.
Part of the problem is that Microsoft is essentially playing catchup: because Microsoft's Windows Phone platform never attracted the developer love that Android or iOS did, the Spotlight section on the Windows Phone Store sometimes features apps that users should already own. It feels stale. (And repackaging apps into Windows Phone WebApps doesn't help.)
On the Web, the experience is even worse: the main store page is just a sea of icons, with no indication about what apps they are, what genres they fall into, and whether or not they're paid or free downloads. Yes, you can hover or even click on the icons, but this makes discovery fell like work. At least the relative paucity of Windows Phone subscribers makes the platform a relative haven for apps that are either free or paid, rather than the nefarious free-to-play games that clutter the Android and iOS stores.
Here are five quick suggestions for making the Windows Phone Store a friendlier place to shop:
1. Continue prioritizing app developers: Yes, this is so obvious as to almost defy inclusion. But tools like Windows Phone App Studio appear to be a hit with developers, and continued efforts in this regard won't hurt. Earning the reputation as the most developer-friendly platform would go a long way toward making Windows Phone more viable.
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