The apps for Microsoft's new Windows operating systems are good enough to entice early buyers of tablets and other touch devices, analysts said Sunday. But the jury remains out on Microsoft's long-term chances of winning its unprecedented bet on Windows 8 and the spin-off, Windows RT.
"This gives them a shot at success," said Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy, in an interview. "It's a positive first showing, but they must have consistent singles, doubles, triples and home runs."
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Moorhead was one of the analysts who spoke out most persistently about the criticality of the Windows Store and its apps to the success of Windows 8 overall, but more importantly, to Windows RT, the offspring designed for tablets. He repeatedly predicted that Microsoft had to have at least 5,000 high-quality apps in the Windows Store at launch to have a shot at selling Windows RT, and thus the devices it powers, to consumers this year.
The Surface RT reached retail last Friday.
According to Wes Miller, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft, the Windows Store had just over 9,000 apps as of Oct. 26, nearly 5,200 of which are available to U.S. customers. Miller has been tracking the number of apps in the Windows Store since mid-August, and posts results to his WinAppUpdate website weekly.
But even though it would be a very long stretch to call each of the 5,200 U.S. apps "high quality," Moorhead and Miller agreed that the store's stock was sufficient at launch, and more than enough to prevent an outright flop.
"They delivered tremendously more on Day One than HP and RIM," Moorhead said, referring to the 2011 launches of Hewlett-Packard's TouchPad and RIM's BlackBerry PlayBook. Those tablets' failures, Moorhead has argued, could be traced to a lack of high-quality apps and a weak app store. "History shows that for consumers, the first impression is the one that sticks," Moorhead said in mid-September.
He had made the point that if Microsoft didn't have a strong, deep inventory at Windows RT's launch, tablets running it, including the Surface, would be passed over by consumers.
"[The Windows Store] is not where it needs to be for a global app ecosystem, but it has improved over the last couple of weeks," said Moorhead, pointing to apps from Hulu and Netflix that just recently appeared in the store.
"There will be more apps," he maintained, but added the caveat that that faith will be in the eyes of the beholder. "If you trust Microsoft, then you will trust them to make it right. But if you think Microsoft is somehow bad, then you're not going to trust them," Moorhead said.