Windows Store Is Awful

Windows Store Is Awful

Wesley MurchisonMonday,27 October 2014

The Snap:

No matter how much Microsoft tries to fix Windows 8 by retrogressing — like restoring the start menu and rediscovering the desktop — until they confront the travesty that is the Windows Store their mobile devices will stay in third place, possibly forever.

The Download:

With the coming launch of Windows 10, the next OS in the Windows line, Microsoft needs to take a hard look at their app store and come up with a real strategy.

Microsoft was late to the mobile market and they’ve never be able to recover lost ground. Worse, Microsoft continues to make big blunders it cannot afford as a third-place competitor. Even if they did everything right, they’d still have to wait until Apple or Google made a mistake. Then they might be able to capitalize on a well-built app store that cups up disgruntled users.

Undoing the damage caused by Windows 8 is a start, but until they address the disaster that is Windows Store they’ll not be able to overtake Android or iOS. They may even lose ground to Amazon’s Android-based app store, or worse Samsung.

Since Windows Phone and Windows 8 launched more than two years ago, the conversation around Microsoft’s ability to compete has been about numbers. The number of apps to be precise. When Windows 8 hit the market in late 2012, Google and Apple each estimated 700,000 apps a piece. It took Windows roughly a year to reach 145,000. The growth was impressive considering that Microsoft was up against a market that was already starting to settle on two major players. Thirty months after release, the Windows Store total app count started to flatten. And the number of apps is only moderately increasing.

It gets worse. Just a few months ago, in August, How-To Geek released a harsh report called “The Windows Store is a Cesspool of Scams — Why Doesn’t Microsoft Care?

The report highlights what many Windows 8 users either suspected or had experienced: fake apps that were only allowed on the store to inflate the total app count.

The fake apps are mostly tutorials that use logos to trick users into thinking these programs were official versions. An example used in the report was apps for VLC media player. Of all the fake VLC apps, one was a paid tutorial on how to download and install what is essentially a free program and another directed users to install malware.

Later that month Microsoft announced they removed 1,500 misleading apps. But that doesn’t fix the image Microsoft has created with their approach to the Windows Store. An approach that is both hands off in one regard and mismanaged on another, with a touch of mischievousness. First, according to their guidelines for publishing an app on their store, each app is reviewed by a tester.

“Content compliance: Our certification testers install and review your app to test it for content compliance. The amount of time this takes varies depending on how complex your app is, how much visual content it has, and how many apps have been submitted recently.”

As How-To Geek pointed out, “Microsoft has no problem with scams in their store — either that or they aren’t actually auditing apps like they say they are.”

The second approach has been poor management. For all this concern for quantity, Microsoft has totally neglected quality, better defined as what’s most in demand. Part of the competition between app stores is the ecosystem, the services that Google and Apple offer. Microsoft had to develop their own app for YouTube, for example. And even now popular apps like Pinterest, Snapchat, Uber and Firefox are not available for Windows users.

If Microsoft wants to attract new users or encourage users to switch, the company needs to show that they don’t just have a lot of apps but that they have the most popular apps and they are as good as the competitors’ version. A comprehensive immigration strategy to attract users actually reveals another dimension of the app store conundrum. At some point, the real competition is between Google’s services and Microsoft’s, since most Android users use Windows-powered laptops. While Microsoft’s decision to switch Hotmail users over to paid off, they’ve got a long way to get to go in popularizing Bing Maps and Calendar.

Microsoft’s app store woe isn’t something new. In fact, the problem underscores a noticeable flaw that started when the PC first connected to the Internet, before the mobile device arrived. Microsoft missed the chance to develop an online store for desktop programs. Something Ubuntu started before the mobile revolution was even on the horizon.

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Hat Tips:

Ars Technica, Bloomberg Businessweek, About, How-To Geek, Tech-Thoughts, Image Credit: Flickr

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