IMHO: How to solve the "app gap" problem plaguing Windows Phone




In 2013, Microsoft's Windows Phone had a global market share of 5% but according to IDC, Microsoft's Windows Phone global market share has seen a dramatic drop to below 2% only shipping less than 6 million Windows Phones in the last quarter (3Q 2015), to put in perspective and paint the bigger picture, over 355 million smartphones were shipped last quarter and less than 6 million of them were Windows Phones, that's not bad news no, that's sad news.
But we all know the reason for the dismal performance of Windows Phone, there are a bunch of them...
  • Microsoft continuously rebooting the Windows Phone platform (WP7, WP7.5, WP8, WP8.1, now W10M)
  • No flagship devices in almost two years
  • Lack of carrier support
  • Lack of developer interest
  • No innovative products in a while
  • No good marketing
  • and of course... THE APP GAP
But I'm not writing this piece to talk about the factors that's causing the dismal performance of Windows Phone, I'm writing this piece to give me humble opinion on what Microsoft could/should do to fix it and here it is...

When IDC's report came out, there were a lot of blog articles about the poor state of Windows Phone, how it's new innovative features like universal windows apps (UWP), continuum, sending SMS from your PC, imaging were still not going to fix it and how it's lack of apps was the main issue.
And I agree with these points: Continuum, UWP and the other new features coming with Windows 10 Mobile will NOT be enough to push Windows Phone market share to at least 10% by 2017.
You know what is? Apps! It's all about closing the app gap.
Microsoft has recognized this as the major hurdle that they need to jump over if WP is to be relevant.

So Microsoft created the UWAP (universal windows app platform), where you can create an app on the UWAP that will run on all Windows platforms (Windows 10 PC, Mobile, Xbox, HoloLens, IoT). This is somewhat a good strategy cos by the end of 2016 there should be more than 300 million people with a Windows 10 PC, (there are already more than 110 million PCs running Windows 10 today) that's a huge market. There are also more than 40million Xbox Live members, and more than 5 million Xbox One consoles sold. So imagine creating an app that will run on all these Windows 10 platforms and with a very large audience. This is the idea behind Windows 10, it's a brilliant idea but it's too early to tell if it will work out.
For instance, I find myself frequently using twitter on my Edge browser rather than use the official twitter app I installed. My point is there are some apps that don't just fit inside the PC world and yea you might say these apps work best when using them on tablet PCs, but how many people own and frequently use their 8-inch Windows tablets??

Next, Microsoft introduced the Project Astoria and Project Islandwood, this tools will allow Devs to "easily" and "effortlessly" port their Android and iOS apps to WP respectively.
These tools however do not provide a fully automated process of porting their apps to the WP platform, devs will still have to put in work, but the work devs will put it when compared to porting apps without these tools is considerably low.

But here's the problem, Devs are reluctant to port their apps to Windows because there isn't a large enough audience (remember WP has a below 3% marketshare) on the WP platform, while the small number of Windows Phone users say if they create the apps, that audience will grow! So it's a classic case of which comes first? Chicken or the egg?

Do devs create the apps and then maintain it and wait for the WP user-base to grow? Or does Microsoft figure out a way to grow the WP user-base and then devs will create the apps?

We have seen devs bring their apps but discontinue them after a while, due to very low usage, case in point: the recently discontinued Mint app.
Microsoft is also doing its best to grow the WP user-base by releasing a flurry of low end Lumia devices, unfortunately, low end devices are a big deal in developed countries like the US, UK and other European countries. But in countries where the low end Lumia devices do make a difference, the WP platform is supported fully by its local developers.

So here's my opinion or should I say strategy on this issue.
With Project Islandwood and Project Astoria, Microsoft should work with developers to get the top 200 (hell, maybe the top 300 apps) on both Android and iOS and port them onto the WP platform.
If we had the top 300 Android/iOS apps available on WP from the first day Windows 10 Mobile launches and with the added bonus of Continuum, UWP and other features. I have no doubt the WP would see a dramatic increase in market share.
Getting the top 300 Android/iOS apps and making sure those apps are supported on the WP for at least 2yrs, this will allow users to flock to Windows 10, thus creating a larger audience, subsequently attracting more devs to develop on the platform, which will see the remaining top ranked 400th - 800th apps also make their way to the platform.
If they could pull it off and get the top 200 or even the top 100 available on WP (very possible now thanks to the Android and iOS bridges), this will no doubt help build the platform and defeinitely CLOSE THE GAP!

In My Humble Opinion, this is what I think Microsoft should consider doing.

But let us know, if you were responsible for the success of WP, what would you do, what strategy would you adopt to make it grow? Let us know in the comments below...




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