Why Windows 8's App Store is not popular

Martin Brinkmann
Sep 22, 2013
Updated • Sep 24, 2013
Windows, Windows 8

Who will use the Windows 8 app store? That was the first question that came to my mind when Microsoft announced that its newest operating system would ship with an integrated store. Back then, I could not really think of many users. Sure, Windows RT users would use the app store because they only have that option, as they would not be able to install desktop application.

But Windows 8 or Windows 8 Pro users? Why would they turn to the app store and not to desktop apps? The app store offers some advantages: touch support, auto-updating apps so that you will never run into situations where old program versions are run on your system for an extended period of time, or security checks for apps that get released to it.

I have been running a weekly series over at Betanews that looks at the best applications for Windows 8 that have been released in a week for almost a year now, and have monitored the store, its app, and its general development closely.

The application growth seems to have plateaued in the past month, with only about 500 new apps being released to store each week. That's not a lot, and while you will still find a couple of quality apps each week, it is clear that the store is not as popular as Microsoft hoped it would be.

The Windows 8 Store has a popularity issue

It is not that popular for developers, as other platforms are more attractive at the time. It is a numbers game and both Android and iOS are the two attractive options, with Windows Phone or Windows 8 following in third place. You will get better exposure on Windows 8 though, due to the limited number of apps that get released for the platform, while your great app for iOS or Android may very well be overlooked due to the sheer number of apps that get released for these platforms.

It is also not that popular for users. I base this solely on the number of reviews and ratings that apps receive in the store. Microsoft has not really revealed any numbers in recent time in regards to Store and apps usage.

Back to the initial question: Why is the store not popular?

  1. It does not have anything to offer for desktop users that they cannot get elsewhere. While you may find some great quality apps and games in the store that you would not be able to play otherwise, you will find even more on the desktop or on the Internet that you can access.
  2. Apps are too limited in terms of how you can run them. You can either display them full screen, half screen, or in a third of the screen, but that is about it. No option to align apps vertically for example, or a lot of apps next to each other.
  3. The store is difficult to navigate. While you do get recommendations and such on the start page, those don't change that much due to a lack of alternatives. Browsing horizontally feels awkward on a desktop system without touch.
  4. The store has a "fake" apps problem. You find dozens of media player apps there that try to look like app versions of legit players such as VLC or Windows Media Player.

How can Microsoft turn the situation around? I can think of several solutions, and Microsoft seems to already work on some of them.

  1. Cooperation. Cooperate with big developers so that they release their products on the platform at the same time as on others. Or, that they bring their back catalog to Windows 8. While this won't really increase the application count by much, it will at the very least increase the overall quality.
  2. Merging. Merge the Windows Phone platform with the Windows 8 Apps platform so that games and apps designed for Windows Phone can run on Windows 8 and vice verse. This is apparently in the workings right now. While Windows Phone lacks behind in sheer numbers, it has a thriving application marketplace that Windows 8 could benefit from.
  3. Incentives. It may cost you money, but you could try and convince developers to produce exclusively - or also - for Windows 8. Handpick talented developers that produce apps and games for iOS or Android and provide them with enough incentives to produce for Windows 8.
  4. Acquisitions. Microsoft has enough money in its treasure chest to buy several small to medium sized software companies that produce high quality apps and games for other platforms.

While this will make the platform more popular overall, it takes time to do so. Plus, it does not really address the underlying issue that desktop users face who do not see many reasons to use it in first place. Great apps and games may change that, so that it is being used like Steam for example to play certain types of games or apps.

The one thing that would help the most in my opinion would be to merge the two interfaces into one. So that users can run all apps and games on the desktop without restrictions in regards to window size or position.

Closing Words

It will be interesting to see how Microsoft copes with the situation. The company has started to implement several of the solutions that I have suggested above, and while it will take anywhere from a couple of months to years before users will notice the effect, it is the right thing to tackle right now.

What's your take on the whole Windows 8 store issue? Are you running W8 and using it? Or do you ignore it largely?


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  1. Tae Wong said on November 6, 2013 at 3:42 pm

    The topic’s title used a prime (′) for the apostrophe.
    Why Windows 8′s App Store is not popular

    It will be…
    Why Windows 8’s App Store is not popular.

  2. XenoSilvano said on September 24, 2013 at 8:26 am

    If I could add, in-spite of the initial negative reaction toward the implementation of a tablet like
    user interface into Windows, I personally think Microsoft really nail the hammer on the head
    with this merger of both tablet and desktop style interfaces into the OS, Windows is a solid
    time tested OS, now what I think needs to be done is to further embrace this the new ease
    of functionality that tablet computers provide by merging the two interface even further
    in to the future…

    …and beyond.

  3. XenoSilvano said on September 24, 2013 at 8:10 am

    The one thing that would help the most in my opinion would be to merge the two interfaces into one’

    Maybe if the start menu slide in from the left or right of the desktop screen would help(?)

    I don’t know, I’m just throwing out ideas. Something is going to have to be done about the
    side scrolling navigation mechanism, its not a very common procedure for desktop users.

  4. Earnest said on September 23, 2013 at 1:36 am

    My only problem with the app store is that there aren’t enough apps that are interesting explorations of new ways to use the Metro interface. I find that the Metro interface is actually ideal for reading, especially long-form content. I PREFER using the News app (and similar apps) to get news updates. I think the People app was a great start for pulling in social media feeds, and I’d like to see a real attempt to use Metro to rein in social feeds and make them more readable and useful. I’d love to see a Wells Fargo app for banking and a Tivo app for my TV. I love the interface, and I wish that people would start really experimenting with ways to build for it.

  5. Gonzo said on September 23, 2013 at 12:23 am

    Win 8 is widely sold on laptops and desktops. The few tablets that it sells on are either overpriced (Surface Pro) or unappealing (Acer Iconia W3). So it’s still viewed as a desktop OS.

    This is the problem that must be solved. Devices like the recently announced Asus Transormerbook T100 are what Win 8 needs to be recognized as a tablet OS. If these devices are unable to gain traction then MS has a near impossible road ahead.

    Even a Win 8 hater like myself can appreciate the T100 but I don’t know that I’ll buy one.

  6. Wayfarer said on September 22, 2013 at 11:16 pm

    Win8 apps are a total crock. Just don’t see the point. Eye candy with very little substance. What’s the point in spending 20 years developing a usable desktop OS then ditching it in favour of something that belongs on a phone???? MS are so far out of touch these days (with people who need to WORK with their PCs) it’s a joke.

    I have a desktop with Win7. Lately added (courtesy of a generous family birthday gift) a laptop with Win8 – the laptop intended to eventually take over from the desktop. The reverse has happened – I spend most time on the desktop as Win8 is such a pain. If Win7 wasn’t so expensive retail, I’d switch my laptop back in a second.

    I’m increasingly tempted to just bite the bullet and put both systems over to Linux.

  7. Dan M said on September 22, 2013 at 11:06 pm

    Windows 8 is actually a very good system. In fact, it’s much faster and just as stable as Windows 7. I admit, Microsoft came late to the tablet game and so they have some catching up to do. I believe they should have encouraged more developers by giving away free developers licenses until their app store hits at least 50% of their competitors’ stores. The development environment and programming language for most programmers is much more familiar and easier to use than Apple’s development XCode and Objective-C. Microsoft’s C# has a much greater code base in the business and gaming world than Apple will ever see. These applications could easily be ported to their Windows Store versions. The problem is, Microsoft waited too long. Look at Android for instance, Google came in only a couple of years after iOS and only in the last year or so have they been able to catch up with Apple. Apple has a very good product but it’s extremely proprietary, not upgradable and won’t collaborate with business machines which keeps it squarely in the consumer market. Microsoft has a chance to be the company that creates the tablet for the Business/IT world. The company that pulls that off is the company that eventually sells the most tablets. In the business world Apple is simply not there yet and may never be and Google’s Docs and cloud based apps are simply not up to par with their native Windows counterparts.

  8. Dave said on September 22, 2013 at 6:09 pm

    Regarding problem 2) Use Modern Mix, run as many apps in separate windows on the desktop as you would like.

    1. rpwheeler said on September 22, 2013 at 9:52 pm

      You reminded me of interesting thing, Dave

      There were dozens of application to replace
      — Explorer file browser
      — Notepad
      — Internet Explorer
      — Vista / 7 Start menu
      — and now Metro

      Since XP the MS ideas became a problems, not a solution. If so many people ask “how to get rid of the MS Innovations”, that means MS is doing innovations wrong.

  9. iron2000 said on September 22, 2013 at 5:28 pm

    I would use Modern apps on the desktop more if they are windowed.
    Don’t like snapping the apps on a desktop.
    Currently I rarely use Modern apps.

    Waiting for 8.1 so i can boot to desktop without using 3rd party software.

  10. GK said on September 22, 2013 at 4:47 pm

    This is what happens when the wrong product is “reimagined”. Nobody wanted 2-in1 OSes honestly. Microsoft should have launched a unified Metro experience for tablets and phones and kept it separate platform from the open, customizable, rich and unrestricted desktop. There is a reason Apple didn’t try to ram down iOS down OS X users’ throats. That would have got them nowhere. Microsoft chose to use their reach and wide user base to skip the whole competition thing and gain an instant user base. They expected everyone to give up the Desktop so they could use the Store apps. This is really ill-treating your customers ignoring all their preferences and furthermore they are insulting their customers by saying users are afraid of the change – as if users cannot have a preference or choice.

  11. Jim said on September 22, 2013 at 4:24 pm

    I’m probably in a small group that thinks this way, but I won’t buy anything from the windows store that I’m not willing to lose in a couple years. With all the stores that microsoft have opened then shuttered a few years later like the games for windows live store, plays for sure, and a few others that I can’t remember the names of right now I’m not really confident that it’ll be around all that long. Free stuff is fine, but I’m not going to invest anything substantial.

  12. Shadess said on September 22, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    Make a new installer type for desktop PROGRAMS that plays well with with the windows store. Allow people to browse and install apps from the store, from a well made website version of the store or from wherever programs are currently found from. Let the PROGRAMS be shared as the developers want.

    I’d like programs to be continued to be distributed like they are now, but how awesome would it be if I downloaded vlc/opera/whatever from the web. Installed it, it linked itself to the windows store and autoupdating, uninstalling and everything could be done from one place. The store in it’s current way on windows 8 is pretty much useless, why would I really want to use it on a desktop?

    1. rpwheeler said on September 22, 2013 at 9:42 pm

      > I’d like programs to be continued to be distributed like they are now, but how awesome would it be if I downloaded vlc/opera/whatever from the web.

      Don’t you see that the Windows Store idea was copied from the Apple Appstore? As Apple, MS would like to have the iron grip of control on devices, apps, stores, content, and have the same 30% cut in sales as Apple?

      Your idea shows that you didn’t get that. How MS would get the 30% cut if they allow user to install everything user wants and use (or use not) the store at own discretion?

  13. rpwheeler said on September 22, 2013 at 11:51 am

    That’s the same thing I repeat since Win 8 release” It does not have anything to offer for desktop users that they cannot get elsewhere.” More to it, the apps “elsewhere” are better.

  14. Leaving The G said on September 22, 2013 at 10:54 am

    I don’t use Windows 8. My cousin had it on her new system and I had to get rid of it. It’s just not convenient as the OS for a laptop. If it was for tablets only, then maybe I would have used it longer. I may soon end up staying 100% on a Linux anyways, but for now I’m still on the Win 7.

  15. Tim said on September 22, 2013 at 10:49 am

    I think you summed it up well. Especially with the line “But Windows 8 or Windows 8 Pro users? Why would they turn to the app store and not to desktop apps?”

    I have Windows 8 and have played with store apps, but just don’t see the point in them. With the exception of the built-in Weather app, all the software I use is Desktop software, as I prefer it. Also a lot of the store apps offer nothing that can’t be done in a normal browser window anyway.

  16. sades said on September 22, 2013 at 10:36 am

    Ditch the damn thing already for desktop, or make them work in “traditional” OS operated with sane traditional working interface like keyboard and mouse, basically ditch the damn thing

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