Microsoft is known for its vast network of developers – independent, third-party creators of applications and programs that run on its Windows platform.
But can Microsoft persuade that extensive developer base to create apps for Windows 8, an operating system thats radically different from any other Windows version and comes with uncertainty over whether customers will flock to it?
As Microsoft prepares to launch Windows 8 at a media event today, getting developers to create apps for the operating system is one of the companys biggest challenges. Its particularly crucial to the success of Windows RT, the Windows 8 version designed to run on tablets competing directly with Apples iPad.
Unlike Windows 8 machines, devices running Windows RT will not be able to run desktop Windows apps (other than the Office suite).
Without stellar apps, Windows RT is a machine that runs Office and a Web browser, said Wes Miller, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft in Kirkland, Wash. But if developers build the apps, thats what drives the platform.
The challenge for Microsoft is that many developers seem to be in wait-and-see mode.
Microsoft, meanwhile, has been pushing its new platform hard, significantly increasing the number of dev camps, localized gatherings for developers to learn about creating Windows apps.
It also is sponsoring a worldwide hackathon to create apps, and next week it welcomes developers to the Redmond, Wash., campus for Build, the companys annual conference for third-party developers.
Early this week, the Windows Store had more than 7,000 apps globally and 5,000 in the U.S., according to WinAppUpdate, a website thats an independent project of Directions on Microsofts Miller.
The number has been increasing rapidly, but its not near the 250,000 iPad apps available.
Still, comparing numbers of apps is like comparing horsepower on a car, Miller said. The typical consumer doesnt really care. More important is: Does it get done what I want to get done?