At Microsoft’s Build conference, the dorkiest of companies put on a big show, complete with fog machines and fancy lights, in order to show it’s a cool competitor to Apple and Google. The speakers who came on stage during keynotes had stylish hair. “Do they have dressers backstage?” an attendee asked a group of us when it was all over.
Build exists to get developers excited. The biggest devs blow upwards of $2000 for a three-day pass to the event, where they have unlimited drinks, plentiful meals, and access to Microsoft’s best and brightest. Part of Microsoft’s wooing process involves appearing “hip” to a group of developers who resemble the cast of Silicon Valley in all the worst ways. Hence the light show and Microsoft EVP Terry Myerson’s questionable hoodie and leather vest combo. It wants these devs so amped that they’ll rush back to their MacBook Airs and Surface Books to crank out brilliant software, hopefully for Microsoft’s Windows Store, which has just one third of the apps of much cooler stores from Google and Apple.
With the arrival of Windows 10 S, which can only use apps from the Windows Store, the app marketplace has never been more important than today. Yet time after time over the course of the event, Microsoft dropped the ball on its pitch to developers in favor of niche distractions.
Apple’s a monolith of money and users, and thanks to Android and Chrome OS, Google is right there with it. Both have OS platforms with heavily used app stores. They’ve built customer bases of hungry fans that enthusiastically embrace their hardware and software products, and consequently, developers want to build apps that work with Apple and Google platforms.
Microsoft, on the other hand, can’t seem to ditch the buttoned-up association it’s developed for making the work computer you don’t want to use. Its reputation is seemingly forever cemented by those old Mac vs PC commercials. Attempts to rewrite the script have been met with mixed success. On the hardware side, Microsoft has become a genuine player in the field of coveted kit. The Surface Pro and Studio are ambitious devices that are legitimately exciting. The Surface Laptop announced earlier this month is one of the most interesting products announced so far this year.
But Microsoft’s software landscape is still dorktown and one of the big ways Microsoft’s attempting to undorkify things is by leaning into the Windows Store. There’s a problem though. Microsoft’s app store in uncommonly small compared to the other guys. According to Microsoft, in 2015 there were just 669,000 apps available. (The company hasn’t officially updated that number since.) According to Statista Apple and Google both have more than three times that number of apps available in their stores.
The number of available apps alone doesn’t necessarily dictate the quality of someone’s computing experience, but…
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