In just over a week’s time, Microsoft will release Windows 10 for PCs, in what is shaping up to be its most important product launch ever. Windows 10 will eventually make its way to an unprecedented range of devices, with versions of the OS set to reach smartphones, small tablets, smart displays, micro-computers, set-top boxes, Internet of Things devices, and plenty more, including Microsoft’s own Xbox One console.
Microsoft now has a unified development platform, enabling Universal Windows Apps to be deployed across an extraordinary range of devices, with relatively little effort. But the underlying problem with Microsoft’s vision today is the same as when it first announced Windows Phone 7 Series, and later Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8: apps.
Apps are still a huge problem for Microsoft’s platforms today, but the company is finally stepping up its efforts to address the issue. In late 2013, Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore famously declared that the end of that year would mark “the ending of the app-gap for Windows Phone”. Suffice it to say, that was a somewhat misguided prediction.
Today, Windows Phone users still wait – for months, in some cases – for apps to finally make their way to the platform. There’s still no guarantee that new apps and games will ever launch on Windows Phone at all – take the recent announcement of Angry Birds 2, for example: versions are confirmed to be on the way for both iOS and Android, but Rovio has said nothing of its plans for a Windows Phone release.
When apps do launch on Windows Phone, they often roll out with only a subset of features available on other platforms. And even with big-name apps, updates can be infrequent – the Instagram app is still in beta on Windows Phone after launching last year, and hasn’t been updated now for 16 months.
It’s a similar state of affairs on Windows 8.1, which suffers from a comparable lack of high-quality first-party apps. The Windows Store is notorious for its abundance of crapware, filled to bursting with useless software offering little functionality and masquerading as official apps.
But at long last, Microsoft is finally acknowledging the reality of its situation. It has promised to clean up the Windows Store (although its efforts have apparently been a little overzealous on that front), but more significantly, it is confronting its weak app situation head-on, with an incredible range of new tools for developers.
These tools will help devs to port their Android and iOS apps to Windows 10 with astonishing ease, and with the promise of over a billion new devices running its OS in the next few years, Microsoft clearly hopes that developers will be convinced that it’s worth the relatively modest effort of bringing their apps to Windows.
It’s worth pointing out that some of Microsoft’s efforts to bring in-demand apps to Windows have paid off. Since our earlier ‘Pursuit of ’Appyness’ articles in 2013 and 2014, many gaps in Microsoft’s app offering have been filled in, such as Instagram, Uber, BlackBerry Messenger and Mint, among others.
But there are still many more apps that aren’t officially available on Windows PCs or phones, including plenty of big names, like Periscope, Pebble, Snapchat, Barclaycard, Comixology, Tinder, Grindr, HBO GO, Odeon Cinemas, Official F1, Nike+, Virgin Atlantic Airways, Starbucks, and many, many more.
Indeed, while Microsoft’s app situation has certainly got better – and looks set to improve further with its cross-platform development tools – many gaps remain on the Windows Store. But which apps are you still waiting for on your Windows devices?
Whether it’s a popular multinational brand, your favorite store, your preferred airline, your local cinema, your credit card provider, or something else entirely, it’s likely that there’s at least one app available on other platforms that isn’t available on your Windows phone or PC. We’re eager to hear which apps you’re still waiting for, and which ones matter to you most.
Let us know your thoughts below, or send us a tweet @NeowinFeed with the hashtag #appyness!