We tend to think of the mobile apps arms race as a binary affair, with iOS and Android locked in eternal and exclusive combat. Recently, however, we’ve seen a new player enter the field, and it looks like things are about to get interesting. If nothing else, there’s definitely an emerging market for mobile app developers to exploit.
Windows 8 has been all over the news in recent weeks. Several sources reported its staggering first month of licensing sales, HuffPost discussed the implications for app developers, Distimo dedicated its November analytics report to Windows 8, and even Steve Jobs had a few words on the subject from the Great Beyond. (Though not really.) What interests us most, of course, are the opportunities being generated for mobile app developers working with a third operating system.
It will be some time before Windows apps are ready to stand toe-to-toe with the other giants of mobile applications, but markets (like nature) abhor a vacuum, and with only slightly more than 20,000 mobile apps in the Windows app store (compared to over 600,000 for both iOS and Android), there’s an awful lot of growth potential for Windows apps. And thus far the numbers haven’t disappointed; Windows apps downloads (of the top 300 apps) actually exceeded those of the Apple Mac App Store by a factor of three. Unfortunately, however, as 86% of those apps were free, there are still some very important questions of app monetization that have yet to be resolved. It’s also worth noting that unlike Android and iOS, the operating system for Windows apps is the same regardless of hardware, so it’s difficult to determine how many of those apps are ending up on phones and tablets.
All in all, however, this is a very exciting time for mobile app developers considering new markets. There’s still plenty of money to be made in the more established app stores, of course, but the field is getting more and more crowded by the day. Having a new platform, and a new market, to work with might be just what the doctor ordered.