The Windows Store app market, which has been struggling to attract popular apps like Starbucks and Snapchat, and has even seen some developers abandon the store entirely.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella addressed the issue today at the company’s annual shareholder meeting, in response to a question from a disappointed shareholder who couldn’t get the apps he wanted for his Windows Phone.
The real benefit of the Windows Store versus other app stores, Nadella says, is what it calls the Universal Windows Platform. It’s a concept championed by Nadella in his almost two years as Microsoft CEO.
“The powerful concept of Windows and Windows 10 is that it is one application platform, one store for developers, that then should attract developers to build once and have them run across all the Windows,” Nadella says.
The idea is that a Windows app will run the exact same way on the smartphone, tablet, computer, and, eventually Xbox games console and Microsoft Hololens holographic computer. So long as a device is running a version of Windows 10, the app will work.
But in an interview with Bloomberg, former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer slammed the idea.
“That won’t work,” Ballmer told Bloomberg. Instead, he thinks that Microsoft needs to focus on getting Google Android apps to run in Microsoft Windows 10.
The thinking behind the Universal Windows Platform is that developers only have to write their apps once, and target all the increasing millions of Windows 10 users across devices.
The catch is that because Microsoft has so little smartphone marketshare, hovering around 3% globally, developers are slow to bring their apps to Windows in the first place. And on the desktop, since traditional Windows software still works on Windows 10 desktops, developers have no incentive to work with the Windows Store at all.
Nadella also dismissed the shareholder’s idea of growing the Windows Store by directly approaching companies like Starbucks and getting them to bring their apps to Windows 10. Instead, he wants to focus on getting Windows 10 to be so big that developers can’t ignore it.
“We need to think of the unified platform instead of one-off, we have to organically build momentum for the platform and that is what we plan to do,” Nadella says.
Meanwhile, and to Ballmer’s point, Microsoft has a couple of projects in the work to make it super-simple for developers to bring their existing Android, Apple iOS, and older Windows apps to the Windows Store.
But Project Astoria, the company’s tool to bring Android apps over to Windows, seems to be missing in action, with rumours that it’s been shelved indefinitely.
And so, to Ballmer’s consternation, Microsoft is continuing in its very difficult task of getting developers to build for the Windows Store. Of course, given rumours that Microsoft is working on its own version of Android, it could be planning a Hail Mary play, too.
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