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Android and Apple app store woes should sound alarms for BlackBerry and Microsoft

Daniel Ionescu and Brad Chacos | April 10, 2013
Is the rush to fill app store shelves a good thing?

Microsoft and BlackBerry have been tripping over themselves to toss cash at developers and beef up their app stores in recent months, trying desperately to gain ground on the behemoth selection of iOS and Android.

But is the rush to fill app store shelves a good thing? Quantity doesn't equal quality, as evidenced by recent Apple and Google moves designed to keep their developers in check and clean up some of the less desirable apps in their respective shops.

Apple is the 800,000-pound gorilla in the mobile app world after unofficially breaking the 800,000-app barrier last month, while Google is nipping at Apple's heels with more than 700,000 apps available. Lagging far behind are BlackBerry and Microsoft.

All four suffer from problems related to the number apps available in their respective stores.

Quality vs. quantity

Tim Shepherd, a senior analyst at Canalys, believes app ecosystems will determine the winners or losers in the mobile realm, as he explained in a recent press release detailing the state of the overall app market. BlackBerry 10 recently passed 100,000 apps--up from 70,000 at launch in January--and Microsoft's Windows Phone app store has around 150,000 apps available.

Shepard feels each needs "to do more to make building apps for [their] platforms a priority for developers." However, Microsoft and BlackBerry's strategies to bulk up their stores in the app arms race seem better suited to filling their shelves with shovelware rather than building a sustainable app ecosystem with quality software.

Before BlackBerry 10 launched, RIM (as the company was known then) held "Port-a-thon" weekends that gave developers $100 for every Android app ported to the BB10 platform. To call it successful would be an understatement. Tens of thousands of apps were submitted, and a fifth of all BB10 apps available today are actually Android apps at their heart.

The initiative definitely gave BB10 a jump start, but was it the kind of jump start BlackBerry needs? The ported Android apps don't run anywhere as smoothly as native BB10 apps, and they don't take advantage of the operating system's built-in notification system. To put it simply, they're a second-class experience.

(To be fair, BlackBerry is also trying to lure big name developers with a $10,000 guarantee, but this has yet to bring more popular apps to the platform. Instagram and Netflix are still missing, for example.)

Microsoft followed in BlackBerry's footsteps recently, offering developers a $100 bounty for every new Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 app published by June 30, up to a total of $1,000 for each platform.

While cash might nudge developers to jump onto BlackBerry and Microsoft's platforms, it's unlikely that dangling a mere $100 would inspire quality app makers to make quality apps for BB10 or Windows Phone 8--especially in the case of BB10's Android ports. Instead, such a low bounty inspires slap-dash submissions or lazy, straight-up ports of slap-dash apps on already-established platforms.


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