Windows Phone 7 and the Unimportance of Apps

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Windows Phone 7 and the Unimportance of Apps
Microsoft says that Windows Phone 7's app marketplace is booming. In a chest-beating blog post, Microsoft revealed that WinPho7's app count stands at 11,500, and that's without wallpapers or duplicate apps in different languages. The ecosystem has 36,000 developers, 60 percent of which haven't even published anything yet, so the potential for growth is huge.

Still, some tech pundits, such as Robert Scoble, insist that a lack of apps is the only reason Windows Phone 7 hasn't been a rousing success. How can this be true if the Windows Phone Marketplace is hopping with activity?

First, a bit of qualification: We don't know with absolute certainty that Windows Phones aren't selling. Microsoft has only said how many phones it's sold to retailers (1.5 million as of late December), not the number of people who've actually bought one. But LG has expressed disappointment with sales, and one U.K. retailer claimed that Android phones outsell Windows Phones by a 15 to 1 ratio. It's safe to say that Windows Phone 7 hasn't been a rousing success.

Windows Phone 7's Real Challenges

But is a lack of apps to blame? I doubt it. When I consider which phone to buy or recommend to friends, I'm quick to rule out Windows Phone 7, but not because of apps. The platform's lack of multitasking and HTML5 support are much bigger drawbacks. Same with copy and paste, at least until Microsoft finishes rolling out the "NoDo" software update. And until Windows Phones come to Verizon Wireless, the number of people who can even consider the platform is limited.

Windows Phone 7 hardware has also been unimpressive so far. Most handsets don't have front-facing cameras. None have dual-core processors. Most lack expandable storage, which wouldn't be an issue if they included more than 8 GB or 16 GB of on-board storage. Every time an Android phone pushes the hardware envelope, Windows Phone 7 falls further behind.

If none of those issues existed, apps might linger in the back of my mind, but I doubt it. After all, Windows Phone 7 has a great gaming platform in Xbox Live. It has apps for Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, Shazam, IMDB and even Netflix, which Android still lacks. With Microsoft's new stats in mind, I simply don't buy the argument that apps are holding the platform back. If anything, they're the biggest bright spot for Windows Phone 7 so far.

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