Microsoft has confirmed that it is repacking mobile websites and launching them in its Windows Phone Store as native applications.
The company confirmed the practice after reports surfaced over a number of big name applications finally entering the Windows Phone Store. While that wouldn’t normally be odd – Microsoft has been working overtime to attract any developers it can to Windows Phone – what was odd were the breadth of applications and the developer responsible for them.
In the last few weeks more than 50 applications have been published in the Windows Phone Store by Microsoft Web Apps, according to reports from ZDNET. That developer account belongs to Microsoft’s WebApps Team. When the outlet queried Microsoft for a statement on what the WebApps Team’s mission was, Microsoft replied with a statement clarifying its position on web apps.
“We are helping people access great mobile experiences on Windows Phone by creating pinnable Web Apps that show up in the app list. These are not a replacement for native apps. In most cases we hope that usage of the Web App will encourage the ISV to publish its own native app.”
Effectively, Microsoft is creating deep links to mobile websites that users download from the Windows Store. While that wouldn’t be big deal had Microsoft disclosed it, the very quiet way in which it launched the program is attracting some negative attention.
As apps are really important to most user’s experience, many buyers check application stores online before they switch to new platforms. It’s entirely possible that someone browsing the Windows Phone Store online might interpret these Web Apps as being native Windows Phone experiences.
So far, Microsoft has published 42 web apps including apps for Lowe’s, Booking.com, Progressive, TMZ, Carmax and PetSmart.
The company also made a Web App that linked to Southwest Airlines’ mobile website, however it’s no longer available in the Windows Phone Store. Microsoft unpublished the app at the request of Southwest Airlines.
While quietly repacking applications seems a bit odd, Microsoft has every reason to want to attract more developers and users to Windows Phone any way they can. The Windows Phone Store has 170,000 applications. For comparison, Apple’s iTunes App Store boasts 1 million applications.