Surprise: Microsoft edges Apple’s App Store for ‘innovation’ in mobile storefront rankings

by David Needle

January 2 2013

Microsoft's Windows Store got top marks for innovation.
Microsoft's Windows Store got top marks for innovation.

Apple’s pioneering App Store is still ranked as the top overall mobile app store front in a recent evaluation, but faces its strongest competition to date.

A big reason for Apple’s mobile success has been the App Store, the iTunes-powered online storefront of hundreds of thousands apps for the iPhone and iPad. But a new report that ranks the various storefronts finds competitors are catching up on a number of fronts.

The report from ABI Research’s Competitive Assessment of mobile application storefronts, ranked Apple first overall, followed by Google Play and Microsoft's Windows Store.

The online stores were ranked for implementation and innovation. For implementation, Apple finished first, followed by Google and RIM.

But for “innovation” Microsoft narrowly beat Apple, with Google taking the third spot.

The ABI Research report gave Microsoft high marks for its “fresh approach to app discovery,” as well as Windows Phone store’s overall solid usability. As ABI notes, ease of discovery is crucially important because when a customer arrives at an app storefront much of the following download activity is based on how the vendor presents and highlights its inventory, especially through various charts.

Does Apple need to chart a new course?

“Although Apple has done a great job capitalizing on App Store’s head start as an app distributor, it should really start re-thinking the way it charts the top apps,” said ABI Research’s senior analyst Aapo Markkanen.

“Microsoft should be lauded for its initiative to extend its ranking algorithm beyond raw download figures, by including factors that can actually measure the customer satisfaction and retention.”

Markkanen said that since retention-based charts are less prone to manipulation, Microsoft can be more transparent about its approach.

“Moves like this can help break the developers free from the ‘tyranny of [who has the most] downloads’, decrease their reliance on costly marketing campaigns, and thus lower the barriers to entry” he said. 

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