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Microsoft starts repackaging popular mobile web sites as Windows Phone ‘apps’

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Windows Phone Store
Windows Phone Store

Microsoft is taking a new approach to its lack of Windows Phone apps. The software maker has started publishing Windows Phone apps for websites like Lowe’s, TMZ, and J.Crew that are simply the mobile version of the sites packaged into a Windows Phone app. In a move that ZDNet notes is part of Microsoft’s WebApps team, there’s over 40 web apps published that are designed to look like Windows Phone apps.

A Microsoft spokesperson has confirmed the apps are published by the company, noting that they’re not designed to replace native apps. "We are helping people access great mobile experiences on Windows Phone by creating pinnable Web Apps that show up in the app list," says a Microsoft spokesperson. "In most cases we hope that usage of the Web App will encourage the ISV to publish its own native app."

A desperate attempt to attract Windows Phone developers

Microsoft has tried multiple approaches to get developers interested in building Windows Phone apps, including competitions and cash payments. This latest approach seems similar to Apple’s own efforts to push iPhone web apps in the months leading up to the launch of its App Store back in 2008. iPhone web apps have largely died off in favor of native apps. Microsoft has over 160,000 apps in the Windows Phone Store, but there’s clearly some big names missing. Microsoft's efforts to package up mobile sites into what are essentially fake apps shows how desperate the company is to attract developers to its platform.