Microsoft has had to endure complaints surrounding an issue since Windows Phone originally launched back in 2010 - not enough official apps. It's true the platform is still missing a number of official solutions, but since Windows Phone 8 was released, support has slowly been growing at a slow, but steady rate. The Windows Phone Store now has more than 160,000 apps.
We've seen banks, mobile operators, broadcasters and more pop on to the Windows Phone Store, but there's always that one app you need but it's just not there (and there's no decent third-party alternative). Microsoft is looking to address this problem by packaging mobile websites and packaging them as web apps.
You'll notice official apps appearing from the developer "Microsoft WebApps." Brands include SouthWest Airlines, Booking.com, TMZ, Lowe's, and the Food Network. The webapps themselves are simply mobile versions of said websites packaged into a Windows Phone experience. Here's how Microsoft explains the WebApps team:
"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."
The above quote makes it clear that Microsoft is not set out to replace official, native apps, but the plan is to encourage developers to get on-board and start building content. This latest move suggests a state of desperation for Microsoft regarding its app issue.
It's an interesting way to bring official brands to the store. We're not sure how this will be received by the community since Windows Phone consumers generally favour true, native experiences. That said, it's good to see Redmond attempting new techniques.
Head on over to the Windows Phone Store to check out the availabe web apps.