BusinessWeek has an interesting article about NERD, or rather, Microsoft's New England Research & Development Center. This branch of the Redmond company has recruited college students to write apps that will help fill the Windows Store prior to Windows 8's launch. However this summer's batch of 21 interns only managed to crank out five apps, three of which are already available and two that are on the way.
“Microsoft is definitely playing catch-up with respect to the global app marketplace,” said David Hilal, an analyst at FBR Capital Markets, in an interview. “Their challenge is a chicken-and-egg problem. They need to get more users for their apps to entice developers, but they need better apps to attract more users.”
Currently there's a significant number of apps on the Windows Store – there are even apps for Tom's Hardware and Tom's Guide – but their number pales in comparison to Apple's App Store and Google Play. Even more, Microsoft is pushing to offer apps for two platforms: the ARM-based Windows RT and the x86/x64-based Windows 8 Pro.
"The apps ecosystem is probably the single most important factor in a customer’s experience," said Al Hilwa, an analyst at market researcher IDC. "It dictates what books you read, what music you listen to, what movies you see, what social activities you take part in. Problem is, you can’t have half a million apps overnight."
Microsoft reportedly recruited interns last year to write prototype apps for the Windows 8 preview. They generated six apps which in turn generated enough interest among computer science students for Microsoft to make the pilot program a permanent thing.
As for the actual apps, Catch It is a commuter-transit app slated to launch later this month. There's also Trackage which allows users to track packages shipped by FedEx, UPS, the U.S. Post Office and LaserShip, and an alarm clock called Never Late. Inkarus is a physics-based game featuring a chubby penguin who must collect components for a flying machine, and FaceReel uses facial recognition to generate videos out of a set of images.
Ultimately NERD aims to create a devoted group of Windows 8 "converts" who will spread good cheer throughout all the land of computer science majors and design students, convincing them to develop Windows 8 apps too.
"Because Windows 8 is pre-release, it’s been so exciting to get my hands on it before other people have been able to," said Emily Lin, a media arts and sciences major at Wellesley College, who served as the designer on the Catch It team. "When I tell my friends, they say, 'That’s so cool that you are getting to develop on Windows 8.'"
To read the full article, head here.