The Mystery of the Disappearing Windows Apps

A while back I was having some trouble with an app I bought that allowed me to use my Google Music on my Windows devices. So after putzing around with it for a while, I uninstalled it with plans to reinstall it. But after the uninstall, there was no sign of the app in the Windows Store. Hmmm, that’s weird I thought. Did I mis-spell the app name? Am I missing something?

Turns out that things are pretty crazy over at Microsoft as I would later learn from the OneDrive-Office debacle.

Yes, apps just disappear without warning from the Windows Store!

It took a surprising amount of research to find out that the app in question wouldn’t work because of changes on Google’s end. But if you are like me, and used computers for decades- we have been fed this analogy between having our physical data, like a floppy drive, CD, DVD compared to a big company that always keeps our programs at the ready for us to load when we have to move to a new computer or troubleshoot. In this case the app wouldn’t have been of much use. But the analogy is already breaking down between the storage in the tangible physical world, and that of today’s “cloud”.

Particularly troubling is the way this happened. First off, I think the best way for an app store to operate is to require the app remain, perhaps with a warning that it no longer works. This would be analogous to pulling out that old Encarta encyclopedia disk. Sure, it may or may not work on your present computer. And the information on the disk is so outdated it’s of dubious value. But if you want to see what the population of Iceland was in 1991, or just show your daughter how far technology has come, you can.

Fast forward to yet another app that simply disappeared. Microsoft bought out the Finnish mobile phone manufacturer and started cranking out Windows Phones. The WP OS never really caught on. There were some core apps that came with the purchase of Nokia, including their well respected HERE! Maps with the now ironic “Maps for Life” tagline.

I had HERE! installed on my Windows Surface RT, (RT is another Windows OS that never caught on.) I also bought a Windows Phone recently. It was soooo cheap and it’s actually quite nice. But since there are already very limited apps, my backup plan included using the phone for navigation. After all Microsoft bought Nokia and HERE! maps are free and can be used offline, even on RT.

When I got my new WP, one of the first things I tried to do was install HERE! maps. But it wasn’t in the app store. Que?! But it’s on my RT! And it’s still on my daughters WP. Here’s where it got even weirder. So I looked at the Windows store on my RT to confirm that there still was HERE! maps on the store while I still had the app on the tablet. Check. HERE! Maps was still listed in the store normally. Ok, so then I uninstalled the app and tried to reinstall it. Guess what- the app is no longer available.

Searching the Windows Phone store HERE! Maps never shows up. But they know what you are looking for, because simply typing HERE! results in other maps apps, just not the only free offline maps and nav app for WP.

Trying to find humor in this I came up with a spoof combining two famous quotes. If you mix the Windows App store, Yogi Berra’s “Nobody goes there anymore it’s too crowded” and Gertrude Stein’s quote about Oakland “There’s no there there”…. you get:

Nobody goes to the Windows store anymore, there’s no HERE! there.

(tacky joke drum roll)

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HERE! is available for Android

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HERE! is available for Android- just not Windows

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HERE! was THERE in the Windows RT store when it was till loaded on my Surface

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But after I uninstalled HERE! and looked in the Windows store again I get an error message.

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The ironic catchphrase: HERE! Maps for Life. How short life can be- for Windows RT I think it lasted about a year.