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What is it with these Microsoft groups feeling the need to publicly defend their numbers all of a sudden? The Windows Phone team tonight followed the Internet Explorer crew in insisting that even though one of its key metrics might look modest on the surface, the stats are actually much stronger than they might seem.

In this case, the subject is the number of apps in the Windows Phone Marketplace. In a post tonight on the anniversary of the unveiling of the company’s mobile app development tools, Microsoft’s Brandon Watson has a lot to say about the 11,500 apps counted by the company — along with some thinly veiled jabs at the company’s competitors.

What is an app? It’s a question that really begs some scrutinizing. For us, from the beginning, we have always been focused on quality over quantity. We recognize the importance of getting great apps on our platform and not artificially inflating the number of actual apps available to customer by listing “wallpapers” as a category, or perhaps allowing competitor’s apps to run on the platform to increase “tonnage.” We also don’t believe in the practice of counting “lite” apps as unique quality content. In reality they only exist because developers can’t have a Trial API and must therefore do extra work. Finally, we don’t double and triple count apps which are submitted in multiple languages. …

We’ve been very focused on the quality of the apps in the Marketplace since we first announced the platform one year ago, and we’ve done this by doing what we do best for developers; giving them great tools, tons of sample code and unparalleled support through our incredible Developer & Platform Evangelism team. As a result, we’ve got apps; thousands of them. In fact our ecosystem generated 10,000 apps faster than anyone else, without padding the stats.

Padding or not, Google’s Android Market has more than 150,000 apps, and Apple claims more than 350,000 iOS apps, for iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. Of course, each of those platforms had a pretty big head start over Windows Phone.

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