Microsoft is repackaging mobile sites as Windows Phone apps

Meet Microsoft 'WebApps'

Microsoft WebApps

Microsoft has begun publishing a new variety of apps called "WebApps" that are simple, repackaged versions of existing mobile sites for Windows Phone devices.

The new apps appear in the Windows Phone app store under the title WebApps. They're free to download and behave as a normal app would.

"We are helping people access great mobile experiences on Windows Phone by creating pinnable WebApps that show up in the app list," a Microsoft spokesperson said in a statement obtained by ZDNet.

The company has an ulterior motive, though; "These are not a replacement for native apps," the statement continued. "In most cases we hope that usage of the WebApp will encourage the ISV to publish its own native app."

App holes

The new downloadable WebApps include repackaged sites from Southwest Airlines, the Food Network, Cars.com, Lowe's, TMZ, Orbitz, Atari, and 1-800-FLOWERS, all for a total of around 50.

Windows Phone has long suffered from a lack of apps, despite developer incentive programs and plenty of assurances from Microsoft that all the big apps available on iOS and Android will eventually be available on its platform.

It's not surprising that Microsoft would try to encourage more app makers to jump on board its mobile OS like this, and it also makes it look like there are more actual apps available in Microsoft's app marketplace by filling the selection with easily created web apps.

But a Microsoft spokesperson said that's not the ultimate goal; "In regards to questions on whether WebApps will help fill the Windows Phone Store, the answer is no, we aren't producing WebApps on a massive scale that would significantly impact catalog numbers," she said. "We hope that we can replace these WebApps with native apps as they are developed."

Meanwhile, the company is said to be working on a joint app store for Windows Phone and Windows 8 - and possibly even Xbox - as it works toward unifying its fragmented operating system landscape.