It is no secret that apps are the key to platforms and anyone who lived through the eighties remembers the massive advantage Apple computers had over PCs in the graphic design world because of programs like PageMaker and Quark Express. In those early days, if you wanted to be a desktop publisher using the PC you were forced to use Ventura Publisher from Xerox and while the program excelled at book design, it stunk at magazine layout.
Apple is obviously winning the app war in the smartphone and now tablet market and you may be wondering how Microsoft will get anyone to develop for its forthcoming Windows Phone 7 OS - especially since Silverlight is not really very popular. It seems the company will hire its own developer(s) to assist OEMs in developing apps to get things started. Engadget has the details but it seems to me this is the smartest approach and it is no surprise Google too is developing lots of apps for Android to stay as competitive as they can with Apple.
Laura Foy at Microsoft's Channel 9 network does an interactive video interview with a Windows Phone 7 device
Still, the chicken and egg problem here is apparent to all - you need outside developers to make new and exciting apps and you need tens of millions of devices on the market to make it worthwhile for them to do so.
It is worth noting that other than the smartphone/tablet market, developers are generally moving towards web-based apps - leading me to wonder why there isn't more of a backlash against app stores from the developer community. Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that the app stores help you sell your apps and deal with distribution, etc. Basically they appeal to the financial needs of the developer community which of course pays the bills.