Microsoft has already run numerous promotions for Windows Phone (e.g. the UK Developer Reward program), but this is one of the first times a direct cash incentive has been used, and is also one of the first to directly encourage the creation of Windows 8 apps.
Given the amount of cash involved ($100 per app, with a maximum overall cost for Microsoft of $1,000,000) it's not a major investment and is quite clearly aimed at increasing the number of apps in the Windows Phone and Windows Store. Microsoft, and, in the case of Windows Phone, its partners, have numerous activities for higher profile apps (direct engagement, partnering programs, support subsidies, co-marketing initiatives, and so on), so this should be seen as being about the long tail of app creation.
Most of these long tail apps are "zombie" apps, with very few downloads. In part this is because of their quality, but the fact they sit at the bottom of any search or category listings, and therefore are rarely seen by any users, is more significant. In a sense they are in the app store only "to make up the numbers".
Whether this latest initiative sends the right signal about the health of Microsoft's app store is more open to debate, but ultimately Microsoft is likely to be criticised either way (not enough apps versus paying for apps), such that the overriding imperative remains increasing the catalogue size. A more pertinent question might be whether Microsoft should spend time an effort on increasing the number of zombie apps, rather than trying to move the goal posts, such that the quantity metric becomes irrelevant.
The answer? Microsoft is trying to do both... but it's still going to be a while before the catalogue size metric goes away completely, which means incentives programs, especially for those platforms trying to "catch up" are going to be inevitable.
Via: The Verge