Microsoft is claiming strong developer numbers for its Windows Phone 7 platform, but other statistics remain problematic.
Microsoft remains reluctant to share consumer-sales numbers
for its Windows Phone 7 smartphones, but a new blog post nonetheless suggests a
company determined to push the platform as beneficial for third-party
conference, due to kick off April 12 in Las Vegas, will assemble a broad range
of developers and designers to discuss, among other things, the future of
Windows Phone as a viable platform for apps and services. The March 30 posting
Windows Phone Developer Blog reads like a preview of the arguments
Microsoft executives will likely make onstage during the conference.
Among them: that Windows Phone Developer Tools have proven
enormously popular over the past year, having been downloaded some 1.5 million
times. That the Windows Phone developer community boasts 36,000 members, and that
the Windows Phone 7 ecosystem contains around 11,500 apps.
Based on those numbers, a back-of-the-envelope calculation
suggests one app published for approximately every 3.13 developers who signed
onto AppHub. It also suggests that, out of total Windows Phone Developer Tools
downloads, less than 1 percent translated into a published app.
"We recognize the importance of getting great apps on our
platform and not artificially inflating the number of actual apps available to
[customers] by listing -wallpapers' as a category, or perhaps allowing
competitor's apps to run on the platform to increase tonnage," Brandon Watson,
Microsoft's director of developer experience for Windows Phone 7, wrote in the
posting. "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."
Despite the posting's advocacy of Windows Phone 7 as a
platform, its title ("The Windows Phone 7 Numbers That Matter") and much of its
rhetoric hint at an enormous elephant in the room: actual consumer sales
"You might think that the primary driver is number of
handsets in market," Watson wrote at another point. "Based on the conversations
we are having with some of our developers, many are telling us that they are
seeing more revenue on our platform than competing platforms, despite the fact
that we cannot yet match the sheer number of handsets being sold."
Microsoft confirmed at the end of January that some 2
million Windows Phone 7 units had been sold by manufacturers to retailers, but
the exact number reaching consumers' hands remains unclear. "Our numbers are
similar to the performance of other first-generation mobile platforms," Achim
Berg, Microsoft's vice president of business and marketing for Windows Phones, mentioned
in a Q&A posted Dec. 21 on the company's corporate Website. "It takes
time to educate partners and consumers on what you're delivering, and drive
awareness and interest in your new offering. We're comfortable with where we
are, and we are here for the long run."
In the interim, however, the
company has encountered speed-bumps related to software updates for the
platform, which in turn has sparked some anger among early adopters. In the
United States, two Windows Phone 7 devices-the Dell Venue Pro and HTC HD7-are
currently in the delivery stage for the "NoDo" update, which includes
cut-and-paste functionality; the other three remain in the "Testing" stage,
which is apparently controlled by the carriers.
Longer-term, one analyst believes that Windows Phone 7,
thanks to Microsoft's recent alliance with Nokia, will surpass both Research In
Motion's BlackBerry and Apple's iOS to become the second-ranked smartphone
operating system in the world by 2015, lagging behind only Google Android.
"Up until the launch of Windows Phone 7 last year, Microsoft
has steadily lost market share while other operating systems have brought forth
new and appealing experiences," Ramon Llamas, an analyst with IDC, wrote
in a March 29 report. "The new alliance brings together Nokia's hardware
capabilities and Windows Phone's differentiated platform."
Should that come to pass, it would represent a substantial
reversal from Microsoft's current fortunes in the mobile space, where it trails
rivals with 8 percent of the market.
Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.