Microsoft is revamping its smartphone offerings with the upcoming Windows Phone 7 Series operating system and Windows Phone Marketplace. While Microsoft is using its MIX 10 conference in Las Vegas to aggressively promote Windows Phone 7 to developers, the company may need to avoid the strategies it employed for its last smartphone releases, Windows Mobile 6.5 and the Windows Mobile for Marketplace, neither of which seems to have contributed the traction that Microsoft needs as it competes against Google, Research In Motion and Apple for market share in the crowded smartphone arena.
Microsoft hopes to compete head-on against Google and Apple in the
mobile-applications category with its upcoming Windows Phone 7 Series
smartphone operating system, despite the substantial lead that both the iPhone
and Google Android devices currently enjoy in their number of available apps.
Starting with its MIX 10 conference in Las Vegas,
Microsoft has been offering the Microsoft Silverlight and XNA Framework as an
ideal way for developers to build new mobile applications and games.
Within a broader context, however, Microsoft's mobile-app strategy may also
involve different tactics from those the company employed for Windows
Marketplace for Mobile, the apps storefront
it released alongside its previous smartphone operating system, Windows Mobile
"MIX 10 is a large first step in beginning the conversation with
developers," Larry Lieberman, senior product manager for Microsoft's
Mobile Developer Experience, told eWEEK in a March 15 interview timed to the
opening of the conference. "Now with Silverlight and XMA, there are two
extremely robust, mature frameworks with a large install base. Silverlight has
half a million developers worldwide, and every single one of those developers
is essentially now a mobile developer."
used the opening day of the conference to discuss the new paradigm for the
Windows Phone 7 Series
, which replaces the "pages of mobile apps"
model of the iPhone and Google Android devices with "hubs" that integrate
mobile applications and Web content. The operating system further embraces
Microsoft's newfound consumerist bent by adopting the slick sheen of the
company's Zune HD portable media player.
Despite the emphasis on an integrated experience, Microsoft
plans to aggressively promote a new Windows Phone Marketplace that will allow
developers to leverage mobile apps for profit
, via features such as
one-time credit card purchases, mobile operator billing and advertising funded
"Windows Phone 7 Series brings together a rich application environment,
powerful hardware, a fresh approach to software and a smart new design,"
Joe Belfiore, corporate vice president of Windows Phone Program Management,
wrote in a March 15 statement. "It was designed to generate incredible
opportunities for developers and designers to quickly and easily deliver
compelling applications and games. With the best developer tools, an
established ecosystem and marketplace, and a path for developers to use their
Silverlight and XMA Framework skill sets, we are delivering an application platform
that is simple, powerful and inspiring."
Microsoft indicated that mobile applications built for its previous
smartphone operating system, Windows Mobile 6.5, will not be compatible with
Windows Phone 7 Series.
But Microsoft may also choose, in the months leading up to the release of
Windows Phone Marketplace, to avoid the same sort of strategy it pursued in
ramping up Windows Marketplace for Mobile,
its previous mobile-applications storefront.
Marketplace for Mobile currently contains around 718 mobile apps for
U.S.-based Mobile 6.x smartphones, a small number compared with the more than
100,000 currently available on Apple's App Store.
Throughout the summer of 2009, Microsoft executives publicly hoped for
around 600 apps at the time of Marketplace for Mobile's
Oct. 6 release. In a bid to further differentiate themselves from competitors
such as the App Store, where prices tend toward free or else 99 cents per
application, Microsoft also encouraged developers to charge more for their
"We would definitely want to promote [the idea] that you make more
money selling applications than selling your application in a dollar
store," Loke Uei, senior technical product manager for Microsoft's Mobile
Developer Experience Team, told mobile application developers for Redmond,
Wash., on Aug. 19. "But 99 cents, come on, I think your app is worth more
On Nov. 16, more than a month after the store's launch, Microsoft announced
that older versions of its smartphone operating system-specifically Windows
Mobile 6.0 and 6.1-would also have access to Marketplace for Mobile.
In addition, Microsoft also tweaked the storefront for better anti-piracy
PC-based shopping and account management.
But in the time between the release of Windows Mobile 6.5 and Marketplace
for Mobile and the Feb. 15
unveiling of Windows Phone 7 Series, Microsoft's smartphone operating-system
market share plunged another 4 percent, dipping
in analytics company ComScore's estimates from a 19.7 percent market share in
Oct. 2009 to 15.7 percent by January
. During that same period, competitors
Research In Motion, Apple and Google all experienced gains in market share.
With those types of numbers, Microsoft may need to rethink its strategy when
it comes to the new operating system and apps storefront. Microsoft executives
have indicated within the context of the MIX 10 conference that the company
intends a large push behind the new products when release time comes at the end
of 2010. Part of that push may involve trying not to repeat the actions of the