Microsoft is trumpeting its growing Windows Phone 7 apps and developer ecosystem, but questions remain about the smartphones' consumer adoption.
Microsoft claims its Windows Phone 7 ecosystem has grown to
9,000 apps, with a base of 32,000 developers. While that doesn't put the
company's nascent smartphone platform in the same realm as Apple's iOS or
Google Android, which respectively boast hundreds of thousands of apps, it nonetheless
suggests some growth on the developer side of the equation.
Moreover, Microsoft is adjusting its policies for mobile
developers, supposedly based on community feedback. For starters, the company is
raising the limit on the number of zero-fee certifications that can be
performed for free apps, from five to 100.
Second, Microsoft has switched from mandatory to optional a
policy that governed the inclusion of contact information for app support. "This
is still a strong recommended best practice," Todd Brix, senior director for
Microsoft's Mobile Platform Services Product Management, wrote in a March 8
posting on The
Windows Phone Developer Blog, "but we recognized and responded to developer
feedback that this policy was creating excessive drag on the certification
process for developers without commensurate user benefit for all apps."
Microsoft also plans on updating its Marketplace APA (Application
Provider Agreement) "to clarify that we also permit applications under the
Eclipse Public License, the Mozilla Public License and other, similar
licenses," according to Brix. The company is apparently considering the accommodation
of additional OSS licenses.
A new Global Publisher Program will now allow developers
worldwide to submit apps to the Windows Phone Marketplace. Based on feedback,
Microsoft also found that trial apps result in higher sales, with nearly one
out of every 10 downloaded trial apps eventually converting to a purchase.
Users, apparently, enjoy paid apps with trial functionality.
"There are many ways to measure the vitality of a
marketplace and I'm pleased to report that we're seeing strong results across several
fronts," Brix wrote, "from the number of available apps and popularity of our
tools, to more tangible developer benefits stemming from monetization
opportunities that drive downloads and sales."
However, Windows Phone 7's rate of consumer adoption remains
an open question. In a new report, research firm comScore suggests Microsoft's
share of the U.S. smartphone platform market dipped 1.7 percentage points
between October 2010 and January 2011, from 9.7 percent to 8.0 percent. That
trailed Google, which ended January with 31.2 percent of the market, Research
In Motion with 30.4 percent and Apple with 24.7 percent. Microsoft did manage
to beat Palm, whose share declined 0.7 percent during that three-month period
to 3.2 percent.
That reporting period overlaps with Microsoft's launch of
Windows Phone 7, which hit store shelves in October 2010 before its U.S.
release in early November. While the company freely confirms that more than 2
million Windows Phone 7 devices have been sold by manufacturers to retailers,
it remains reluctant to share how many of those devices may have reached
consumers' hands. In any case, the consumer base for Windows Phone 7 could
expand later this year with the launch of more devices on CDMA-based networks
such as Verizon.
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.