Microsoft has been offering to pay developers of popular iPhone applications to port their wares to the upcoming Windows Phone 7 platform, according to reports. Scheduled for release on a variety of devices later in 2010, Windows Phone 7 is Microsoft's attempt to make up for the ground it has lost the smartphone arena to competitors such as iPhone maker Apple.
One developer reportedly told the Website Pocketgamer.biz that Microsoft had approached his colleagues about making their iPhone games compatible with Windows Phone 7. The money being offered, according to the article, was said to be "substantial."
Microsoft declined to directly confirm the rumors.
"We are working closely with a wide range of developers on mobile applications," a Microsoft spokesperson wrote in a June 21 e-mail to eWEEK. "We offer developers support and resources such as hardware, tools, technical support, design assistance and in some cases limited financial support, most commonly in the form of an advance on revenue."
However accurate, the report reflects Microsoft's ramped-up efforts to prepare for the Windows Phone 7 launch; during June's TechEd conference, the company also made an effort to push the platform to more business-centric designers and enterprise customers.
Windows Phone 7 takes an altogether different viewpoint on the smartphone user interface from competing products such as the Apple iPhone and Google Android, which tend to present individual mobile applications on a menu-like screen. Instead, Windows Phone 7 collates applications and Web content into subject-specific "Hubs" such as "Office" or "Games." Microsoft will pair the smartphone operating system with a new Windows Phone Marketplace, where developers will be able to submit five free applications (rising to $19.99 after that) along with an unlimited number of paid applications.
At TechEd, Microsoft pushed a vision of Windows Phone 7 as primarily being for business.
"More than 90 [percent] of our target customers for Windows Phone use their smartphone for business purposes," Paul Bryan, a senior director of Windows Phone at Microsoft, wrote June 7 on the Windows Phone Blog, timed to the first day of TechEd, "and 61 percent use their phones equally or more for business than personal use. This is why we designed Windows Phone 7 to combine a smart new user interface with familiar tools such as PowerPoint, OneNote, Excel and SharePoint into a single integrated experience via the Office hub."
While Apple's App Store has run into a few widely publicized controversies over its acceptance policies for applications, Microsoft, possibly taking a lesson from Apple's experiences, is clearly delineating its own applications policies from the very beginning. A list on Microsoft's Windows Phone for Developers Website breaks down the company's mobile content policies: In addition to forbidding applications that are libelous, slanderous, threatening or discriminatory, Microsoft also bans applications that somehow promote hate speech, the use of illegal drugs and excessive alcohol consumption or violence, including, "People or creatures on fire."
Depending on how stringently Microsoft polices its own applications marketplace, the rule on violence could affect some of the more popular mobile games, which involve a good deal of killing. Although Apple has banned several explicit applications from its App Store, a number of games allow iPod Touch, iPad and iPhone users to colorfully flash-fry zombies and aliens to their hearts' content.
In any case, the time for developers to decide whether to embrace Windows Phone 7 is approaching. Brandon Watson, Microsoft's director of developer experience for Windows Phone 7, wrote June 8 on his personal blog that Microsoft will "start putting phones into select developers' hands next month," particularly those who have invested in the Silverlight and .NET platforms, registered at Windows Phone Marketplace, and begun their application-building process.
The big question for developers, however, will be whether they have the time and resources to port their applications-often already developed at considerable cost-over to a new platform undergirded by an entirely different programming language. That issue alone may prevent some from jumping at the chance to expand onto multiple platforms, no matter how enticing the money being offered.