Microsoft is offering cash and other resources to developers in hopes of enticing them to build applications for its upcoming Windows Phone 7, according to online reports.
"We are investing heavily in the developer community by offering as many resources as we can to help them be successful on our platform," a Microsoft spokesperson wrote to eWEEK on July 14, seeming to support the reports' veracity. "Where it makes sense we do co-fund strategic projects on a limited basis."
Windows Phone 7 aggregates Web content and applications into subject-specific Hubs such as Office or Games. When released near the end of 2010, the operating system will be paired with a Windows Phone Marketplace, to which developers will be able to submit five free applications (rising to $19.99 after that) along with an unlimited number of paid applications.
In a July 14 article, Bloomberg quoted Todd Brix, a senior director at Microsoft, as indicating that the company would devote whatever resources were necessary to draw developers into the fold: "We are investing a lot to attract developers big and small to Windows Phone 7 to let them understand what the opportunity is and provide as many resources as we can to help them be successful on our platform," he said.
In addition to resource allocation, Microsoft has taken pains to sketch out the parameters of its upcoming mobile applications store for developers. During its TechEd conference in June, Microsoft issued a document on its Windows Phone for Developers Website clearly delineating its content policies. Inevitably, the company will ban applications that are libelous, slanderous, threatening or discriminatory, as well as those that promote hate speech, the use of illegal drugs and excessive alcohol consumption, and violence.
The question of what constitutes an acceptable application has bedeviled Apple's popular App Store on occasion over the past few months, with the company removing applications only to reinstate them after a groundswell of protest from users; in addition, some developers have questioned why their applications with borderline-explicit content were pulled from the store, while applications with similar content that were created by major corporations were allowed to remain in place.
Microsoft seems to be taking a lesson from Apple's difficulties.
"Philosophically our approach with Marketplace is in line with what's existed for Windows Phone traditionally, and for Windows Mobile 6.5," Casey McGee, a spokesperson for Microsoft, told eWEEK in a July 13 interview at the company's Worldwide Partner Conference. "What we've sought to do with Windows Phone is be very transparent-here are what the fees are going to look like, etc., and here are the guidelines."
For any controversial applications, McGee said, Microsoft will attempt to make its decision-making process as see-through as possible: "There's a lot of subjectivity in the guidelines, and there will be judgment calls, but there will be an attempt to be consistent."
Microsoft's share of the smartphone operating system market has been gradually shrinking over the past several quarters, increasing the pressure on Windows Phone 7 to be a hit-something that depends on its various software and hardware components working as perfectly as possible from the outset.
"All the stuff has to work pretty well, it has to be quick, it has to be stable," McGee said. "We need to launch with a Marketplace that shows we have a variety of applications that can be used on a daily basis."
A notable portion of WPC, running from July 11 to 15 in Washington, has focused on Windows Phone 7.
"The phone is going through a massive inflection point," Andy Lees, senior vice president of Microsoft's Mobile Communications Business, told an audience gathered in the Verizon Center July 13. "There's this immense competition, but in many respects, things are just beginning."
Microsoft's strategy behind Windows Phone 7, he added, centers on three tenets: smart design, integrated experiences and an optimized ecosystem. "The problem is that smartphones are just app launchers; they're a grid of icons," Lees said. "We figured there's got to be a better way than going app by app by app, so two years ago we fundamentally reset our strategy."
On the same day, Microsoft released Windows Phone Developer Tools Beta.
"The term 'beta' is understood to mean that things are close to finished," Brandon Watson, Microsoft's director of developer experience for Windows Phone 7, wrote July 12 on The Windows Phone Developer Blog. "It's time to get serious about building the actual apps and games for Windows Phone 7 that consumers will be looking for starting this holiday season."
And in Microsoft's view, if that takes a little co-funding, so be it.