Microsoft, Palm, RIM Need Better Mobile Apps to Catch Apple's iPhone

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2009-06-30

Microsoft, Palm, RIM Need Better Mobile Apps to Catch Apple's iPhone

A host of online publications are reporting that Microsoft is planning to launch its Windows Mobile Marketplace this fall. According to published reports, the store will have 600 applications at launch. Microsoft plans to roll out even more applications as its store grows. The applications downloaded from Windows Mobile Marketplace can be installed onto a Windows Mobile smartphone.

Microsoft is excited. The company's Windows Mobile product manager for Microsoft France, Audrey Zolghadar, discussed the Windows Mobile Marketplace in an interview with MobiFrance recently. And although there isn't too much known about it yet, Zolghadar believes the store will provide exactly what Windows Mobile users are looking for.

"For the launch of Marketplace, 600 applications will be certified and available," Zolghadar said. "It will be possible to retrieve the software from the search engine. Only software compatible with the screen resolution, touch or not touch will be visible to the user. Customers can test the software since they will be sold with a satisfaction or your money back offer valid for 24 hours. The customer may choose to pay by credit card will be billed directly or by deduction from the invoice operator (as operators). Microsoft wants to make the smartphone more fun. We offer new games for free. We signed a partnership with EA Games and manufacturers can integrate such mobile Sim City and other surprises."

Having the ability to install applications on a smartphone isn't anything new. Both Palm and RIM offer that now on their own smartphones. And Apple, the leader in the space, started the push for smartphone applications in the first place. At this point, applications have become a requirement. And yet, it seems only Apple really understands that. Granted, the iPhone has a larger installed base, so developers would be more willing to develop applications for the iPhone than any other device, but isn't the number of Microsoft apps just a little too small? Undoubtedly.

And worst of all, it's not alone.

Palm, RIM and Apple


Mobile applications from Palm are practically non-existent. At this point, the company has just 30 applications available to users. Some of those applications will perform some basic operations consumers are looking for, but for the most part, they're not really providing added value to the Pre.

Worse, Palm has yet to deliver an SDK. According to the company, that SDK just isn't ready. It hopes to make it available at some point by the end of the summer. Great. But in the meantime, Pre users will be left watching iPhone owners enjoy their apps, while they wait for programs of their own to extend the functionality of their smartphone. They can't be happy about that.


RIM's BlackBerry Storm and BlackBerry Bold are both capable of running applications. The company's BlackBerry App World, though, just doesn't provide the sheer number of applications users require. RIM has stayed silent on exactly how many apps its BlackBerry App World has, but as a BlackBerry Bold user who runs a few of the apps in the store, I know there are too few. There are fewer than 1,000 applications in the store, by my estimate. And worst of all, many of those apps are simple ports from the iPhone, so their functionality on my BlackBerry Bold is severely diminished.


And then there's Apple. The company that started the application craze currently has 50,000 applications available in its App Store. Those applications range from social networking tools to business productivity to casual gaming. The diversity of the apps is enough to impress even the most ardent Apple hater. And it ensures that going forward, Apple will easily beat out the competition.

But undoubtedly, some will say that it's not about the number of the apps in a mobile store, but the quality of the apps in that store. It makes sense. 50,000 apps might mean nothing if they aren't very nice. But a more objective observer that has used apps from all three stores knows Apple has it covered. The vast majority of those 50,000 apps are high-quality programs.

We also can't forget that many of those apps have been ported to other platforms. In other words, it's the same exact app on different technology. That doesn't provide the other companies with a significant advantage.

And perhaps that's the biggest problem Apple's competitors face. If they don't have better apps and the selection isn't nearly as wide, they're at a disadvantage.

It's time Palm and RIM start focusing on their SDKs and getting more apps to their respective stores. If they don't, it could only spell more trouble.

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