As the crucial holiday shopping season draws closer, Microsoft is gearing up to offer Windows Store gift cards.
"This holiday season, we're launching Windows Store gift cards, making it easy for consumers to purchase apps from the Windows Store or Windows Phone Store," Todd Brix, general manager for Windows Phone Apps and Store wrote in a Nov. 8 blog post. The cards will be available to purchase online or at retail stores.
Microsoft is also expanding Windows Store's payment options. In China, Windows 8.1 users can now opt to pay with Alipay, a popular e-payment service with 800 million customers. In addition, the company lined up 28 new Windows Phone carrier billing partners, for a total of 46.
In his post, Brix shared a rare advantage that Microsoft's app ecosystem has over its rivals. Windows Store has "13 more carrier billing partners than Google Play (iOS does not offer carrier billing)," he boasted. The payment alternative is driving sales: "on average, a [threefold] lift in revenue in developed markets and [eightfold] in emerging markets with the addition of carrier billing," Brix said.
Along with expanded payment options, the company dangled yet another carrot in front of developers. Microsoft signaled that the company's newest efforts to drive spending on its app marketplace could mean additional revenues for developers that publish apps on Windows Store.
Despite trailing well behind Apple's App Store and Google Play in terms of size and popularity, there are signs that the Windows Store is gaining traction. Last year, informed Brix, "holiday sales of paid apps grew 40 percent over baseline." This year, the company is banking on "an even more robust Holiday 2013."
Between the gift cards and promotions covering Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8.1 devices, Microsoft expects shoppers "to have over $100 million dollars (USD) available in their Microsoft accounts to spend on app and in-app purchases" during the holidays, said Brix. The company also expects to issue promotional gift cards in select markets.
Microsoft will roll out the new gift cards and promotional programs in the "coming weeks," giving developers a little time to publish or polish up their apps. "We're sharing this with you now as bit of a head start so you can finish that app you've been working on or tune up an existing app in time to take advantage of these new opportunities," stated Brix.
This summer, the company launched a Web-based tool called Windows Phone App Studio that helps inexperienced coders publish apps and speeds up the development process. "For hobbyists and first-time app designers, Windows Phone App Studio can help you generate an app in four simple steps," said Windows Phone Developer Experience head Emilio Salvador Prieto.
The tool also streamlines app development for experts. "Unlike other app creation tools, with Windows Phone App Studio, a developer can download the source code for the app to enhance it using Visual Studio," added Prieto in an Aug. 6 blog post.