Microsoft in Search of Star App Developer for Windows Phone 8

Taking a page from RIM's playbook, Microsoft is attempting to build buzz and the application inventory for Windows Phone 8 by offering incentives to mobile app developers.

When it comes to growing the Windows Phone 8 application inventory, Microsoft is betting that the prospect of fame and presumably fortune can be a strong motivator for developers that are on the fence about supporting the mobile operating system.

Todd Brix, senior director of the Windows Phone Apps Team, unveiled Windows Phone Next App Star, a contest aimed at bringing new, innovative apps to the Windows Store. And taking the top prize could mean the type of exposure that only big advertising budgets can buy.

The grand-prize winner's app will be featured in a TV commercial, informed Brix in a company blog post.

"The last app standing will win the Next App Star challenge and the grand prize of placement in one of our Windows Phone prime time TV advertisements in the U.S., bringing national exposure and a lot of buzz to one developer's creation," wrote Brix.

Other prizes include a Nokia Lumia 920 and one-year Dev Center subscriptions. The submission period ends March 5, the date by which new or updated apps up for consideration must be published and live.

The goal, added Brix, is to unearth compelling apps and shine a spotlight on developers that are leveraging distinctive Windows Phone 8 features like Live Tiles. Dominating the Windows 8 Phone home screen, Live Tiles are blocky, self-updating panels that provide users with at-a-glance views of recent activity like social media updates and app alerts.

Brix hopes that the competition will call attention to the wide variety of available apps in the Windows Phone ecosystem, not just best sellers and perennial leaderboard staples. "This isn't just about picking the most popular app in the Store. Windows Phone Next App Star is about giving developers a shot at being the next big hit," added Brix.

The contest is the latest effort by the company to heighten Windows Phone's profile in the developer community. The company hosted a global "appathon" in November that attracted 13,500 registrants. Even its Azure cloud platform has been pressed into duty as a mobile app backend.

Microsoft isn't the only mobile OS maker dangling incentives in front of developers. Canadian smartphone maker Research In Motion (RIM) kicked off a program called the 10k Developer Commitment last year to help spur interest in BlackBerry 10.

Participants whose apps are approved through the Built for BlackBerry program are guaranteed to earn at least $10,000 if their apps generate at least $1,000 within 12 months. RIM will pay the difference to those developers who don't cross the $10,000 mark.

On Jan. 11, RIM hosted a 36-hour Port-A-Thon that awarded $100 for each submitted and approved app (up to a limit of 20 apps). Other incentives included BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha devices and a paid trip to Amsterdam to celebrate the BlackBerry 10 launch at BlackBerry Jam Europe.

The ploy worked, according to Alec Saunders, RIM's vice president of developer relations.

On Jan. 13, Saunders tweeted, "Well there you have it. 37.5 hours in, we hit 15,000 apps for this portathon. Feel like I've run a marathon. Thanks to all the devs!"

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...