Microsoft and Nokia are planning to invest a combined $24 million in a mobile-application university for developers. This AppCampus program, based out of Aalto University in Finland, will launch in May 2012.
The program will offer facilities, coaching services and access to academic and business networks, according to Microsofts March 26 press release. AppCampus will not only support the development of apps for Windows Phone, but also Symbian and Series 40.
While this announcement necessarily appears Europe-centric, it nonetheless emphasizes Microsofts fervent need to build a robust apps ecosystem for Windows Phone, which it hopes will one day challenge both Apples iPhone and Google Android on a worldwide scale.
Mobile ecosystems with a diverse collection of apps have generally succeeded in the open marketplace; witness the hundreds of thousands of available apps, respectively, for Apples App Store and Googles Android Marketplace. Meanwhile, the failure of platforms such as Hewlett-Packards webOS to generate an app collection on that scale was seen as symptomatic of their larger issues. With all that in mind, Research In Motion is in the midst of an active campaign to prepare developers for its upcoming BlackBerry 10 platform.
Windows Phone boasted around 50,000 apps by the end of 2011, with All About Windows Phone (AAWP) reporting an average of 265 additional items added to Windows Phone Marketplace per day. Based on the numbers in its own tracking system, AAWP suggested that some 58 percent of items in the Marketplace were free, followed by 14 percent paid with a free trial, and 29 percent paid.
The AppCampus also re-emphasizes Microsofts deepening relationship with Nokia, which largely abandoned homegrown operating systems such as Symbian in favor of building devices with Windows Phone. The Finnish phone maker hopes that a collection of Windows Phone devices at a variety of price points will allow it to reclaim the initiative in a consumer market dominated in large part by Apples iPhone and the growing family of Google Android handsets. In the United States, AT&T recently announced that, starting April 8, it would begin selling Nokias high-end Lumia 900 smartphone for $99.99 with a two-year contract.
In addition to Nokia, other manufacturing partners such as HTC have committed to building a new generation of Windows Phones loaded with Mango, which includes hundreds of tweaks and additional features. During this Januarys Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, HTC announced the Titan II, a 4G Long-Term Evolution- (LTE-) capable device with a 3.7-inch screen.
Impressive hardware aside, though, any mobile ecosystem needs apps. Hence, Microsofts current push on the developer side of things.