Microsoft, Nokia Rumors Drew Windows Phone 7 Developers: Report

Microsoft and Nokia's partnership drew developers to the Windows Phone 7 platform even before it was officially announced, according to analytics firm Flurry.

Microsoft could benefit from its Nokia partnership in ways beyond selling more Windows Phone 7 devices: According to new data from analytics firm Flurry, more developers are starting projects using Microsoft's smartphone platform.

"This week, with the early speculation and subsequent announcement that Nokia and Microsoft would be partners, Flurry measured a 66 percent increase in Windows Phone 7 starts over last week," Peter Farago, Flurry's vice president of marketing, wrote in a Feb. 11 posting on his company's blog.

Flurry's analytics for Windows Phone 7 only extend back five weeks, meaning that, to ensure that the application-development spike was not an "aberration," the firm had to compare it against data for the first five weeks of Android and BlackBerry application starts. The resulting graph suggested that Windows Phone 7 application starts had not only jumped significantly in its fifth week, but bore marked similarities to the early growth of Google Android.

"When Flurry launched its support for Android in October 2008, there was doubt in the industry around the viability of Android as a development platform," Farago wrote. "Back then, the sentiment was that Android would capture market share as a mobile operating system, but not necessarily as an application-development platform or an ecosystem where developers could thrive."

Google's Android Marketplace subsequently expanded to hundreds of thousands of applications, presenting a viable alternative to Apple's App Store.

"Likewise, prior to today's announcement, many questioned the viability of Windows Phone 7 as an operating system that developers would support," Farago continued. "From Flurry's point of view, this week's spike in Windows Phone 7 developer activity shows that developers not only believe that Nokia has given Microsoft Windows Phone 7 a shot in the arm, but also that Nokia and Microsoft together can build a viable ecosystem."

Nokia's agreement will see Windows Phone 7 ported onto its devices. That could help Microsoft's relatively new smartphone platform penetrate the international markets where Nokia maintains a strong presence. The effect in the United States, however, may be more questionable given Nokia's placement (according to recent data from research firm comScore) as dead last among top mobile OEMs.

Microsoft executives claim that Windows Phone 7 is selling at a rate comparable to other first-generation smartphone platforms, but the exact number of devices reaching consumers' hands remains unclear. At the end of January, the company confirmed that manufacturers had sold some 2 million Windows Phone 7 units to retailers. In its research note, comScore suggested that Microsoft's share of the U.S. smartphone-platform market had fallen from 9.9 percent to 8.4 percent during the fourth quarter of 2010, increasing the pressure on Windows Phone 7 to reverse that slide.