Windows Phone lags behind its competitors as an app-development platform, according to data from a survey taken at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference earlier in June.
Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster surveyed some 45 developers at WWDC. “Note that our sample consists only of WWDC attendees who are iOS developers and would naturally favor Apple’s platform, but 47 [percent] also develop on the Android platforms,” he wrote in a June 13 research note. “All of the 22 developers who develop on both iOS and Android prefer iOS for monetization and ease of development.”
How did Windows Phone fare in this environment? Some 13 percent of those surveyed also developed for Microsoft’s platform, lagging behind Research In Motion’s BlackBerry platform at 36 percent and Android at 47 percent. Windows Phone did manage to surpass Hewlett-Packard’s webOS platform at 7 percent and Nokia’s Symbian at 4 percent.
Some 9 percent of respondents also felt that Windows Phone had the highest potential for growth, lagging Android at 40 percent and Apple’s iOS at 51 percent. In that case, Microsoft managed to surpass RIM, HP and Nokia, whose respective platforms all scored a flat 0 percent.
At least one Microsoft executive has been encouraging developers to charge more for their Windows Phone apps.
“I’d rather developers sell fewer than a million downloads and get to a million dollars,” Brandon Watson, Microsoft’s director of developer experience for Windows Phone, reportedly said at a May press conference in Helsinki. “If we can support a higher price point, that’s good for developers.”
Microsoft had also encouraged developers to charge more for apps on its previous mobile platform, Windows Mobile 6.5. At the time, the strategy was perceived as Microsoft’s attempt to draw in any developers frustrated with Apple’s App Store, where broad swaths of apps are available for free or 99 cents. In theory, that pricing trend makes it difficult for developers to build an audience unless they price their wares at the same point-effectively devastating their chance at substantial profits unless they sell in bulk.
However, the continuing success of the App Store, as well as Google’s Android Marketplace, suggests that developers have little problem selling their apps for a relatively low price.
In any case, Microsoft hasn’t been betting on apps alone to sell Windows Phone: The upcoming Mango release will supposedly add some 500 new elements to the platform, including multitasking, a redesigned Xbox Live Hub, visual voicemail, the ability to consolidate friends and colleagues into groups within the “People” Hub, and Local Scout, which offers a view of everything to see and do in a particular neighborhood.
Analysts are offering wildly different estimates of Windows Phone’s eventual market impact. According to research firm IDC, Microsoft’s platform will surpass Apple’s iOS by 2015, although both will continue to lag behind Android.
“Until Nokia begins introducing Windows Phone-powered smartphones in large volumes in 2012, Windows Phone 7/Windows Mobile will only capture a small share of the market,” reads the firm’s June 9 research note, “as the release of Mango-powered smartphones are not expected to reach the market until late 2011.”
Should the Nokia transition proceed smoothly, IDC expects that Windows Phone will take some 20 percent of the smartphone market by 2015, handily beating iOS (16.9 percent), BlackBerry OS (13.4 percent), undefined “Others” (5.5 percent) and Nokia’s soon-to-be-defunct Symbian (0.1 percent). Google Android will continue to rule the roost, however, with an estimated 43.8 percent.
Of course, IDC’s estimates hinge on Nokia transitioning smoothly to Windows Phone, something a few analysts perceive as easier said than done. Once the news emerged that Nokia planned on abandoning its Symbian platform, sales of Symbian devices began a precipitous drop-and Nokia’s Windows Phone devices aren’t expected to hit the market before the end of 2011.