In Perspective: Windows Mobile Marketplace

Posted: May 19, 2009 in Clubhouse Posts (Computers, Software, and Internet)

If you haven’t heard already, Windows Mobile Marketplace is coming out sometime in the next few months. Building upon the craze of an all-inclusive “App Store,” akin to what Apple has had tremendous success with the iPhone and iPod Touch, the Marketplace is going to bring such to Windows Mobile phones. It is quite possible this strategy will be extended to Zune, XBox, and other Microsoft platforms.

While you cannot submit applications at this time, you can sign up for the Marketplace today. This gets you approved for the Marketplace now, meaning you won’t have to wait [hopefully] for account approval when the Marketplace officially starts accepting application submissions.

It’s not surprising that Microsoft has taken many pages from Apple:

  • $99 entry fee (same as Apple’s)
    • Note this is for the first 5 apps, then $99 per app thereafter (a policy that is subject to change)
  • Developers get 70% (so 70 cents of a 99 cent app)
  • A developer dashboard (similar to Apple’s)
  • Built-in to every Windows Mobile 6.5 phone (Apple’s iTunes App Store is built-in on every iPhone and touch-screen iPod)
  • Having the built-in App Store gives way to impulse purchases, especially 99 cent applications

The Windows Mobile Marketplace will be different in many ways as well:

  • More devices by many manufacturers expands the breadth of your distribution, and increases potential revenue
  • Target devices with capabilities suited to your application’s needs
  • Rely on Microsoft as a development company to make development and deployment easy
  • Businesses tend to use Windows Mobile, opening up a great market segment to independent developers
  • Use Visual Studio to write killer apps in a simple-to-understand framework – .NET
  • No reason to code in Objective C (seriously)

There Are Hurdles, Of Course

Now, to be fair, Microsoft faces a few hurdles Apple doesn’t, namely:

  • Multiple device types, formats, screen resolutions, processor speeds, keyboard capabilities (Apple only has one format, basically)
  • Development time constraints for 12 screen resolutions
  • Much less control over what’s already included on phones, and how OEM software will conflict with built-in applications

Hopefully the market will work out the two issues above. I posted a Wish List on the Windows Mobile Marketplace forum, hoping Microsoft will help us developers out when it comes to deployment. To be fair, Microsoft is selling operating system licenses, not phones. The more manufacturers, the more licenses. However, it’s a chicken and egg problem – getting developers to write applications for the devices running the operating system.

There are already tens of thousands of Windows Mobile applications out there. It is likely many of those will already be available in the app store, and they already run on the majority of Windows Mobile devices, especially those with touch screens (the ones I hope will win out in this “format war” of sorts). So, it’s good to see Microsoft can start with a vast library.

Of course, the downside to this is it’s not a new library, and developers may be turned away after seeing so much competition; especially entrenched competition with a potentially unfair lead into inclusion. Microsoft also faces the risk that of those thousands of applications that are already out there, many of them may be written for older Windows Mobile devices, and thus have compatibility issues, or very outdated interfaces. There is something to be said about iPhone apps – they look pretty – with special thanks to Apple’s UIKit extensions, which provide transitions, flips, acrobatics, shine, and panache with practically a click of a button. Let’s hope Microsoft provides the same.

Developers – Make Money!

The draw to these application stores isn’t just for consumers looking for games to show off to friends at a bar. The revenue possibilities for independent and commercial developers are huge. Impulse purchases are a gimme – 99 cents to try an app, just tap to get it. That’s easy money for the store provider, the phone company (they get a cut of that 30%), and especially the developer. Most independent developers could never afford this type of exposure, and commercial distributors are likely salivating over getting their apps in front of so many people through such an outlet. If you’ve read the stories of people making hundreds of thousands of dollars with Apple’s App Store, you can see why.

Microsoft is really the only other game in town when it comes to serious platform availability. Given that they are incredibly popular in the business arena, and business applications are super easy to write with .NET, independent developers should be flocking to their Marketplace. I hope they do – but then again I’m biased as a Windows Mobile developer who’s done WM dev since the beginning.

Can Apple Be Beat?

Apple exudes iron-fisted control over their platform in a way no other provider can, and they can get away with it, since they own both the hardware and the software. Heck, to some extent, they even control the carrier (for now). Microsoft, Google (Android), RIM (Blackberry) – they are all operating system manufacturers with multiple devices on practically every carrier.

It is likely Apple will want to extend the iPhone to other markets. This could mean different-sized screens and device capabilities. If they release a netbook or tablet-like device, they’ll probably want to use the iTunes App Store to monetize it. So, Apple may end up getting dragged into this device format and software compatibility issue as well. Time will tell.

Moving Forward

At the end of the day, though, it’s all about you. If you’re a developer, you win all the way around. For $99, you get distribution to millions of devices, no matter which store you choose. If you have .NET development skills, you can start writing applications for Windows Mobile devices today, and get them distributed easily. Release a great game, entertainment or business application for 99 cents and maybe make thousands of dollars in a single month. The tools are free, and $99 isn’t too bad, especially since you only have to pay it once, not per application. If it doesn’t do well, at least you can brag to your friends that your app is available phones all over the world 🙂

In the mean time, why not sign up for the Marketplace and prepare yourself for a potentially great revenue stream?

Some helpful resources:


Updates to article:

  • Corrected Android reference
  • Updated fee information to include 5 app limit on $99
  1. Tim says:

    As a developer of many languages (.Net, Java, C++, etc) I can tell you that developing apps for windows mobile devices in visual studio is far and away the best IDE and development environment for many reasons. For example, building a GUI interface for your windows mobile app is extremely easy with tools from your toolbar and the code is basically the same for all VB and C# developers. If you have ever tried to develop a rich GUI interface on Android you would understand how advanced Visual Studio and the windows mobile SDK really is. The downfall for iPhone development is the obscure Objective-C language, used no where else in the real world, and the task of producing a full app with Xcode and Interface builder is very choppy and difficult at best. So, in a nutshell I am excited to see where the windows mobile marketplace goes and I think this is a genuine opportunity for developers to make a few extra bucks worse case scenario.

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