The debate is no longer only about hardware and platform, as in Windows Phones vs. iPhones vs. Android phones, but has recently included titles in the software market, since even Stephen Elop doesn’t miss an opportunity to talk about “ecosystems”. The number of applications in the catalog is equally important, giving users the power to choose. While the Apple iTunes Store has somewhere around 600,000 titles and Google’s Play Store is not far behind, the Windows Phone Marketplace has topped 70,000 (which is a good number considering the age of the platform but it’s just a fraction of the other two significant competitors).
“Developers, developers, developers” goes hand in hand with “apps, apps apps” nowadays. According to a recent New York Times report, Microsoft is “writing checks to fill out its app store”. We know there’s no shortage of money when it comes to Microsoft and we know the company is willing to go that extra mile to have its platform succeed. Incentives like free developer phones and great Marketplace exposure sometimes work, other times they don’t.
It could take anywhere between $60,000 to $600,000 to develop Windows Phone versions of a software title, according to app makers. Microsoft is glad to sometimes finance that, as was the case with Foursquare: “We have very limited resources, and we have to put them toward the platforms with the biggest bang for our buck. But we are a social network and it is incredibly important for us to be available on every platform”, said Holger Luedorf, Foursquare’s head of business development.
The official Windows Phone Facebook app is not made by Facebook and the New York Times app was built by outside developers. Microsoft’s own Casey McGee, senior marketing manager for Windows Phone, confirmed that there are indeed incentives without naming apps that got financed from Redmond.
Truth of the matter is that a platform doesn’t really mean anything without applications to choose from. Does it matter for the consumer who built the app, who financed it and how as long as it is available and kept up to date? Probably not. Since Windows Phone was late to the market and iOS, together with Android, are kings of the jungle, can you blame Microsoft for putting their cash to good use?
However, with the rumors around Windows Phone 8 (aka Apollo), there will probably be no need (or less) to talk about application numbers. The new, upcoming platform, is expected to share many characteristics with the corresponding desktop operating system, which would eventually bring lots of new applications to the table.