After weeks of rumors that Microsoft was trying to lure developers away from Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android mobile platforms to bolster its upcoming Windows Phone 7 platform, Microsoft today has finally admitted that it’s offering a “variety of financial incentives” to developers, reports Bloomberg.
Todd Brix, a Microsoft senior director who works with app developers, says that the company is providing tools, phones, and funds for development and marketing of mobile software. Some lucky developers are also receiving revenue guarantees from Microsoft — so if an app doesn’t sell as well as predicted, Microsoft will pay the difference.
Brix went on to say that Microsoft has used similar methods in the past for its mobile operating systems, but this time around it’s spending a larger amount. “We are investing a lot to attract developers big and small to Windows Phone 7 to let them understand what the opportunity is and provide as many resources as we can to help them be successful on our platform,” he said. “We’re open for business, and we want to work with them.”
Microsoft managed to drum up a decent amount of interest in Windows Phone 7 when it first announced the platform — but shortly afterward, it announced its Kin phones, which ended up being a spectacular failure. With Windows Phone 7, it appeared that Microsoft was actually innovating for once, but the Kin phones quickly dispelled that image. Now, more than ever, the company needs to make sure that Windows Phone 7 impresses at launch, and to do so, Microsoft will need to make a significant amount of mobile apps available to compete with the iPhone’s 225,000, and Android’s 65,000 (as of today).
In addition to hardware, it’s becoming increasingly clear that every mobile platform needs a strong developer community and a variety of high-quality apps if it wants to survive. When Palm debuted its Pre phone and WebOS operating system last year, it also announced its Mojo SDK to help developers build apps for its new platform. But despite making motions towards being developer-friendly, Palm’s WebOS phones only had about 300 apps by the end of 2009. There were certainly many factors that led to Palm’s lackluster Pre and Pixi sales, including launching on Sprint, and strong iPhone and Android competition — but a weak mobile app presence certainly didn’t help attract users.
Microsoft can’t afford to repeat Palm’s history. It has already announced some major apps for Windows Phone 7, including Netflix, Pandora, and Foursquare — but it also needs to convince smaller developers that its platform is worth their time. Word is that four developers have been approached so far by Microsoft with incentives for moving to Windows Phone 7. Despite its massive resources, though, Microsoft won’t be able to build a platform by bribing developers. Eventually, it also needs to make sure that Windows Phone 7 is compelling enough for developers to jump on willingly.