Microsoft: Need Windows Phone Apps, Will Pay Handsomely

Posted by · April 6, 2012 11:50 am

As the next Windows Phone—the Nokia Lumia 900—gets ready to go on sale in the U.S. this weekend, Microsoft has found itself in a predicament rather unfamiliar to competitors like Apple and Google. But unlike these companies, both of whom have developers competing with each other just for the opportunity to make it into one of these app stores, Microsoft has struggled to generate the same kind of hype.

With more and more market slipping through their fingers, developers simply aren’t willing to devote a substantial amount of their time to building apps for a company with such a small mobile presence—even if only for the present.

While Apple has not listened to my complaints ...As New York Times writers Jenna Wortham and Nick Wingfield point out, “[M]any developers are reluctant to funnel time and money into an app for what is still a small and unproved market.”

As a result of this app deficiency, especially when it comes to the bigger name apps that are commonplace among Apple’s iPhone and the Google’s several Android-powered phones, Microsoft has elected to break out the checkbook to get these developers onboard.

Apparently free phones and prime positioning in the app store and Windows Phone ads still wasn’t enough to get some of these big names—especially the increasingly popular social app Foursquare—to step up.

This places Microsoft in a rather difficult position. Considering the $60,000-$600,000 range (depending on complexity) that app developers estimate to be the cost of building just one of these priceless programs, Microsoft could end up throwing away millions of dollars trying to break into a market that seems very much impenetrable at the moment. The very fact that Microsoft offering to pay five or six figures for the same thing that Google and Apple get for free underscores that very real possibility.

Windows Phone vs. Blackberry

Returning to the example of Foursquare that the New York Times used, it’s hard not to be skeptical of Microsoft’s prospects when the Foursquare has in-house engineers to build apps not only for iPhone and Android but even for Blackberry. To make matters appear even bleaker, Holger Luedorf, Foursquare’s head of business development, justified the company’s selectiveness by citing their “very limited resources” and suggesting that “we have to put them toward the platforms with the biggest bang for our buck.”

Had Microsoft not offered to front the necessary funds to build an app for its Windows Phone platform, Luedorf simply said it “probably [would] not” have happened.

Now, if I was as Microsoft fan, which—in the interest of full disclosure—I’m not, I would be a little perturbed. It would be a different story if Apple and Google—the current mobile powerhouses—were the only ones getting love from app developers like Foursquare, but to include Blackberry takes it one step too far.

Why continue investing in an out-of-style device from a sinking company yet forego the potentially lucrative opportunity to reserve prime real estate on a new phone made by a company with no shortage of assets? Sure, Microsoft as a whole is working to bounce back from a lull after losing its edge when the peak of the PC era came and went, but unlike RIM, Microsoft has the history, resources and iconic reputation to make them a safer and—I would think—more appealing investment of developer time and capital in the long term.

Will developers change their minds after the Lumia debuts next week? Share your views on developer hesitancy toward the Windows Phone platform in the comments below.