Earlier this week at the first ever Windows Mobile Developers Camp, Microsoft had some interesting things to say to its developers regarding app pricing on the upcoming Windows Marketplace app store. Speaking to a group of about 50 developers, Loke Uei, Microsoft’s senior technical product manager for mobile developer experience, suggested that developers should avoid pricing their apps for $.99, a practice which has become quite common on the iTunes App Store.
The business opportunity is the ability to target more than 30 million devices globally today. Ninety-nine cents is interesting, but I think your work is worth more than that – $5.99 or $9.99.
That’s kind of a bold statement to make when you’ve yet to actually see any apps. Interestingly, 9to5Mac notes that of the 50 developers in attendance, only a handful of them had any significant mobile app development experience. Talk about an uphill battle.
As competing products like the Palm Pre increasingly become attractive alternatives to the AT&T crippled iPhone, one of the differentiating features that will determine the success of smartphones going forward will be what kind of apps users will be able to download for each particular platform. That said, high price points might be nice in theory, but if Windows Mobile users aren’t gonna download apps en masse, then it’s all for naught.
Looking back, Apple did things the right way. It focused on delivering a kick-ass and revolutionary phone, waited until it had a solid installed base of users, released the iPod Touch which further solidified that base, and then released an SDK and made apps easy to download via iTunes. Microsoft, though, seems to be going about things the wrong way. Instead of trying to lure developers over with promises of higher price points, it should focus more on developing a solid phone, or OS in this case, that people, oh I don’t know, actually enjoy using. Only then will they attract a devoted group of users who will actively and consistently download apps. And then, and only then, will developers be convinced to develop for Windows Mobile.
For a company that spent a good part of the 90’s buying up competing companies left and right, Microsoft may soon find out that in today’s fast moving tech world, money can no longer by everything.
We should point out, though, that Microsoft has already secured Windows Mobile involvement from some of the more well-known mobile app developers – such as Pandora, EA, CNBC, Netflix, Gameloft, and MySpace. It’s a start, but Microsoft will need to attract the indie developers if it truly wants to make a dent in the iPhone’s armor.