It’s no secret that Microsoft is desperately trying to become a third player in what has clearly become a two-man race between Apple and Google. With the release of Windows Phone 7 and a huge advertising campaign, coupled of course with Redmond’s recent deal with Nokia, Microsoft is pulling out all the stops. But it will take a lot more than money to put a dent in the armor of the iPhone and a strong line up of Android devices. One of the most important factors in Microsoft’s attempt at smartphone resurgence is having an app store with a large number of quality apps.
To that end, Microsoft has not only reached out to developers and offered them wads of cash to port popular apps over to the Windows Phone 7 platform, but the company has also recently begun encouraging its own employees to write their own apps. Moreover, Microsoft is letting employees keep 70% of all generated profits as it eases up on a standard rule in tech whereby any work an employee does while under the employ of a company belongs to the company outright.
Mr. Watson of Microsoft said the policy change emerged in part because of a push from his group. “We tend to have strict moonlighting rules,” he said of the company. “But we’ve changed those rules so developers can do this in their spare time, and have the financial benefit and outcome of the work.”
And the “incentive seems to be helping,” the New York Times reports. “More than 3,000 employees have registered to submit apps and about 840 have been published so far.”
A novel idea, to be sure. Silicon Valley is littered with startups founded by individuals who formerly worked for top-notch tech firms but who wanted to venture out on their own and reap the profits of their hard work. A number of popular iOS developers, in fact, are former Apple engineers – including Tweetie developer Loren Brichter who eventually was snatched up by Twitter itself.
The Times article mentions a few intriguing apps Microsoft employees have churned out thus far, and to be honest, it’s nice to see Microsoft, or any large company for that matter, show some flexibility from the typically rigid framework that permeates large companies like Microsoft.
Will the initiative bear any fruit? Not in and of itself, but it’s just one more piece of the puzzle Microsoft is hoping will help catalyze their relatively anemic marketplace.