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Some thoughts on Windows Phone, or Proof that I write about what I’m interested in and not what I think will generate clicks

The Puget Sound Business Journal recently ran an article called The Windows Phone App-peal. It’s behind a paywall, and since I don’t imagine that more than one or two of you are subscribers, I’ll share a few of the items that caught my attention.

Before I begin, a short disclaimer: I am irrationally into Windows Phones. I know, the name has Windows in it – but next time you’re by an AT&T, etc. store, stop by and check one out: it’s totally different from an iPhone or an Android. Using one of those is like using a smart phone; using a Windows Phone is like an experience. (If you’ve never really seen one in action, check out this short, overly-produced video to get a sense of how it looks.)

Here’s the kicker: I don’t even own one. I intend to, when my current contract is up, but in the meantime I feel a little like this guy.

And with that disclaimer out of the way, what I found of interest in the article was not particularly positive for the OS’s prospects:

With Apple now bragging about having 600,000 apps for its iPhone and iPad, and Google crowing over 400,000 Android Apps, poor Microsoft lags, with 50,000.

OK, so Windows Phones offer significantly fewer apps than its competitors. It’s a bit of a vicious cycle – the only way to get more apps is to get more users, and one thing that holds back some users is the OS’s lack of apps. This isn’t new, but I include it here as background for the following:

Windows Phones already offer 90 percent of the most popular titles available on Apple and Android phones, Microsoft says, and are adding roughly 300 apps and games daily.

More than 80,000 developers, the company says, are registered to create Windows Phone apps.

300 apps a day: sounds impressive.

80,000 developers registered: that’s more than there are apps – must mean more on the way!

Hold up.

One thing the first excerpt had – but this one lacks – is context. First of all, Microsoft is trying to close a gap with its competitors, so mentioning that it adds 300 apps/day without providing similar numbers for its competition is less than helpful. Second of all, it’s not entirely clear whether there is a strong relationship between the number of people signed on as developers and the number of apps they will ultimately develop. Consider that people signed up as Facebook developers just so they could be Timeline ‘early adopters’ (now, don’t they feel silly?). 80,000 developers does not mean 80,000 eventual apps (and even if it did, that’s still only 80,000).

In any event, possibly more important than the sheer volume of apps available: which apps are available. I don’t think anyone would choose an OS based on whether or not it offered I Am Rich. The article addresses this issue eventually, so let’s take a look at what it has to say:

Popular apps such as Netflix, Evernote and Yelp already are offered for Windows Phones. Not yet available are Skype and Pandora. Stay tuned. [Editor’s note: nice pun.]

Wait, what? If Windows Phone does not succeed, and analysts decide to look back for where it jumped the shark, I’d offer this list as a strong candidate. Yelp, Netflix, Pandora – whatever. They’re other companies. If they haven’t developed a Windows Phone app yet, they’ll probably get to it later. Or not. Either way, not really all that big of a deal.

But Skype? Microsoft literally owns Skype – and an app is out for the competing operating systems – but it hasn’t gotten around to putting that app together for its own OS. Whoops.

Also curious:

You can buy [Angry Birds] from the Windows Phone app store for $2.99; it’s 99 cents on iPhones and free on Android.

OK, I imagine it’s free on Android because of ad support – at least I assume that’s how Android works.

But for the life of me, I can’t figure out why it’s $3 on Windows Phone and only $1 on iPhone. Granted, fewer people use Windows Phone – but shouldn’t supply and demand (or in this case demand) set an app’s price, and am I wrong in surmising that a higher price causes lower demand? Apparently, a 30% cut of every app sale for the Marketplace (i.e. Google, Apple, Microsoft) is the industry standard, so that’s not it. Someone who knows more about the economics of app distribution, please fill me in.

One last excerpt made me pause, think ‘That can’t be right’, go online, check the source, and allow my mind to be blown:

How far will Microsoft go to make Windows mobile a success? A hint may be in a recent Forbes story claiming that Microsoft is willing to pay Nokia what amounts to $230 per phone in order to gain market share against Apple and Android.

As mentioned above, the vicious cycle is vicious: Unless more people buy Windows Phones, Microsoft will have a hard time sustaining the app ecosystem important to attracting more customers. But paying Nokia $230/phone to run Windows mobile seems to me beyond absurd. It’s not exactly like Nokia was dealing from a position of strength:

NOK, 5y

I don’t really have a conclusion, but there you have it: Microsoft has what I think is a great product that’s stuck at 5% market share because reasons, and if you made it this far, you now know a little bit more about it. Yes, you might also have some more questions, but questions is generally a sign that you know more about something, not less. You’re welcome, I guess.

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11 thoughts on “Some thoughts on Windows Phone, or Proof that I write about what I’m interested in and not what I think will generate clicks”

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