As Microsoft releases new tools for Windows Phone, developers ask: how is it selling?

Microsoft has released Visual Basic for Windows Phone Developer Tools – not a lot to report, I guess, except that what you could already do in C# you can now also do in Visual Basic.

Still, when someone at Microsoft asked me what I thought of the Windows Phone 7 developer platform I replied that the tools look good for the most part – though I would like to see a native code option and it seems unfortunate that mobile operators can install native code apps but the rest of us officially cannot – but the bigger question is around the size of the market.

We all know that a strong and large community of developers is critical to the success of a platform – but as I’ve argued before, developers will go where their customers are, rather than selecting a platform based on the available tools and libraries. It is a bit of both of course: the platform has to be capable of running the application, and ease of development is also a factor, but in the end nothing attracts developers more than a healthy market.

Therefore the critical question for developers is how well Windows Phone 7 is selling.

Nobody quite knows, though Tom Warren makes the case for not much more than 126,000, that being the number of users of the Windows Phone Facebook application.

I’m not quite convinced when Warren says:

It’s likely that most users will connect their Facebook account so the statistics could indicate nearly accurate sales figures.

Not everyone loves Facebook; and when I was trying out Windows Phone 7 I found myself reluctant to have it permanently logged in. Even so, I’d agree that well over 50% of users will enable Facebook integration so it is a useful statistic.

Although that suggests a relatively small number in the context of overall Smartphone sales, my perception is that lack of availability is part of the reason, so it is too early to judge the platform’s success. I do not see many Windows Phone 7 in the mobile phone shops that I pass in the UK; in fact it is unusual to see it at all. I am not sure if this is mainly because of supply shortages, or because Microsoft and its partners found it difficult to build expectations in the trade that this would be a sought-after device, or both.

Some bits of anecdotal evidence are encouraging for Microsoft. Early adopters seem to like it well enough. Nevertheless, it is a minority player at the moment and that will not change soon.

Developers are therefore faced with a small niche market. Microsoft has done a fair job with the tools; now it needs to get more devices out there, to convince developers that once they have built their applications, there are enough customers to make it worth while.

4 thoughts on “As Microsoft releases new tools for Windows Phone, developers ask: how is it selling?”

  1. It seems to me that if Microsoft want to create an App market, that is full of developers and nice little apps to download, they need to start the snowball! Why don’t they get their mobile developers to start to develop downloadable apps and stick them on Marketplace (or whatever wp7 online store is called!) so it can start to boast about it’s app library.

    Once it gathers momentum and news about nice apps circulates the customers, and therefore the developers will come.

    Chris Snape

  2. Currently I’m in no great rush to upgrade so I’m holding off until I can use a WP7 phone for tethering, interestingly t-mobile say the omnia 7 can do mobile internet which I think is their code phrase for tethering but I suspect it’s a typo.

    Missing cut and paste are off putting (but not a disaster) and I’d like to see a couple of OS updates come through to see how thats handled.

    I think I’ll wait and see what the android 3.0 handsets are like before I buy my next phone.

  3. Yeah, i’d be elma fudd on my numbers if i were in the wp7 team. As you definately don’t want to create a self fullfilling fail prophecy here.

    That being said, 126k (assuming that was correct) isn’t a really high number, especially when you seperate non-Microsoft developer community + Microsoft Staff from that number – you are left with a really small amount of units / persons holding the said units.

    I think Apple iPhone blew that number out of the water on the first day? so not quite sure this is a useful stat for the integrity of the said platform. If Microsoft do come up with the said stat it will be about 20-30% inflated (to account for evangelism / end of year fiscal targets for all staff) so until they come up with the magic success metric, its pretty much a game of guestimations …

    The apps in the market place are a bit weak, basic and lack of depth. If I see one more twitter, flashlight or tip calculator I’ll just scream at my zune desktop 🙂

    Scott Barnes (MossyBlog)

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