Microsoft Aims To Grow Windows Phone App Count As Lumia 900 Launch Looms


As it revs up to compete against rivals Apple and Google with its new line of Windows Phone-based smartphones, Microsoft is trying to bulk up its app portfolio by offering financial incentives to developers, according to a report Friday from the New York Times.

The software giant, alongside partner Nokia, is launching its highly-anticipated Lumia 900 Windows Phone on Sunday. And to ensure its app offerings are comparable to mobile OS giants iOS and Android, the Times said Microsoft is attempting to woo new developers with promises of free smartphones and top-notch app placement in its Windows Phone store.

The company is also willing to help finance the development of existing, "well-known" apps for the Windows Phone platform. It’s not clear exactly how much Microsoft is going to spend, but developers estimate that costs for this sort of development, which would involve re-writing existing iOS or Android apps for Windows Phone, could fall anywhere between $60,000 and $600,000, according to the report.

[Related: Nokia, Microsoft Launch Lower-End Lumia Smartphone]

Microsoft today has around 70,000 apps available for Windows Phone devices, which pales in comparison to the 400,000 available for Android and the 600,000 available for Apple’s iOS.

The company did manage to lock down a few well-known apps, including Netflix and YouTube. But others, such as the music streaming program Pandora, are still unavailable for Windows Phone devices. Instagram, the popular photo app that became available for Android this week after being exclusive to Apple’s iOS since its launch in 2010, is also not Windows Phone-compatible. The app received over one million downloads during the first 24 hours it was available for Android.

When the Nokia Lumia 900 hits shelves this Sunday, the AT&T sales staff will be ready to field any app-related questions from potential buyers, according to the Times. The telco company, which is the exclusive carrier of the new device, has urged employees to play up the apps that are available on the Windows platform and to provide demos of alternative apps that could work in place of those missing.

While Windows Phone may have some catching-up to do, developers are starting to notice a growing interest in Microsoft’s mobile OS. Ben Lamm, the head of Chaotic Moon, an Austin, Texas-based app development studio, told the New York Times that Windows Phones-related requests are still minimal, but they’re definitely on the rise.

"We’re starting to get requests from firms that want a Windows Phone app," Lamm said. "It’s still only 5 to 10 percent of our total requests, but very different than a year ago, when only Microsoft was calling us to do work."

The Nokia Lumia 900, which won the Best of Show award at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, is available starting Sunday, April 8 for $100.