Microsoft Wants To Avoid Cheap Mobile Apps

Microsoft recently unveiled its Race To Market Challenge contest, in which Windows Mobile developers can submit applications for listing in its forthcoming Windows Marketplace For Mobile. The contest includes free and paid application categories, with the winner of the former determined by the number of downloads and the latter determined by revenue from application sales.

At a Wednesday gathering of Windows Mobile developers in Redmond, Wash., Loke Uei of Microsoft's Mobile Developer Experience Team offered a glimpse into where Microsoft would like to see developers focus their creative energies and pricing strategies.

"I know, 99 cents is interesting -- yes, consumers like to pay 99 cents for applications. But 99 cents, come on, I think your app is worth more than that," said Uei, as reported by Todd Bishop of TechFlash.

Windows Marketplace For Mobile, which will open this fall once Windows Mobile 6.5 devices start hitting the market, represents Microsoft's effort to emulate the success of the App Store in a way that's tailored to its own developer community. Microsoft says it's aware of the frustrations App Store developers have had over rejected apps and has vowed to give Windows Mobile developers clearer guidelines.

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The problem for Microsoft is that Windows Mobile is fast becoming a footnote in the fast-moving mobile space. Windows Mobile used to dominate among enterprises, but the rise of smartphones has relegated it to the status of an also-ran. The iPhone, which is becoming more than just a consumer device, and the App Store's runaway success serve as constant reminders of how far behind Windows Mobile has fallen.

Windows Mobile 6.5 has been repeatedly delayed, and Windows Mobile 7 won't arrive until the fourth quarter of 2010, according to some sources. Windows Mobile 7 is supposed to bring Microsoft up to speed with smartphone foes, but until it arrives, competitors are going to continue pushing their own platforms forward.

What's puzzling is that Microsoft has plenty of interesting technology that could be applied to mobile. Microsoft's Silverlight advancements, its February 2008 acquisition of Danger, maker of the T-Mobile SideKick, and the slick touch-screen interface of the Zune HD all serve as notable examples, according to Andrew Brust, chief of new technology for twentysix New York, a Microsoft partner in New York.

"Extrapolate from there and Windows Mobile 7 could be a bang-up platform. But we have nothing to go on yet, other than hope," Brust said.