Windows Phone: Can Microsoft Convince Consumers and Developers?

It’s no secret that Microsoft and its manufacturing partners have struggled to gain traction in the mobile market. ComScore’s latest mobile market share numbers show Windows phones at 3.9% of the market, down 1.3% over the previous average. These latest numbers seem to indicate they are losing the battle. But in the ever changing market, should developers dismiss the Windows platform or hedge their bets that the Windows phone will eventually take off?

ComScore Mobile Market Stats

Microsoft is digging deep into their pockets to make sure developers pay attention – at least the big name houses. Several major developers have indicated that Microsoft, in part or whole, underwrote the development of their app for Windows Phone. But can they really buy the market by paying for app development?

To most this probably sounds like more of the Microsoft playbook in action – doing everything thing they can to force the use of their platform. But in this case perhaps the action is actually benefitting the consumer, and perhaps the developers. The truth is that we buy smartphones because of what they can do – yes being all sleek and gadgetty in a cool way matters to some of us, but if we can’t use it then looks or impressive specs just won’t be enough.

Take the latest launch of the Nokia Lumia 900 for example. PC World’s reviews are saying it has the capability to compete with Android and iPhones. The device itself is well made and impressive. The Windows Phone Marketplace boasts over 70,000 apps. On the surface it sounds like the Lumia 900 should do well. An examination of the apps on the market though, proves less than impressive. Microsoft suffers from some of the same issues that Google Play does.

The biggest is consumer confidence. Apple’s App store does so well in part due to its review process. Consumers know that the apps have been vetted to some extent. We have some confidence we aren’t getting totally ripped off by spam or a malware app. Microsoft Phone Marketplace has a review process, yet the market seems to be full of spammy apps.

Consumers aren’t going to pay money for anything unless they have confidence in them. This is one reason the Google Play market is difficult for developers to make money on direct app purchases. If Microsoft is going to make any headway in the mobile market they will need to address consumer confidence along with their efforts to subsidize development of the big name apps.

If reputable developers can’t make any money selling their apps, then they won’t spend the time developing for the platform. If the apps aren’t there, consumers aren’t going to buy the phone, even though the hardware and the OS are getting good reviews. Right now it seems like an uphill race between Microsoft’s deep pockets and consumer expectations. Will money and marketing be enough to make Windows Phone a real competitor?

Time will tell.