Ellen wrote last week about how Apple changed the mobile world with the iTunes App Store. I’m looking forward to seeing the impact of the Microsoft mobile software store, Windows Marketplace for Mobile, which is scheduled for release on October 6.
First of all, I’m very hopeful that it will be a big success. Microsoft will be including it on all the new Windows Mobile 6.5 devices, as well as making it available for download on WM 6.0 and 6.1 units. I believe that’s the single most important factor in an app store’s success.
I’m very pleased to see that Microsoft is allowing developers to submit trial versions of their software to Marketplace. Letting users run demo versions of applications before they buy is not only important to them, but can also make a big difference in the quality of the apps available, and the price they sell for. I know that people don’t object to paying reasonable prices for software – we wouldn’t be here if they did. But I also know that it’s much harder for someone to pay for an application if they haven’t had the chance to try it first. Allowing trials in the Marketplace will undoubtedly help prevent the “race to the bottom” that plagues iTunes.
I know the Windows Mobile Marketplace won’t initially have the number of apps that iTunes does, but I don’t think that’s a problem, either as a developer or an end-user. As a developer, I’m frustrated by how hard it is for our apps to be seen among 75,000 apps; as a user, I’m frustrated by how hard it is to find what I’m looking for. Of course Microsoft needs enough apps to appeal to the wide variety of their users, and I hope the developer community will provide them. The ideal scenario would be that the Windows Mobile Marketplace gets the magic number that makes the store compelling without being overwhelming. I think there’s a good chance of that happening.
Like Apple, Microsoft is reviewing all apps submitted to the Windows Mobile Marketplace, and apps have to be approved before they’ll appear. And like with Apple, there have been problems in the review and approval process. The good news is that Microsoft is improving their process, and implementing changes suggested by developers. Once again, I’m optimistic. This doesn’t seem like the old Microsoft.
As Ellen wrote in her earlier post, mobile developers no longer have the problem of users not knowing they can buy software for their smartphones. Everyone knows “there’s an app for that”, and we’ve seen proof that users of every smartphone want apps for their phones. I think the Windows Mobile Marketplace button on the new Windows Mobile phones has the potential to get a lot of attention. And that will help us all.