Ready for WP7? Microsoft Needs Apps to Be Successful

Microsoft is a huge company with years and years of successful operating system development and launches under its belt. Windows Phone 7 (WP7) has just been made official and plenty of new WP7 smartphones from manufacturers like Dell, HTC and Motorola are on their way. The real question is whether or not Microsoft is going to have enough developer support for the new platform to be a success.

WP7 needs apps even more than it needs copy and paste. Sorry, couldn’t resist. (Copy and paste is being added in a January update to WP7 along with some navigation software stuff.) While Windows certainly has plenty of software—far more than anyone would ever need—just having a huge pool of developers in the wings isn’t enough for WP7. They have to be excited about the possibilities of the new smartphone OS and convinced that it will be worth the financial gamble of developing for.

In the consumer app market, WP7 has a lot of catching up to do. iOS has 250,000 apps available and Android Market is rolling in nearly 100,000 apps of its own. Microsoft is spending about $1B (yes, that’s a billion dollars) on advertising, but the real muscle is going to be spent by the company getting developers on board.

Before you start to worry that the new WP7 smartphone you just ordered won’t have any apps, remember that Microsoft has been in similar positions before. Its Xbox came out of nowhere and has managed to snag a hefty amount of market share from both Sony and Nintendo. Gaming consoles are not smartphones, but they are consumer electronics. Microsoft isn’t dumb; it knows what it needs to do.

The good news though for the WP7 and apps is that Microsoft is not making the same mistakes that have left Research In Motion’s (RIM) BlackBerry App World crippled at 10,000 apps after being out for years and years. Microsoft is getting free development tools out to developers as quickly as possible. RIM on the other hand, has only made things harder for its own developers. So many models it sells do not have touchscreens, use SurePress when they do have touchscreens, or just are crippled by lack of memory and storage space. RIM’s reluctance to release new development tools in a timely manner have not helped things for the platform either.

Regardless of whether or not WP7 is a huge success or just eh, I would be surprised if it takes more than a year to pass the BlackBerry App World numbers. Expect its number of apps to jump into the tens of thousands by the end of next year. There are just so many developers out there counting on Microsoft that I think the platform has a good, fighting chance.

Let me know what you think. WP7 going to have the apps you want? Sick of the poorly designed apps flooding iTunes and Android Market and hoping Microsoft can keep its developers in line?

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