Is Microsoft’s incentive program for app developers a sign of desperation?
The software giant’s offering developers $100 for each app published in the Windows and Windows Phone stores. The cash is limited to $1,000 per store. It’s part of a campaign to take a bigger share of the market that’s overwhelmingly dominated by Apple and Google. By some estimates, there could be as many as 800,000 apps out there, but not many of them are built for Windows.
There are plenty of observers who say Microsoft’s latest foray into the mobile space is turning out to be something of a bust. Reports of low sales abound. For example, “Smartphones and tablets based on Microsoft’s Windows operating system aren’t selling very well,” Samsung’s Co-CEO, J.K. Shin, told The Wall Street Journal last week.
So, Microsoft’s being pragmatic. If it hasn’t been able to lure developers with coolness and hype, it’s going to dangle money. But some analysts doubt the incentives will move the needle.
“Microsoft is playing catch up, at best,” says Rob Reilly, a technology consultant based in Orlando and the guide of the Dice Mobile Development Talent Community. “I don’t think it’s going to distract the existing Android and iOS developers, because they’re either making it or not. Moving over to Microsoft for $100 per app really isn’t much of a draw, in my opinion — even for starving developers.” Reilly thinks the approach is “a gimmick.”
Besides that, the program doesn’t clear away one of the major hurdles that Redmond faces, says Patrick Moorhead, president and principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy. “With apps, you get what you pay for, and for $100, you will get very focused, low-quality apps that fill in the ‘long-tail’ of the app catalog,” he says. “It doesn’t solve Windows 8’s biggest challenge, which is to get more and better A-list titles.”
Another analyst, Jeff Kagan, is hesitant to call Microsoft’s move desperate, but he doesn’t believe it will help it gain market share, nor does he see it attracting developers. “The problem is app makers have a full-time job creating apps for Android and Apple,” he says. “So I’m not sure what it will take to break through.”
He’s rooting for Microsoft, though. “I think the marketplace will be better off with many more competitors, but I’m not seeing them lining up for anything other than Apple and Google,” Kagan says. “Between the two they have 80 or 90 percent of marketplace. I don’t see Microsoft’s effort to compensate developers making a difference.”