Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Posted by Jason Dunn in "Pocket PC Talk" @ 03:00 PM
The illustration to the left is inspired by something I was told today: the forthcoming Windows Mobile Marketplace is going to be for Windows Mobile 6.5 phones only, not back-ported to Windows Mobile 6.1 and 6.0 phones. That's right - the millions and millions of Windows Mobile phones out there today (40+ million I'd say in the past few years alone) will not have access to this forthcoming software directory. Only people that buy brand new phones, or perhaps a tiny percentage that will get a 6.5 upgrade for their phone, will be able to access this. They might as well made it available only to unicorns - both are mythical at this moment in time.
The strength of a software platform comes in numbers. Being the only one in the world with a fax machine means it's useless. Developers are excited about the Marketplace because, for the first time, they'll have direct access to the customer and can easily offer their software to them. But that audience is going to be very small at first, when it should have been very large.
I've been using Apple's App Store lately on an iPod Touch I purchased specifically for this reason, and I've never seen anything so easy to use in my life - it makes the discovery and purchase of software incredibly fast and simple. I'll write more about that later, but the point is that Apple made the App Store available to not only new iPhone 3G owners, but first-generation iPhone owners, and owners of both first and second generation iPod Touch owners. For developers, that means millions and millions of customers that are only a few taps away from trying, and buying, their software. Overnight millionaires were made by the Apple App Store because Apple put it in front of so many customers at once. This is the right way to do it.
Microsoft has a strong platform, even if it's somewhat beleaguered at the moment, with a huge base of users. They finally get around to doing an application store after an early effort got deep-sixed by their own corporate culture, and what do they do? They make the choice to limit it to users of phones that haven't even been made yet - with Windows Mobile 6.5 not due on phones until Q4 of this year, and with phone networks (in North America at least) carrying seemingly fewer and fewer Windows Mobile phones than ever, it seems like the Windows Mobile Marketplace is going to have a rocky start. It's bad enough that Windows Mobile is one of the few mobile platforms that require the purchase of commercial tools to develop for, or that it's going to charge developers to have their apps listed ($99 for five). This was Microsoft's best chance to woo developers back into the fold, and they've botched it - badly.
I haven't seen the functionality of the Marketplace store in person yet, but even if they manage to completely nail the download, trial, and purchasing experience with their first effort (which is a tall order!) they've dramatically reduced the impact of the whole thing by restricting it to phones that won't come out until later this year. The Marketplace should have launched with a roar - Microsoft's decision to limit it in this way means it will launch with a whimper. Couple that with the fact that some users now have purchase paralysis because they don't want to buy a new phone and not have it be upgraded to 6.5, and you have the makings of some very hard next few months for Windows Mobile.
Jason Dunn owns and operates Thoughts Media Inc., a company dedicated to creating the best in online communities. He enjoys photography, mobile devices, blogging, digital media content creation/editing, and pretty much all technology. He lives in Calgary, Alberta, Canada with his lovely wife, and his sometimes obedient dog. He loves Windows Mobile, though lately it feels like it's harder and harder to do.
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