Microsoft to give developers cash for apps

Roll up, roll up. Get your cash for apps here

Microsoft are going to be boosting the number of apps developed for the Windows Phone 7 platform, by paying developers to develop for the platform and compensating developers who don’t make as much as they expect. But will this be enough?

When you decide to build an application on a particular platform there are a number of basic questions that you run through your head, and it’s the same set of questions no matter what the platform.

The basic questions are;

  • Is it easy to develop on?
  • Is it quick to develop on?
  • Are there tools available to speed development?
  • Is the submission process straight forward?
  • Are there skilled people with experience in building for the platform?
  • Is there a market?
  • Will I make any money?

While the first five are certainly important, the last two are the crucial ones.  Without a market and without the potential to make money there’s little point in attempting to produce an app for that platform.

So what would make a developer want to build for a new unknown platform? A new platform like Windows Phone 7 – even with weight of the Microsoft brand behind it – is going to have a hard job convincing developers to build apps. Unless of course there was some cash incentive to build for that platform and there was a guarantee that their gamble was somehow protected.

And that’s exactly what Microsoft appear to be doing for Windows Phone 7.  Rather than letting developers take a risk, Microsoft are taking a pragmatic approach, and are going to use some of their enormous cash reserves to stimulate the market by incentivising developers to produce apps for their platform.

Tom Brix, a senior director at Microsoft, confirmed that the incentives will include cash-funding, test-handsets and free software development tools. But more surprisingly he also added that Microsoft would compensate developers if the apps don’t sell as much as initially expected on the Windows Marketplace store. Quite how they can do this is anyone’s guess, how do you compensate for expectations, an app pre-nup where each party writes down what it hopes to get out of the deal?

Producing an app is always going to be a gamble, even when there’s a vibrant market like the iPhone app market, and while Microsoft’s initiative does get over the money gamble to an extent  – we can’t imagine Microsoft are going to pay for all of the costs or for every developer to develop for the platform – it still doesn’t solve the big problem.

The real elephant in the room is the market. Will enough devices be sold to make this a market that enough developers want to get into? The platform is certainly impressive and Microsoft do have a great brand, but they don’t have a great deal of success in mobile.  Only time will tell.

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