Why I Like Microsoft's Plan to Pay Developers to Build Windows Phone 7 Apps

You might expect some cynical snarky remark from me about this headline from Bloomberg/Businessweek:

Microsoft Pays Mobile App Developers to Help It Catch Apple

But, you won’t see that here because I happen to believe this is a good idea. In fact, after learning that Windows Phone 7 and Windows Mobile 6.x are essentially different and incompatible products, I suggested Microsoft pay developers when I visited the Windows Mobile/Phone teams earlier this year. I’m not implying that my suggestion triggered this, by the way. Microsoft has never acted on anything major (perhaps a few small items over the years) I’ve suggested in the past while visiting them. So, I don’t see why they would start this year 🙂

Microsoft has a huge problem with Windows Phone 7. Windows Mobile 6.x users have no incentive to upgrade to 7 from an app point of view. None of the current apps for 6.x will install on 7. The new model is that everything has to be downloaded and installed from Microsoft app store. Moving contacts, calendar and email from Windows Mobile to Android, iPhone, or any other smartphone platform is relatively simple these days. If you don’t like any of the manual migration methods, Google Sync does a remarkable good job of syncing with Outlook. Once the information is in Google’s cloud, any smartphone can sync up with it. You can turn off your Windows Mobile phone after that and never look back. Yes, your apps won’t go with you to the new platform. But, that is true of 7 too.

So, Windows Phone 7 will need a bunch of killer apps that either:

1. Let you easily migrate your work from 6.5 to 7
2. Make you say “Wow, I really want that app”

Unfortunately, developers have little incentive building apps for an unproven platform (Windows Phone 7). On the other hand, there is a lot of incentive to develop for the iPhone or Android which have large vibrant marketplaces. So, paying developers to build for 7 makes a lot of sense to me. If 7 fails, it is all over for Microsoft’s smartphone plans. There is no fallback.