Thinking About Building Windows Mobile Apps?

We are Android and iOS app builders and developers, but we feel that we need to address Windows apps here, too. We get a few enquiries about Windows apps, but we aren’t currently developing them. If the demand becomes so great that we have to, we will think about it, but we currently specialise in iOS and Android apps.

We do, however, think we would be remiss if we totally ignored a platform that has the potential to make some serious inroads into the market. The main problem we see, though, is that Android and Apple have pretty much defined the smartphone and tablet market, and we don’t currently see a lot of movement with Windows apps. As you will see a bit further down the page, developers are making plenty of Windows apps, but there aren’t enough people buying them for anyone to turn much of a profit yet.

According to stats released by Microsoft, its Windows Phone Store had 75,000 apps published and 300,000 app updates. According to Todd Brix from the Windows Phone Store on the Windows Phone Developer Blog, the average Windows Phone customer downloaded 54 apps in the two years since the first Windows 7 phone was launched.

A look at Todd Brix’s year-ending post on 27th December gives insight into the process at Microsoft, and what we may look for in the future. According to Brix, Microsoft is now focused on customer experience. This involves giving consumers reasons to have confidence in the store and its apps, and making it easy and convenient for shoppers to discover and buy apps. Microsoft also wants their apps to be easily customised so that the user can create their own, unique app experience.

Another of their goals is to create opportunity for app developers. They intend to do this through a common UX design language, the opportunity for global distribution, and multiple business models, resulting in a diverse app catalogue.

This is all fine and good, but what does it really mean? The Windows Phone Store, which, despite Brix’s blog post, has approximately 35,000 apps for sale. Meanwhile, Apple reports over 775,000 iOS apps, and Google Play, which reported 700,000 apps in November, has reportedly drawn even with Apple.

It’s hard to find current stats, but Windows mobile OS had approximately a 2% market share in the third quarter of 2012. If they have grown by 50% since then, they would have a 3% market share.

Do you see a pattern here yet? Let’s connect the dots and see what we come up with.

The Windows Store has about 5% of the apps that Android and Apple’s stores do. Microsoft didn’t get into the phone business to be in third place, and they are trying hard to compete. The first thing they are going to do is fill their app store and try to have as many apps as Google Play and the App Store do.

Consequently, they are now convincing app developers that there is a tremendous opportunity for them to get apps into the Windows Phone Store right now. The problem is that there isn’t anybody to buy those apps. Windows Store is begging anyone who can make an app to submit one to them because they are desperate to produce high inventory numbers.

But where is the opportunity here? What is going to happen to your app once it gets there? It is going to stay there, because they don’t have enough people buying Windows Phones yet. If nobody is buying apps, the app developer won’t get much of an ROI, if any.

Nobody gets into the app development or app building business to lose money, but that is exactly what is going to happen to most people who develop Windows Phone Store apps.

So, what should you look for to see if Windows Phone Store is ever going to become a viable business opportunity for app developers? They simply have to sell more Windows Phones. We know that iOS or Android app development is a sure thing right now. If the app is a good app and is marketed correctly, it is going to make money. Android and iOS are the dominant platforms, and Google Play and the App Store are where the majority of people are buying their apps.

So, what’s happening with Windows Phone apps? At this point, nothing is going on. That’s not to say things can’t change in a few years. Five years ago, RIM’s Blackberry dominated the market. Now, RIM is struggling to even stay in the market.

For now, though: stick with Android and Apple apps.

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