I’ll never forget when my boss at the time showed me his shiny new Windows Phone. I liked the interface, the feel of the hardware itself, and the responsiveness of the internet even on the (dreaded) AT&T network. I nodded politely and congratulated him on his bold move away from the norm (something that he does often). I figured he’d have an iPhone or Android to replace it by the end of 2011.
It wasn’t the technology. It was the apps. I didn’t believe at the time that Microsoft was being aggressive enough encouraging developers to fill their marketplace the way that Android had. iOS needed no encouragement – developers flooded it early and never stopped – but Android needed a little coaxing in the early days to get developers on board. Microsoft showed no signs of being as proactive.
Then, something changed. In August, as WebOS started looking like it was going crumble, Microsoft did something that I hadn’t seen them do before with their mobile OS division. They reached out.
It’s subtle. It’s minor. It’s also the thing that made me change my mind. Maybe Microsoft had grown a pair and was going to make a real play to stay in the lucrative mobile game beyond 2012.
Now that 2012 is upon us, they just passed the 50,000 apps mark, something that even the hopeful didn’t expect to happen before 2012. The skeptical such as myself weren’t sure it would ever happen. At a rate of 265 new items added per day, they’re actually pacing faster than Android in the early days and aren’t too far behind iOS. It took iOS 12 months to hit the mark while Android did it in 19 months.
Windows Phone apps did it in 14 months.
Is the future of Windows Phone set? Pretty much, yes. There is enough room in the industry for 3 major players and BlackBerry is looking like a has-been lately. They won’t catch up with Android or iOS any time in the near (or distant) future but then again, they never expected to. This is a supplement to their core business, one that has a lot of potential benefits even 3rd on the list.
The key is going to be their ability to get to a solid #3 as quickly as possible. The world is still using BlackBerry and Microsoft hasn’t done enough yet to be a consideration for most people entering the smartphone segment or making a switch from their current provider, but that could change. If they do something crazy like buying RIM in the future, it may be enough to make their presence in this race permanent.