Microsoft Paying Developers to Create Windows Phone Apps

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Nokia’s Lumia 900 is a beautiful phone. Despite a few flaws, Techland’s own Jared Newman called it “the most noteworthy Windows Phone yet.” I haven’t had time to really get to know it, but a Microsoft employee did let me play around with it for a minute or two at an event in New York and I have to say I was seriously impressed by its sleek, sturdy design.

Another thought I had at the time: I would never, ever buy this phone. That’s because a smartphone is only as good as its apps and compared to iOS and Android, Windows Phone is way behind in the apps department.

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Microsoft’s solution, according to the New York Times, is to pay developers to create apps for the Windows Phone Marketplace. Various companies told the Times that Microsoft financed Windows Phones apps that would have cost anywhere from $60,000 to $600,000 to develop on their own.

Microsoft is also apparently trying to temp developers with incentives like free phones and prime mobile ad space. The reaction of Holger Luedorf, head of business development for Foursquare, when Microsoft came calling? Sure, why not. According to the Times:

Foursquare has in-house engineers working on iPhone, Android and BlackBerry versions of its service. But had Microsoft not offered to pay an outside company to do the work, Mr. Luedorf said Foursquare would “probably not” have developed an app for Windows Phone.

As the Times notes, the Windows Phone Marketplace is significantly smaller than its rivals, featuring only 70,000 apps compared to the App Store’s 600,000 and Google Play’s 400,000. If you have a Windows Phone, you’re out of luck when it comes to apps like Pandora and Angry Birds Space.

Yes, paying developers is a sign of Microsoft’s relative weakness in the smartphone market, but it’s also a sign that the company knows exactly what it has to do to catch up with Google and Apple. I hope they get there quick — I’d love an excuse to buy that Lumia 900.

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