RealTime IT News

Microsoft Reaches Out to Mobile Developers

Giant Microsoft doesn't often find itself having to play the feisty upstart. But that's the situation when it comes to its mobile application storefront.

Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) is the big kahuna when it comes to online storefronts, having leveraged its iTunes music store expertise to develop the world's most successful mobile storefront, the iPhone App Store. The App Store now boasts over 65,000 applications and over 1.5 billion downloads since its debut a bit more than a year ago.

But Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) is hardly new to wooing developers. Exhibit A is its years of experience attracting millions of developers to the Windows platform, and to a much lesser degree, to its Windows mobile platform.

Now, in advance of the launch of Marketplace, its mobile app store, Microsoft has announced a series of free WinMoDevCamps starting on Aug. 19 at its Redmond, Wash. campus.

Future WinMoDevCamps are being planned for Austin, London, New York, San Francisco and Singapore.

The WinMoDevCamps are being set up as a series of not-for-profit gatherings, sponsored by Microsoft and partners, in a user-organized BarCamp-style format that lets developers present and set much of the agenda. Microsoft will also make presentations.

"While some attendees will wish to work solo during the event, we encourage attendees to team up, based on expertise, to work in ad hoc project development teams," said a statement at the group's Web site. "All attendees should be prepared to work on a development project during the event."

Developers will also be able to test and optimize their applications for the Windows Mobile 6.5, the newest version of the mobile platform due out later this year. Experts will be on-hand to show developers how to migrate existing mobile applications from the iPhone, Blackberry and Palm Pre to Windows Mobile. Microsoft also plans to show how to create mobile apps that support its Windows enterprise applications.

Microsoft could not be reached for comment by press time.

An edge for Windows?

Technology analyst Jack Gold said Microsoft and its partners need to be aggressive in reaching out to developers because the Apple iPhone is getting a major share of developer's attention, while other platforms like the BlackBerry and Palm Pre have already launched their storefronts.

"Windows Mobile has been around for years, but right now, you'd have to say Apple has the potential to get ten times the number of developers," Gold, principal of J.Gold Associates, told InternetNews.com. "Microsoft has a lot of catching up to do,"

"They can't bank on a 'build it and they will come' strategy," he added. "Microsoft has to come across as really wanting to help developers and be a partner."

One way he said Microsoft can do this is by getting developers up to speed on Windows Mobile 6.5.

"They have to hit the ground running with 6.5, and even preview 7 if they can," Gold said. "They need to show cool new stuff and get these developers stimulated, not recap what they've been offering for years."

Gold noted that Microsoft has the luxury of a huge base of Windows developers to which to market, but developing for Windows and the Mobile platform aren't quite the same thing.

"There are a lot of developers that are Windows-centric, and that would seem the most obvious group for Microsoft to go after, but if they can get some Android and Blackberry developers, all the better," Gold said.

"The problem is that it's not practical for most developers, particularly the smaller ones, to support multiple platforms, so Microsoft has to make a convincing case for Windows Mobile."