RealTime IT News

Microsoft Touts Mobile Marketplace Experience

Amidst a plethora of other relatively small newsy items, Microsoft announced this week that several significant vendors have signed up for its upcoming Windows Marketplace for Mobile, along with new billing options, designer screen tools, and ties to social networking sites.

In fact, the common theme of many of the announcements is enhancing the user's experience with Windows Mobile.

Among a small laundry list of vendors who've already signed up for Microsoft's online applications store are AccuWeather.com., The Associated Press, CNBC, Developer One Mobile Software, EA Mobile, Facebook, Gameloft, MySpace, Netflix, Pandora, Sling Media, and Zagat Survey, according to a Microsoft statement.

The announcements come the day before the beginning of the CTIA Wireless 2009 conference running this week in Las Vegas.

Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) launched Marketplace for Mobile at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in mid-February. It is due to go live later this year. However, Marketplace for Mobile arrives at a time when most Microsoft competitors have already announced their own online application stores – most notably, Apple's App Store.

"It's important that they're [Microsoft] providing this [store]," Craig Mathias, principal at Farpoint Group, told InternetNews.com. Even though Microsoft is late in bringing an applications store to market, it's an essential component of a successful mobile strategy, Mathias said.

However, he is not expecting miracles. "I'm not expecting it to be as popular as App Store … [because] the perception is that Apple sells an experience while Microsoft sells operating systems," Mathias added.

That may have something to do with Microsoft's moves to make Marketplace for Mobile as transparent as possible for both customers and vendors.

For instance, among the other Marketplace for Mobile announcements, Microsoft said that users will be able to purchase applications by billing to their credit cards or bill directly back to their carriers' wireless accounts. Dissatisfied customers will be able to return applications within 24 hours for a full refund, the company said.

Additionally, Microsoft said that developers can update their applications at no cost during the application's lifecycle. When Microsoft first disclosed the terms for developers to post applications for sale on Marketplace for Mobile in mid-March, that was a sore point, but it has now apparently been resolved.

Other notable news

In a move toward providing more style sense for Windows Mobile phone owners, the company has retained designer Mizrahi "as the first in a series of designers to create exclusive themes, including color palettes and wallpaper," Microsoft's statement said.

Meanwhile, the company is also working on a Theme Generator, also arriving later this year, to let users make photos on their PCs into their Windows Mobile phone's backgrounds.

In other developments, Microsoft announced a Facebook application, to be available in April, that will let users shoot video with their phones and post it to their Facebook pages. Further, the company plans to release a MySpace application this summer to enable users to access their MySpace pages from their Windows Mobile phones.

Microsoft also said it will release Windows Live for Mobile as a free download this week. The suite provides Windows Live Hotmail, Live Messenger, Live Contacts, Live Spaces, Live Search as well as enhanced photo uploads. The suite will be available for Windows Mobile 6.x phones on April 2. It will be released in 25 languages.

Despite, Microsoft's efforts to make Windows Marketplace for Mobile cool and trendy, however, Mathias says he still has his doubts about Microsoft's long-term longevity in the wireless marketplace.

"I wouldn't write Microsoft off in the mobile space … [but] how Microsoft will be able to continue to compete is going to be the biggest question," Mathias added.