Microsoft Makes Its Case at Mobile Devs Camp

Microsoft held its first Windows Mobile Developers Camp (WinMoDevCamp) at its corporate headquarters in Redmond, Washington, Thursday, in a move aimed at recruiting developers to write applications to sell on the company’s upcoming Marketplace for Mobile.

Introduced in February, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) Marketplace for Mobile, set to go live by the end of the year, aims squarely at Apple’s (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPhone App Store.

The App Store already offers iPhone users more than 65,000 applications to choose from and has garnered over 1.5 billion downloads in the slightly more than a year since it launched. Apple also claims it has signed up 100,000 developers to build apps for the iPhone.

By that scale, Marketplace for Mobile has a very long way to go.

The first WinMoDevCamp event drew approximately 40 to 50 developers — and only a handful of those said they have developed and sold mobile applications previously.

Not to be deterred, Microsoft has more of these so-called developers camps planned for Austin, London, New York, San Francisco and Singapore, officials said. However, despite the developers camp theme, there was little information about actually developing for Windows Mobile and more concerning marketing at the first event.

“Apple has changed the way the game is played,” Loke Uei, senior technical product manager for mobile developer experience at Microsoft, told the attendees. He also showed off an early version of a Marketplace for Mobile client running on a Windows Mobile 6.5 phone.

However, his demo sputtered when it turned out that the conference hall where the event was staged didn’t have enough wireless bandwidth to complete the show.

Microsoft flexes its muscles

Much of the marketing was directed towards the developers themselves, with the intent of getting them behind Windows Mobile. Uei highlighted Microsoft’s strengths as the largest vendor of developer tools, including the .NET Compact Framework 3.5 as well as the Visual Studio development tools suite. Millions of developers use Visual Studio.

Not only do developers need less training in order to build mobile apps on Windows Mobile, he argued, there is also a sizeable potential market already in place. Besides Windows Mobile 6.5, Marketplace for Mobile apps will also support Windows Mobile 6 and 6.1.

“The business opportunity is the ability to target more than 30 million devices globally today,” Uei told the developers. He also asserted that developers’ work offered on other mobile applications stores is undervalued.

“Ninety-nine cents is interesting, but I think your work is worth more than that — $5.99 or $9.99,” Uei said.

In May, Microsoft began registering developers to sell their applications on Marketplace for Mobile.

Some mobile players have already committed to sell their applications via Microsoft’s store. Among them are, the Associated Press, CNBC, Developer One Mobile Software, EA Mobile, Facebook, Gameloft, MySpace, Netflix, Pandora, Sling Media, and Zagat Survey, according to Microsoft.

No mention was made about last week’s announcement of a deal with Nokia to port several key Microsoft products, including Office Mobile to Nokia’s Symbian operating system.

Officials also declined to discuss Windows Mobile 7. The company has said that the next major release, Windows Mobile 6.5, has already been “Released to Manufacturing” (RTM) and devices that support it are due to be released by the end of the year.

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