Microsoft says that it has more than 300,000 downloads of beta tools for developers creating applications for its Windows Phone 7 app store, which is set to compete with the app-laden marketplaces for the iPhone and Android phones.
Microsoft is set to switch its beta download to the final Windows Phone Developer Tools on Sept. 16, a few weeks before it launches its smartphone platform in October and the Windows Phone 7 series begins to hit stores.
If only half of the number of people who appear to have downloaded the tools create a final product, that still means 150,000 apps for the Windows Phone 7--a respectable, even impressive, number for a launch. Microsoft's would-be developers come from all a variety of places, including the Twitter client Seesmic, the Associated Press, and Kelley Blue Book.
Apple leads in mobile applications, with 225,000 apps for the iPhone at its online store, with Android having around 60,000, and Research in Motion 9,500 apps for the BlackBerry.
Microsoft has already spent a lot of energy pitching the smartphone to IT professionals and businesses, marketing its integration between Office, Exchange, and Sharepoint, as well as hyping that only its phones can be used for both business and pleasure. (Microsoft is serious. Along with the business apps, expect to be able to play Zombie Attack!, Halo Waypoint, Castlevania and around 60 other games.)
Using Windows Phone 7 would be an easy sell to IT departments who want to run the same platform across different machines, provided they haven't already invested in Blackberry smartphones, considered a corporate staple.
Another worrisome problem for the Windows phones, though, is that the iPhone, long-considered a consumer product, is now being bought for business use-- at a rate of two out of five purchased, according to AT&T.
However, Microsoft has been trying to cultivate its enterprise apps, including individualized ones that can be used only in-house. Microsoft's new marketplace is rumored to be able to create secure areas online (or even behind your own company's firewall) where employees can browse and download company-specific software. This will give your company's IT managers direct control over downloads and services.
The Windows Phone 7 may be the most business-friendly phone operating system yet, with a clean user interface, a business hub that sync documents between the phone and your PC, and enterprise apps that will improve company security and productivity. However, with both the new iPhone and Blackberry smartphones already on the market and the Windows Phone 7 handsets still two months away, Microsoft could be losing valuable ground.
Contact or follow Barbara E. Hernandez on Twitter: @bhern.
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