Windows Phone 7's commercials make it very clear that it's not about the phone's applications but about freeing a user from being obsessed with his or her smartphone. Now that the Windows Phone Marketplace has hit the milestone of 1000 applications, has Windows Phone changed its tune? Unfortunately for Microsoft, it hasn't, just as other smartphones are gaining traction.
Windows Phone 7 is likely one of the most business-friendly smartphones, allowing users to sync documents between phone and PC with a paid SharePoint account, and to integrate with Microsoft's ubiquitous Office software, but it's now fighting off Apple, Android phones, and RIM for business customers.
One could argue that with only 1000 apps, Windows Phone 7 is a bit app-light, and it's unknown if it will stay that way. A look at a few of the recent applications are no-brainers such as a calculator, weather, and social networking apps (including the official Twitter app), as well as apps for streaming video and a large amount of games from Xbox LIVE.
While Microsoft was luring developers with cash incentives to show customers its app diversity, the current apps are heavy on games. Microsoft has also brought in eBay, Netflix, EA, and Slacker, but a relatively empty app store could be the demise of Windows Phone 7.
Not only is the platform not attracting consumers, but it's also not attracting developers. Despite Microsoft reporting 300,000 downloads of app beta tools for developers in August, that translated into significantly less than 1000 today.
Some developers blame the Microsoft coding, others say they can't use an overlay such as with Android apps, while still others are waiting to see how successful Windows Phone 7 will be. It's likely that some developers l don't want to see their blood, sweat and tears go the way of Microsoft's Kin.
However, among the most needed things are enterprise apps. Previously there were reports that the Windows Marketplace would put more effort in this area, including offering companies the capability to create in-house apps, but so far there's been little talk or action on this.
Companies do need a secure place online where employees can browse and download company software -- from something as mundane as a calendar to an electronic timecard system. Microsoft's Windows Phone Marketplace should be able to enable this.
Microsoft needs to produce and approve business apps that will strengthen its relationship with business owners and employees. Microsoft may have to be more aggressive in recruiting developers to give company owners what they expect from a great office product -- something stable and secure that will increase productivity.
While Microsoft has created a more business-like smartphone, it still needs to work on growing third-party apps in the Marketplace that companies need. The trick is that most companies are basing their smartphone needs on what executives lobby for and less on what an IT department may suggest. And those execs are not going to like a business-oriented smartphone with an almost-empty app store
Reach or follow Barbara E. Hernandez on Twitter: @bhern.
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