Microsoft says Windows Phone apps growing

Marketplace offers 9,000 apps; new policy allows more free app certifications

While it sounds miniscule next to Apple's App Store and its more than 350,000 apps, the Windows Phone Marketplace now offers 9,000 apps and games and is growing by an average of 100 apps a day.

Microsoft touted its Marketplace on Tuesday in a post on its Windows Phone Developer Blog, noting that it has 32,000 registered developers working on apps for the Windows Phone platform. Windows Phone developer tools have been downloaded more than 1 million times, according to the blog post by Todd Brix, senior director of Windows Phone Marketplace.

Microsoft also announced via the blog that it is changing some policies for developers. Among other things, it is raising the number of app certifications -- a type of approval -- that it will do at no cost for builders of free apps; the company used to offer five free certifications, but now it will offer 100.

That policy shift seems to be in line with Microsoft's effort to encourage developers to create trial apps that users can test before buying. Microsoft said that paid apps that are available on a trial basis enjoy higher eventual sales. "Trials result in higher sales," Brix wrote. "Nearly 1 out of 10 trial apps downloaded convert to a purchase and generate 10 times more revenue, on average, than paid apps that don't include trial functionality."

Also, paid apps that include trial functionality are downloaded 70 times more often than paid apps without trial functionality, Brix said in the blog. "Trial functionality grows customer exposure and revenue substantially for most developers," he wrote.

One commenter on the blog, however, said there is a critical bug in the trial capability software that prevents any app with a trial mode from being updated. Microsoft couldn't be reached for comment on the bug.

Microsoft also announced a new initiative called the Global Publisher Program, through which smaller developers can submit apps through a Global Publisher partner. Through the program, a publisher will submit an app to Marketplace on behalf of a developer, with pricing and service terms set by the publisher. As part of this initiative, Microsoft recently announced the launch of a portal called Yalla Apps, which Windows Phone developers in the Middle East and Africa can use to submit and publish WP7 applications. Yalla Apps will be managed by Prototype Interactive, one of the global publishers.

Despite the fact that it faces an uphill battle against the enormous Apple App Store and the Android Market, which has more than 100,000 apps, Microsoft remains positive. Listing recent milestones for the Windows Phone Marketplace, Brix touted the company's partnership with Nokia, calling it a "big step forward in our efforts to create a vibrant ecosystem for developers."

Application stores continue to be a priority for mobile software makers. For example, also on Tuesday, Oslo, Norway-based Opera Software announced the opening of the Opera Mobile Store, which offers free and paid apps for virtually any mobile operating system and device.

About 100 million people have an Opera browser on their mobile phones.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

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