Developer interest in Windows Phone plummets, but Windows 8 tablets may be a bright spot

Windows Phone's future appears even more uncertain, as developer interest in the platorm has been plummeting, says a survey from IDC and Appcelerator. But there's good news as well: Mobile enterprise app developers like what they see in Windows 8 tablets, and it could supplant Android as the number 2 mobile OS in enterprises.

The survey from IDC and Appcelerator has only bad news for Windows Phone. Only 6% of developers surveyed in the second quarter of 2012 believe that Windows Phone will win in the enterprise, compared to 7% surveyed in the third quarter of 2011. iOS will be the winner, said 53% of developers in the second quarter of 2012, and 37% said Android would win.

It gets even worse from there for Windows Phone. The survey found:

Developer interest in Windows Phone 7 phones dropped sharply. WP7 "very interested" levels dropped from 37.0 % in Q1 2012 to 25.0% in Q2 2012. This was not unexpected given disappointing WP7 handset sales to date and Nokia's recently reported competitive challenges.

Nothing on the horizon appears to be able to change that. Windows Phone sales continue to be anemic and Nokia continues to have serious market and cash flow woes.

However, when it comes to Windows 8 tablets, there's some mildly good news. The report found:

Developers are cautiously optimistic about Windows 8 tablets. 33.3% of developers say that they are very interested in Windows 8 tablets. This is an important data point for Microsoft to leverage by translating its strength in the enterprise into the mobile OS space.

However, the report also warns that if Windows 8 tablets don't sell well, that interest may quickly vanish. It warned:

Developers remain interested in Microsoft's announced Windows OS initiatives, but interest wanes rapidly in light of weak sales.

However, if Windows 8 is well-received, Windows 8 tablets could help Windows overtake Android and possibly iOS in the enterprise, it concludes:

The opportunity to displace Android as the Number Two mobile OS in the enterprise -- and potentially become Number One -- is clearly there for Microsoft. This is a huge opportunity for Microsoft given that it has not yet been able to fully translate its enormous strengths in the enterprise, including Windows, Office, and Azure, into the mobile marketplace.

This is why the Windows 8 launch is so important for Microsoft, and why the success of Windows 8 tablets is even more important than the success of Windows 8 on traditional PCs. On the desktop for now, Microsoft has the enterprise sewn up. Even if enterprises don't turn to Windows 8 -- and they likely won't -- Microsoft will still own the enterprise market, with companies using earlier versions of Windows.

But the enterprise mobile market right now is in the hands of iOS and to a lesser extent Android. Microsoft needs to grab a substantial share of it, particularly because if iOS locks up that market, enterprises might eventually start looking to replace Windows PCs with Macs.

So when Windows 8 launches, its success shouldn't be gauged by desktop and laptop sales. Windows tablets sales will be more important. If Windows 8 tablets don't sell well, Microsoft will be in for trouble, particularly given the unrelenting bad news about Windows Phone.

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