9 Comments

Summary:

It seems that every smartphone platform is rushing to create an App Store to compete with Apple’s, as its success with the App Store is unquestioned and everyone wants to get in on that action. Microsoft recently unveiled plans for its own store, the Windows Marketplace […]

It seems that every smartphone platform is rushing to create an App Store to compete with Apple’s, as its success with the App Store is unquestioned and everyone wants to get in on that action. Microsoft recently unveiled plans for its own store, the Windows Marketplace for Mobile, along with preliminary information such as the cost to developers.

Microsoft will charge a $99 application fee to developers who wish to have their apps available in the store. This application fee allows the developer to submit five programs for inclusion in the marketplace.  Each application beyond the five will incur an additional $99 fee.  This seems like a reasonable fee to cover the overhead of running the store but recent clarification has some developers a bit upset.

wmmarketplace

I Started Something is reporting that Microsoft has verified that program updates count as separate programs and thus developers will be expected to pony up $99 each after the first five apps hit the free limit. This can mean some heavy cash for those developers with multiple programs and the frequent updates that are often provided. It may be more expensive than some realize as it’s common on the Windows Mobile platform to need separate versions for different OS versions.

I have been buying WinMo apps for years and can tell you that care is required on the customer side to make sure you get the proper app version. Currently you can find versions for WinMo 5.x, WinMo 6.0 and even WinMo 6.1 and higher. That’s three versions right there, so it’s easy to understand why developers may be concerned about this potential $99 fee, especially since it will be levied every time they update their app. Another concern this raises is if developers will not update their apps as often as in the past simply due to the cost of doing so. This could backfire on Microsoft in a big way.

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  1. It would be nice if there was some sort of earnout on that charge. So popular apps that earn enough of a revenue share were immune from multiple $99 charges and unpopular apps had to keep it. It would make an interesting model to keep bad apps out of the store and keep good (as judged by the users) apps in there and updated.

    Would also incentivize better developer marketing of applications, to reach the earnout.

    Just a thought.

    This could become onerous for small developers of less popular apps.

  2. Nice idea eggnorinse. Maybe a combination of unit sales and ratings could be used.

    And what about freeware software? Can that be found on this site?

  3. Amusing how the WinMo group is penalizing updates; trying to spread their leisurely development philosophy. I don’t think this will actually happen though, it’s too absurd.

  4. It’s worth noting that it would be fairly easy for developers to get around this by offering updates directly from their own websites because there’s no restriction on where you can get apps from for WinMo. Of course, that could undermine the entire Marketplace.

    This isn’t necessarily a bad move as it will ensure that Microsoft’s marketplace is free of the crap iFart-style apps that Apple’s App Store is famous for. A large software house like Spb wouldn’t have too much trouble paying these fees. However, I’m not sure if it makes that much sense to discourage developers from releasing updates.

    Also, surely you don’t have to worry about WinMo versions if your app targets the .NET framework. Don’t MS release .NET updates for all versions of WinMo?

  5. James Kendrick Tuesday, March 24, 2009

    I would be very surprised if the Marketplace contract didn’t require exclusive rights to the app. Maybe not and worth looking into but I would almost expect MS to require that.

    1. Maybe they will but that would be a risky strategy for MS as it would instantly kill off established retailers like PocketGear and Handango. I’m sure that would land them in some legal hot water as well.

      Spb Software is a good example here because they currently sell their software through 3rd-party retailers (such as those mentioned above) and sell their own software directly from their own website. MS really needs them to sell their software through the Marketplace to help establish the concept but they would have no incentive to cooperate if they had to hand over exclusive control.

      I guess we’ll no the answers to all these questions soon enough but it does seem as if MS are making things a little too complicated for their own good.

    2. Sorry, that should obviously be know rather than no :)

  6. Here’s a question – say you submit an app and it’s denied because it fails to meet some criteria (has an Exit option or doesn’t work on 240×400 devices or something).. When you resubmit the fixed version is that free or cost $99? (If you’ve used up your free 5.)

    1. A windows mobile developer Jason Friday, March 27, 2009

      Hi Jason,

      Yes, rejections are charged, and you don’t get to resubmit for free. So if your application gets rejected twice and succeeds on the third attempt you could potentially get charged $297 ($99 x 3).

      However having said that there is a lot of fear, uncertainty and FUD going around at the moment. I’m coming across a number of conflicting reports on the specifics of the market place implementation (for example are the 5 free “signing tokens” a permanent feature, or just a temporary introductory offer?). I guess the only true answer will appear once people can finally sign up.

      One of my main concerns is around the app updating mechanism. If developers (rightly or wrongly) decide that paying $99 to submit a service pack style update is too much and instead implement their own individually designed update scheme within their application I can only see that leading to a bad consumer experience.

      I can see scenarios such as someone purchasing 4 applications from the store. 1 will provide updates seamlessly through the marketplace, 1 will automatically download updates from a vendor provided server with no option to disable, 1 will have a manual ‘check for updates’ menu option that sometimes works, and sometimes throws up an error, while 1 won’t provide updates at all unless you look on their website and manually install them etc etc.

      That worries me. Personally I see one of the main advantages of an on device marketplace being a unified purchase, install and update experience. As a Windows Mobile software developer who regularly deals with people trying to install CAB files etc it’s amazing how confusing the simplest tasks can become for some consumers.

      On my iPhone I know I can check in one place for updates and that they will install in exactly the same way no matter the developer. I hope the same kind of experience will happen on my Windows Mobile device. It would be a shame to see this not occur due to perceived or real issues surrounding certification costs.

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