Blog Post

Why Microsoft Should Allow Third Parties to Sell WinPhone Apps

Microsoft (s msft) has said that it will require applications developers for its upcoming Windows Phone OS to sell their apps exclusively through the company’s official storefront, reversing a long-held strategy of allowing a host of third-party retailers to sell Windows Mobile offerings. It’s a move that’s sure to destroy some of the developer goodwill Microsoft has worked so hard to build up in recent weeks.

WinMo users have long been able to download apps from distributors such as GetJar, and Handango in addition to Microsoft’s Windows Marketplace for Mobile. But the new policy will force developers to comply with Microsoft’s content and technical regulations to bring their Windows Phone wares to market. (Microsoft said business customers will be allowed to distribute apps outside Windows Phone Marketplace.) Astoundingly, the news came just hours after Microsoft showcased its Silverlight technology and released developer tools for Windows Phone to make the OS more attractive and sway developers into its camp.

Microsoft is following the lead of Apple (s aapl), of course, which has consistently angered developers by refusing to allow third-party distribution of iPhone apps and by employing inconsistent approval policies for its App Store. Apple can continue to employ such a strategy thanks to the overwhelming popularity of the iPhone, but Microsoft obviously doesn’t have that luxury. Supporting third-party retailers would surely hurt Microsoft’s overall revenue, but the overwhelming majority of users will take the path of least resistance and shop at the source rather than seek out smaller vendors. So the company would do well to immediately issue some clear-cut approval policies for its upcoming app store — or, better yet, to rethink the strategy entirely.

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Image courtesy Flickr user Corey Templeton.

10 Responses to “Why Microsoft Should Allow Third Parties to Sell WinPhone Apps”

  1. tobylane

    Ha! If people as perfect as Apple struggle to get people to not hate them for a few mistakes in a massive app market on an amazing phone.. then how will we like Microsoft any more than the devil for badly filtering crap from the crap to put on the crap phone we don’t even want.

  2. Although we are disappointed by Microsoft’s decision we hope that perhaps this is a short term decision made to guarantee a minimum level of quality for Winmo users. Apple’s decision to be closed was to ensure apps were of overall high quality and really made to maximize the experience on the device. Overall, this has made for good content experience for iPhone users. Microsoft may be trying to replicate this strategy to ensure it can compete on the content side and may open up distribution to 3rd parties once the initial content offering is proven.

    We really hope this is the case. However, if it is then it simply seems to be a case of exceptionally poor communication / PR which is easily addressable through some form of clarification.

    VP Marketing GetJar

  3. Paul Calento

    Revenue isn’t the only reason. Consistent and controlled user experience is a good thing … especially for the consumer. I may be in the minority, but app certification raises the quality. Plus, MSFT can offer viral referral programs to keep a broad footprint, while controlling the actual download. The enterprise market is a bit different they’re taking Apple’s enterprise approach iPhone (app mgmt through third party products like from Sybase – – and others). MSFT appears to be providing flexibility for the segment that needs it (enterprise) and managed user experience where it makes sense (consumer/individual). About Me –

  4. Microsoft don’t realize that it is totally new game now.
    In the new smartphones world it is all about alternatives and openness. Microsoft is trying to take us back to the era when they controlled everything.
    Don’t bother to go with WinMo there are better alternatives!!!

  5. Even the Blackberry with its legendary security allows non store downloads. Perhaps Microsoft thinks that by emulating the worst parts of the Apple experience will bring them success. Good luck. Look for Android to continue to make waves and gain market share at the expense Blackberry as BIS customers realize the grass might be greener on the other side. The consumer side experience for Blackberry has been okay for a while, but they are now seriously behind. And this is coming from a Blackberry apologist!

  6. Opening the Windows platform, as opposed to Apple’s possessive approach with the Mac, has made Microsoft the giant it is today. I’m amazed that they now seem to want to emulate the opponent they’d beaten before…

    • sfmitch

      Microsoft tried copying their desktop strategy in the mobile space and they are failing. They could continue with the same failed strategy, but it seems very unlikely to succeed so it seems they will copy Apple’s winning strategy (tightly controlled hardware spec w/ company run App Store).

      Microsoft gave up their own failed strategy in PMP market (Plays for Sure -> Zune) and now they are giving up their own failed strategy in Mobile Phones (Windows Mobile -> Series 7).

      Just throwing out a reference to MS winning the desktop PC 20+ years ago really doesn’t help clarify what MS should do today.