Mobile
Commentary
3/26/2009
06:20 AM
Ed Hansberry
Ed Hansberry
Commentary
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Microsoft To Charge Developers To Correct Typos?

Earlier this month Microsoft released information on how its application store for Windows Mobile would work for developers. There is an annual $99 fee to keep your app in the store, and that includes five new apps per year. After that, it is $99 per app. It seems though that any update to an app will cost the developer $99 as well, or will count against the five in the initial payment.

Earlier this month Microsoft released information on how its application store for Windows Mobile would work for developers. There is an annual $99 fee to keep your app in the store, and that includes five new apps per year. After that, it is $99 per app. It seems though that any update to an app will cost the developer $99 as well, or will count against the five in the initial payment. Some are taking this to mean that if a developer corrects a typo and releases a .01 update, it would be $99.If this is correct, this will put a serious dent in innovation and quality in applications for Windows Mobile. I understand the purpose of the fee. For one, it will reduce the number of iFart apps. Apple's App Store has over 25,000 apps in it after less than a year, but when anyone can upload virtually anything it tends to clutter the store with so much noise it is difficult to find the good apps. The second reason is just practicality - it will help MS cover costs, though in a company with $60 billion in annual revenue, I am not sure how much of an impact this will be. The application store should be looked at more as a support and marketing tool for Windows Mobile, not a revenue generator in and of itself.

Only getting five apps for your first $99 per year shouldn't be that big of a deal. With the possible exception of companies that specialize in gaming, most software companies for Windows Mobile focus on a handful of apps, some only one app.

However, I've been using Windows Mobile for years and it is very common for some developers to release their apps a bit early to get it in the hands of users. There are known minor bugs and often it is feature incomplete. Then, over the course of the coming months, they will release builds almost monthly as the app is tweaked, both based on original design goals and feedback from those that installed an early build. This process is a win-win for the developers and users. Developers get great feedback on what users want and users get the productivity they need now and have some influence over the direction of the app.

If these incremental builds now go against the initial allotment of five apps, or start costing $99 per build, this process will grind to a halt. Developers, users and the platform itself will suffer. From a business standpoint, developers will be required to be frugal with their updates, bundling several months worth of patches and even typo corrections into one cost effective update. If they have any of their initial five uploads left at the end of the year, they may feel compelled to compile whatever they have coded by the last week of the year and publish it, ready or not, so they don't lose an upload credit. That build may not be ready for prime time. You've heard it said you shouldn't buy a car made on the Friday before Labor Day or Memorial Day because the workers are too busy thinking about the long weekend. Well, it might be good advice to shy away from apps released the last two weeks of December as well.

Hopefully Microsoft will take the feedback and comments showing up on the web and rethink how updates to existing apps are treated. If they don't, its market place for Windows Mobile applications may fall flat on its face.

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