Nokia To Microsoft: Can't Sell Phones Without Apps

Microsoft needs to get more apps to Windows Phones faster, says Nokia VP.
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Microsoft's Windows Phone platform lags its major competitors as far as the number of apps is concerned. Android devices have more than 1 million apps available, and iOS devices have more than 900,000. In comparison, Windows Phone devices have just 165,000. According to Nokia VP Bryan Biniak, this is largely Microsoft's fault.

Nokia chose Microsoft's Windows Phone platform over Google's Android because the company felt Windows Phone could better differentiate itself from the competition. Biniak, speaking to the International Business Times recently, said that Nokia has done its part to make compelling Windows Phone devices. He hinted, however, that Nokia doesn't necessarily think Microsoft is doing its part.

"To give you a reason to switch, I need to make sure the apps that you care about on your device are not only on our phones, but are better," said Biniak. "I also need to provide you unique experiences that you can't get on your other devices. We are releasing new devices frequently and for every new device, if there is an app that somebody cares about that's not there that's a missed opportunity of a sale. You can't sell a phone without the apps; you just can't."

[ Looking for more screen real estate? Nokia's Lumia 625 fits the bill. Read Nokia Brings Big Screen To Lumia Line. ]

Nokia is trying to convince Microsoft to step up its game. Nokia may have banked its future on Windows Phone, but Microsoft has not. Microsoft is facing more than just a competitive smartphone market. Its long-time cash machine, Windows, is under assault as the personal computing industry faces a paradigm shift with the mass adoption of mobile devices such as tablets. Windows Phone is just one aspect of Microsoft's business, and it isn't the most important aspect. (Maybe it should be?)

"As a company, we don't want to rely on somebody else and sit and wait for them to get it right," said Biniak. "People rely on applications for their day-to-day life, and if you don't have something which I use in my day-to-day life I'm not going to switch [operating systems] because I don't want to compromise the way I live my life just to switch to a phone. It's not just about the hardware; it's about the tools that are on the hardware."

Biniak allowed that Microsoft is making progress, but its promise to close the app gap by the end of the year doesn't help Nokia sell phones now.

Windows Phone has yet to reach any sort of critical mass in the market. Developers target Android and iOS first, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Developers know that they have a market that's hundreds of millions of devices strong with Android and iOS. The numbers for Windows Phone are much murkier. Microsoft has yet to say exactly how many Windows Phone devices might be in the market today. We can only guess based on the sales of hardware from its partners, including Nokia.

For example, Nokia sold about 7.4 million Lumia devices in its most recent quarter. Nokia is responsible for about 80% of all Windows Phone sales. That means there may have been as many as 10 million Windows Phone devices sold during the second quarter of the year. That pales next to the 31.2 million iPhones sold by Apple, let alone the staggering volumes of Android devices moved during the same period.

Microsoft has a toehold with Windows Phone, but not much more than that. It needs to grab about 10% of the smartphone market before developers really begin to take it seriously as a competitor to Android and iOS. So far, it has struggled to do that.