The virtual store will enable users of Windows Mobile smartphones to browse, buy, download, and install mobile apps over the air. This will put Microsoft's mobile platform on par with Apple's App Store, Google's Android Market, and Research In Motion's upcoming App World.
Microsoft's application market will offer a 24-hour window for users to return apps, which has been a missing feature in Apple's store. Windows Mobile users also will have the ability to pay via credit card or be billed through their carrier.
The carrier payment option could be a coup for Microsoft, as it enables customers to quickly purchase apps without having to fumble through multiple payment menus. One of Apple's greatest strengths with the App Store is that it's tied into the iTunes juggernaut, and many iPhone users already have accounts with credit cards set up. The Android Market and BlackBerry App World will rely on Google Checkout and PayPal for payment, and it's unclear how quickly consumers will use those services for buying apps.
Microsoft also changed the way it charged developers for updating applications, as it was going to charge content creators $99 a year for up to five apps in the marketplace, plus $99 for each additional app over that limit. Originally, the five-app limit would include updates to programs, essentially making it very expensive for developers to continually update and improve their apps.
But Microsoft said Tuesday that developers will be able to update apps for free without counting against their limit.
Thinking about building next-generation mobile apps? Learn about unified communications at TechWeb's VoiceCon Orlando, March 30 to April 2. Join us (registration required).