3 min read

Will WebOS Devs Turn To Windows Phone 7?

Microsoft is promising free handsets and other perks to WebOS developers who switch to Windows Phone 7.
Brandon Watson, Microsoft's senior director of Windows Phone 7 development, posted an interesting offer Friday to WebOS developers. He tweeted, "To Any Published WebOS Devs: We'll give you what you need to be successful on #WindowsPhone, phones, dev tools, and training, etc." Is Microsoft really opening its doors to WebOS developers, and more importantly, will they enter?

According to Watson, the initial interest was off the charts. By Saturday, fewer than 22 hours after he first tweeted the offer, he'd received more than 500 emails from interested developers. Watson said he "had to rethink the algorithm for responding to all."

Obviously, WebOS developers (what few of them there are) are wondering what to do with themselves. Even though HP has restated its commitment to WebOS, the future of the operating system is anything but clear. Last week, HP senior VP Stephen DeWitt said that HP will continue to support the platform. "The whole world isn't just about tablets and phones. There are going to be appliances of so many different sizes and shapes in the future that are going to require a human interface for data," he said in an interview with BusinessWeek.

But are developers going to stick around and create applications for WebOS printers and other hardware? Not if there isn't a clear revenue opportunity. With so much still up in the air, it's hard to believe that developers will see any potential in WebOS's future.

Microsoft's olive branch is well-intentioned (not to mention well-timed), but the road won't be easygoing for developers who choose to target Windows Phone. First, the bulk of WebOS apps are coded in JavaScript and HTML. Windows Phone, on the other hand, relies heavily on C# and .NET. The transition could be rocky for some, though Microsoft's offer of free phones and other tools will certainly make the decision an easier one for WebOS developers.

Even with free help from Microsoft, will the change be worth it? Though Windows Phone 7 hasn't been a smash hit yet, there are more than 30,000 applications available to the platform. This isn't remotely near what's available to the Android and iOS platforms (which are more clearly money-making platforms to develop for), but perhaps that's exactly what WebOS developers might find appealing. With just a fraction of the number of apps available to the WP7 platform, they'll have a better opportunity to make a mark for themselves.

Microsoft has spared no expense at wooing developers for Windows Phone 7. However, WP7 is facing its own troubles. WP7 has not been a raging success, and hasn't put a dent in Android and iOS device sales. Its presence in the smartphone market is negligible. Microsoft hopes that a new version of WP7, dubbed Mango, will renew interest in the platform. If Mango can't convince the buying public to switch to Windows Phone 7, what incentive is there for developers to switch?

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