Developers in the dark on Windows Phone app performance

Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows Phone Marketplace application storefront has been open for business for less than two months, but already it's shaping up as a very different animal than its predecessor, Windows Marketplace for Mobile. App store analytics firm Distimo reports Windows Phone Marketplace boasts 2,674 applications as of Nov. 22--13 months after launch, Windows Marketplace for Mobile offers just 1,350 apps. Games make up 40 percent of the new store's 100 most popular apps, compared to 34 percent in the old store, an evolution Distimo credits to Microsoft's efforts to position WP7 as a more consumer-centric platform. Pricing patterns represent another major difference: 57 percent of the 100 most popular Windows Phone Marketplace apps are priced below $2.00, comparable with rival stores but a dramatic turnabout from Windows Marketplace for Mobile, where only 37 percent of bestsellers are priced below $2.00. And where Windows Marketplace for Mobile applications are more expensive than other stores, costing an average of $6.27, Windows Phone 7 apps are the most inexpensive in the segment, with an average price of $1.95.

The Distimo report heralds some of the first metrics to emerge from Windows Phone Market--multiple developers report Microsoft isn't supplying app store analytics tracking their software's performance. Nicholas Yu, the developer behind Google Voice client app GoVoice, writes "Currently I have no idea how many copies of GoVoice are sold nor did I receive a single paycheck." In response to user requests to add Push notifications, Yu adds "Implementing Push is a very risky thing for me because I need to justify that the expenses will cover the maintenance cost of a Push server. If Push is implemented, the expenses are coming straight out of my paycheck, and that is very sensitive to me... I need to gauge how many people have purchased GoVoice." Justin James, who built an Airport Status Checker app for WP7, echoes Yu's sentiments, writing "There will be no payouts from [Microsoft's] App Hub until February 2011, and there is no built-in reporting on downloads as of now. These are all things that are supposedly coming, but for the time being they are desperately needed... Unless you consider Windows Phone 7 to be a ‘must do' platform for development (which is quite unlikely), I suggest that you think of Windows Phone 7 development as a hobby or a learning experience rather than a source of revenue until the App Hub issues are sorted out."

Even if Microsoft does iron out the wrinkles, there are still serious questions about Windows Phone's consumer potential. Microsoft reportedly earmarked $500 million to market WP7--official sales data is unknown, but a recent Boy Genius Report straw poll indicates middling sales at AT&T stores across the U.S. More troubling, most current Windows Mobile smartphone owners are planning to jump ship when they purchase their next device--a new survey conducted by market research firm GfK reports that only 21 percent of Windows Mobile users worldwide will migrate to Windows Phone when they upgrade, behind Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iOS (with 59 percent of respondents planning to remain loyal), Research In Motion's (NASDAQ:RIMM) BlackBerry (35 percent), Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android (28 percent) and Symbian (24 percent). With developers already gnashing their teeth and consumers turning up their noses, Windows Phone 7 faces a tough road ahead. -Jason