Microsoft hints at Windows Mobile app retail plans

Speaking last week at the Liberation Day developers event in Sydney, Australia, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer hinted the software giant is poised to launch a mobile application retail platform modeled on the success of Apple's App Store. During a Q&A session with developers, Ballmer confirmed Microsoft plans to launch a service enabling the Windows Mobile development community to sell their applications directly to consumers: "I actually will agree that there's some good work, particularly at Facebook and also with the iPhone, where both of those companies have made it easier for developers to distribute their applications," Ballmer said. "[They've] made it easier to kind of get exposure for your applications. There's not much money being made, but the general concept of giving developers a way not only to get their code distributed, but to really get visibility for the code, is a good idea... We debated long and hard whether we ought to disclose some of the things that we've got in progress. We decided the answer was 'Not ready to talk about those yet.' But fear not, we're hard at work, and you'll see some of the benefits with some of the concepts."

In early September, reports surfaced Microsoft would introduce Skymarket, a centralized virtual marketplace enabling consumers to find, purchase and download applications and content optimized for WinMo-based devices. An online job advertisement first spotted by blogger Long Zheng suggested Microsoft will introduce Skymarket in conjunction with the debut of the Windows Mobile 7 OS--the ad, which calls for a Skymarket senior product manager, read in part "This is a unique opportunity and time of rapid change in the mobile industry for a Senior Product Manager in the Mobile Communications Services team to drive the launch of a v1 marketplace service for Windows Mobile," going on to list responsibilities including "Definition of the product offering, pricing, business model and policies that will make the Windows Mobile marketplace 'the place to be' for developers wishing to distribute and monetize their Windows Mobile applications."

As for Windows Mobile 7 itself... how about WinMo 6.5 instead? "With releases we'll make this year--releases we'll make with 6.5 next year, Windows Mobile 7--I think we have a pretty interesting roadmap," Ballmer said last week, although there is some question whether or not the comment was a slip of the tongue. In a conference call late last month, Motorola's mobile devices head Sanjay Jha made a similar off-the-cuff remark, saying the device maker is planning for Windows Mobile 6.5 to debut in the second half of 2009.

For more on Ballmer's Windows Mobile comments:
- read this ComputerWorld article

Related articles:
Microsoft rumored to eye RIM takeover bid
Microsoft: No Zune phone in the cards