Windows Marketplace for Mobile transparent but still unclear

Roughly a month after confirming the forthcoming launch of Windows Marketplace for Mobile, Microsoft is finally beginning to address specifics of the virtual application storefront, and for developers there's both good news and bad. When Windows Marketplace for Mobile debuts in 29 countries later this year (premiering in tandem with the new Windows Mobile 6.5 OS), Microsoft will hand over 70 percent of all revenues and award developers the flexibility to set their own prices in each international market, promising an opportunity to maximize revenues based on targeted pricing strategies.

No less important, Microsoft has vowed transparency throughout the certification process, signaling a significant break from rival Apple's App Store, which has consistently vexed developers with its often inscrutable application certification processes. Windows Marketplace for Mobile guarantees developers detailed feedback during and after the approval cycle, and Microsoft adds it will run a rigorous certification and testing process before WinMo apps go to market. Microsoft said further details will follow once Windows Marketplace for Mobile registration opens in the spring.

Like Apple, Microsoft will institute an annual Windows Marketplace registration fee of $99. Unlike Apple, however, Microsoft is also choosing to limit the number of applications that developers can submit per $99 fee to just five--each additional app submission thereafter will cost another $99. Conventional wisdom suggests that the five-app restriction is Microsoft's passive-aggressive solution to making sure that Windows Marketplace for Mobile isn't overrun with the myriad 99 cent apps piling up in the App Store, except that line of thinking overlooks one crucial detail: Some of those cheap iPhone apps have generated a substantial amount of revenue for developers. The policy makes no sense at all--if anything, it seems more likely to encourage developers to slap 99 cent price tags on apps they might otherwise give away for free, guaranteeing they get at least some bang for their buck. Either that, or it will simply discourage developers from creating apps for Windows Mobile, period--assuming Microsoft's previous mobile missteps haven't already turned off programmers for good, that is. -Jason