The Pursuit of Happiness: Microsoft’s Marketplace Strategy
Steve Ballmer has now been famously immortalized touting “Developers Developers Developers.” ‘ target=_blank>found here. Apparently its not just hot air. This is the perfect example of a free app. Something that provides a moment or two of enjoyment than quickly wears out its welcome. I bet you have a few on your phone that fits this description. The new details on the marketplace is making it clear Microsoft’s goal is on creating an environment that all developers contributing to WP7’s success be rewarded for their efforts. Android has the open and free market but that place is filled with free garbage apps. The Android Market has such lax standards that you really should think twice before purchasing or using them. DavidK wrote an article about a recent report featuring concerning personal info access here. I hear more than any other complaint about Android apps is having to put up with Ads. There has to be some form of monetization for developers and if you’ don’t pay up front you’ll pay up the rear soon enough!
Microsoft has recently changed their upcoming WP7 marketplace policies and the decision is quite impactful. Developers are now allowed unlimited paid app subscriptions for $99 per year but only 5 free app subscriptions. It is clear Microsoft does not want garbage free apps. They are really setting the stage for developers to reap rewards from the creativity, sweat and time they sow into their apps/games. The developers can install trials on all their paid app submissions so that they won’t use up the 5 freebies. You can find further details here. In a way it will make the WP7 Marketplace feel like a premium marketplace. The kind of place that has everything well thought out and done for a purpose that results in a great product. Kind of like an upscale mall that has features you never knew could be appreciated in a mall setting.
In the past everyone got on the market and immediately looked for the freebie. Why is that? Is function and fun not worthy of a couple of bucks? I gladly shelled out the $.99 for Power SMS, $1.99 for Scramble and also $5.99 for Brain Challenge HD. I use all these apps at least once a day so even if I only used them for a week the average cost per usage is less than $.25 per play. I seem to remember spending quarter after quarter at the arcade as a kid and didn’t regret it at all. Why? I had fun and the app/game served its purpose. The apps I have installed are quality apps that provide either great functionality or immense fun. I’d rather the rest of my space be taken up with all the music and video I can handle. I laugh at my wife, who owns an iPhone, all the time while she attempts to strategize which garbage apps she can remove to make room for the hot new song she needs on her phone to choreograph to.
Imagine working an 80 hour work week and at the end of the day all you get is $.10 for every hour you worked. That would not sit well at all. Sure some developers do it simply for the enjoyment of building apps but lets not forget that the market is a place of business.
Microsoft’s policy can be seen in the quality of apps being produced. Apps like PowerMote that controls a PowerPoint presentation in real time. I’ve already set aside up to $10 just to buy this app because this is a functional and convenient tool to be used. I have no need to sift through the sea of death that is page after page of free, useless and most of the time lacking apps. Give me quality over quantity. The race for quantity has already been ran and clearly Apple and Android are well ahead. It would take an enormous amount of time and marketing expense to get people to buy into the whole we got more so we must be better mantra. Apple (primarily) and Google have already won that mindshare. That is a fact. Microsoft is going after the mindshare of quality over quantity. This is their only play and a good one. I know a lot of people who’d rather buy a pricey EVO, HD2 or iPhone instead of getting a free feature phone. Remember you get what you pay for and in Microsoft’s mind that’ll be tons of quality, fun and functional apps/games that will make enhance your life through your phone. That is a very good thing. I’m not telling you which way is the best but you should challenge your way of approaching app purchases and see if it really is the best way to go. Microsoft is betting enough consumers will see the value in quality. Soon very soon the fun will begin. I’m always happy when i’ve made a solid choice and been rewarding with a great experience. That is the pursuit of happiness Microsoft is hoping is not just a niche but a consistent way of life.
Interesting that you chose the AP app in your header, which is currently a free app in Marketplace, and IMHO sucks! Didn’t last 15 minutes on my phone. Hopefully the WP7 version will bring a big improvement.
But back on topic. I agree that quality beats quantity and I would much rather choose from 5 good apps for a particular use than 50 that all appear to do the same thing. And paying a few dollars for something that is worth it should not scare people away. Hopefully Marketplace can simplify the whole trial process in the future which would be a big plus. I have two trials, one of which I purchased, stuck in my Ready to Install folder, because they have been deleted from my phone. Can only imagine what 20 or so would be like. And forget about tapping the Install All button.
There are some developers that create apps for the joy of it though, and being unwilling to fork out $99 a year and having no other way to distribute their apps, they may just go away, and that’s sad.
Actually the AP app is just the one that is spotlighted on the picture but not the main focus, the marketplace itself is. AP on my TP2 is boring and i’m really looking forward to a much richer experience when WP7 arrives.
I know what you mean because I have several Read to Install apps but to have 20 or more would just be insane.
One solution for developers who create apps just for the joy of it is simply to charge the lowest fee possible. They could also simply use the Trial API and give near total functionality during the trial period. That way users get the chance to use the apps but there is still a level of functionality that would totally complete the experience.
MS is also making the decision to promote apps based on variables. If in a short period sales start to rise then MS will promote it more. So you can get to apps aside from just most recent and most sold…they want the hottest apps to get to the top and keep devs coming back.
thats a good thing for apps or games that get overlooked initially but gets discovered and promoted by word of mouth later.
I understand the quality argument and agree with it to some extent. Where I see it falling apart is all the quality free apps such as fandango and weather channel. Both of these apps are free on other phones, I think most people me included will find it hard to swallow if I have to pay a buck or two for these apps on WP7 when the Android/Apple folks get them for free. I can’t wait to see Apple’s commercial showing how they have the same app for free. You know it’s coming.
I thought Microsoft’s review process was going to ensure quality apps.
How many free apps would you expect the developer of the Fandango app to have? It sounds like they can have up to five of them, so I don’t see the problem with either of the examples you used. Developers can put free apps in the marketplace, they just can’t flood it with them.
Somebody like Fandango or the Weather Channel will see value in having one or two free, high quality apps in the marketplace because they increase the value and accessibility of their websites, which is their real business. This sounds like it should only affect developers who produce large numbers of free apps. (Whether that is a good or bad thing is debatable.)
@ShanonS-Its not a ban against free apps. MS just doesn’t want 75% or more of the market flooded with unpolished free apps that serves no purpose that other quality apps that are already in the market do at a small price but with much more functionality and appeal. They don’t want MS marketplace to turn into the knockoff store, they want it to be the premium store that delivers the goods that you are going to use over and over again not use once or twice and get so bored with that you promptly remove it.
@Wayne-You’re quite right. MS doesn’t want a flood of free apps. There are up to 5 free apps per year a developer can submit. That happens to be quite alot of free apps per developer. We have to remember that there will be a groundswell of indie developers for WP7 so the number of actual submissions will rise and rise fast. I’m hoping to see all the cool Xbox 360 indie games ported over.