Microsoft still handing out checks for Windows Phone apps

The Windows Phone OS, which lags well behind Apple's iOS and Google's Android, has not proved particularly popular with app developers. That could soon change. 

The Nokia Lumia 900 is shown at a press conference in Spain. The Lumia 900 runs the Microsoft Windows Phone operating system.

On Sunday, US customers can finally get their hands on the Lumia 900, the much ballyhooed smart phone from Nokia and Microsoft. The Lumia 900 ships with the Windows Phone operating system, a 4.3-inch AMOLED display, and an 8-megapixel camera with a Carl Zeiss lens. The Lumia 900, one reviewer notes, "is clearly the best Windows Phone you can buy today, with a sleek design and top performance that rivals the best Android phones and the iPhone."

But here's the rub: Unlike the Android and iOS ecosystems, which are jammed full of apps – all of them accessible through Google Play and the Apple App store, respectively – Windows Phone has failed to really attract the interest of developers. In a report today, the New York Times chalks that up to the reluctance of companies to "funnel time and money into an app for what is still a small and unproved market."

So, the Times says, Microsoft has come up with a runaround: The company is actually financing app makers to develop software for the Windows phone. Details on how much Microsoft is paying are still unclear, but these apps, developers have estimated, would normally "cost them anywhere from $60,000 to $600,000, depending on the complexity of the app," according to the Times. 

The mobile market-share numbers for Microsoft have been grim. Earlier this month, comScore reported that as of February, the Microsoft OS clung to just a 3.9 percent slice of the market, compared to approximately 50 percent for Android and 30 percent for Apple. Obviously, the emergence of better Windows Phones such as the Lumia 900 could change that math, but you can see why an app developer might be loath to take a chance on Windows Phone. 

As the team at ZD Net notes, right now Microsoft lags far beyond Google and Apple in the apps arms race. The Android Marketplace, for instance, has about 400,000 apps available for download; Apple has approximately 600,000. Microsoft has 80,000 – a number which does not include popular favorites Pandora and Words With Friends. (Although Angry Birds Space may soon be forthcoming.) 

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