Microsoft's Desperate Attempt to Woo Developers Isn't Working Yet

Just in time for the release of the new Windows phone, the Nokia Lumia 900, we learn all about how Microsoft plans to beef up its skimpy app store.

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Just in time for the release of the new Windows phone, the Nokia Lumia 900, we learn all about how Microsoft plans to beef up its skimpy app store. Microsoft's app store has only 70,000 offerings compared to the 600,000 and 400,000 available in the iPhone's and Android's respective stores. This bareness was one of the drawbacks for reviewers, who otherwise found the phone pleasant. In an attempt to catch up, though, Microsoft is getting agressive about recruiting developers, as we learn today in both The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. So far, it doesn't look like the efforts have paid off yet.

Out of desperation, Microsoft has taken a three pronged approach to wooing developers to build apps for its platform: Money, effort, and groveling. Unlike Android and Apple, Microsoft is straight-up paying developers to get apps in its store, report The New York Times's Jenna Wortham and Nick Wingfield. "They made it very easy for us," said Ben Huh, chief executive of the Cheezburger Network who accepted money from Microsoft. "They took care of everything." The Windows phone maker also paid Foursquare for similar services. And for those it doesn't outright pay, Microsoft has expanded ways app makers can make money off their developments, according to The Journal's Shira Ovide and Ian Sherr.

But Microsoft can't buy the whole developer world up, and has tried other charming tactics, such as offering training services, free phones and prime spots in its app store and phone advertising for willing developers. The company "aggressively recruited," in the words of Ovide and Sherr, Hemi Weingarten, maker of nutrition food app Fooducate, promising him a weeklong training session in Tel Aviv and a free phone for software testing. Last year, Microsoft held over 850 sessions on Windows Phone software design just to make things easier for developers. It has also sped up the process of launching apps, expanded ways app makers can make money from selling their wares on Windows Phone and cut checks to some developers to help pay for apps.

While the cash is hard to turn down, these efforts haven't mesmerized the developer world. Even Foursquare, which took the money offer, expresses doubts about joining the network. "We have very limited resources, and we have to put them toward the platforms with the biggest bang for our buck,” Foursquare's head of business development, Holger Luedorf told Wortham and Wingfield. Microsoft has a smaller market than the iPhone and Android platforms, so it's not worth their time. Plus, it's not clear if they'll have to make updates for Windows 8, the next operating system.

And the money-less strategies have had less success than the cash offerings. Had Microsoft not paid, Luedorf would not have taken the offer, he told The Times. Even with the "agressive recruiting" and trip to Tel Aviv, Weingarten didn't take Microsoft's offer. "This is a war for developers time and attention, and Apple and Android are winning," Cameron Clayton, executive vice president of digital for The Weather Channel app told Ovide and Sherr. (Though, the Weather Channel has just reassigned some of its people to Microsoft.) "Plenty of developers doubt Microsoft can catch up to Google and Apple," write Ovide and Sherr.

"Some of those apps I wish we have," Terry Myerson, head of Microsoft's Windows Phone business, told Ovide and Sherr. The phone is indeed missing some gems, like the Pandora app and the Angry Birds sequel. But perhaps we just have yet to see the effects of all this work. "Versus a year ago, they have a shot now," added Clayton.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.