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Windows Phone ecosystem attracts developer interest, but is it enough?

Microsoft is reporting some progress in its campaign to build the Windows Phone mobile operating system, with more than 75,000 new applications and games having been added during the course of 2012.

The Windows Phone store more than doubled in size during 2012, according to a recent post on the Windows blog. Microsoft also reports that developer revenue is up 40 percent in the last 30 days, following the release of Windows Phone 8.

?From a technical perspective, yes, Windows Phone is very capable of becoming a viable competitor to iOS and Android,? said Sam Abadir, chief technology officer at appMobi, Lancaster, PA.

?Because over 50 percent of the phone users in the US already have smartphones - iOS or Android - Microsoft is going to have to succeed in getting people to switch to WP8 phones at their next upgrade,? he said.

?The challenge that Microsoft faces is building the correct combination of hardware vendors, carrier sponsors, ecosystem - developers and apps that people want - while iOS and Android continue to push forward.?

A long journey
The number of markets where users can get apps and games for their Windows Phones has also grown over the past year from 35 markets at the start of the year to over 191 by the end of the year.

Microsoft reports that, on average, Windows Phone users have downloaded 54 apps each.

While the Windows Phone ecosystem is growing, it still has a long way to go before it approaches the size of either the Apple App Store or Google Play, both of which offer approximately 700,000 apps each.

Still, the numbers suggest interest is growing among developers in creating apps for the Windows Phone platform, a good sign for Windows Phone 8. These numbers are supported by appMobi?s own results.

?Since appMobi announced that our cross platform tools support Windows Phone 8 on Oct 30, we've seen a marked uptick in new developer signups,? Mr. Abadir said. ?We know they are interested in WP8 because of the thousands of downloads of our WP8 frameworks.?

Hardware sales
Microsoft?s efforts to support the app development community includes the release of Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8, which were designed to offer a common user experience design to accelerate and simplify how users interact with their devices. The company hopes to further support developers? revenue generating goals as hardware sales grow and apps with new capabilities such as in-app purchasing begin to reach customers.

In the past year, Microsoft has also introduced new developer tools and a new developer center.

The growth in the number of available apps more broadly points to the problem of discoverability, something that all app stores need to address.

?Windows Phone is currently a distant third, but Microsoft appears to be taking all the right steps at attracting a healthy third party developer community to support its platform,? said Peter Farago, vice president of marketing at Flurry Analytics, San Francisco.

?They have a strong legacy of doing so for the Windows PC platform, so developers have trust that Microsoft can replicate this for new operating systems going forward, mobile or otherwise,? he said.

?The main challenge Microsoft faces is growing the installed base of WP8 devices, namely the Nokia Lumia line of phones. 2013 will be an important year for both Microsoft and Nokia as more of these devices come to market.?

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York