Windows Phone just got a big boost from the Nokia Lumia 900, the first phone on the platform to boast an ultra-fast LTE network connection — something you can’t get with the iPhone. The Windows Phone camp also has a plan to attack Apple’s iOS platform where it’s strongest: the app catalog.
The strategy, in a nutshell: Go local.
Microsoft‘s Windows Phone Marketplace recently passed 80,000 apps — much more than the 7,000 or so apps it had when it first announced the deal with Nokia, which basically saw Nokia abandon its in-house platforms to become a Windows Phone manufacturer.
Eighty thousand is a healthy app catalog, but it’s still about an order of magnitude less than the big-league platforms of iOS (600,000) and Android (500,000).
Apps are essential to a smartphone platform — akin to the number of stores in a town. With lots of them, the town becomes a bustling city; not enough and it rapidly becomes a ghost town as residents abandon it for the active streets of metropolises nearby.
However, if your town has some beautiful shops that are very in tune with its residents, then that town can thrive without the scale of a big city. This is the approach Microsoft and Nokia are taking with the Windows Phone app catalog, giving special prominence.
“Every customer today thinks of apps as something essential to their lives,” says Marco Argenti, Nokia’s head of developer experience and marketplace. “They want to have apps that are relevant to what’s around them. Nobody is happy with 10k flashlight apps — they want apps of the local newspaper, the local transportation company, the local bank.”
The Marketplace thus isn’t a monolithic, centralized entity — it varies from region to region. In addition to popular apps like Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja, the store serves up apps that are specific to the user’s location. Argenti says this serves both the user and the developer.
“Developers today are asking first and foremost: How do i monetize?” he says. “The problem on any other platform is if they are not in the top 25, it’s very hard. For us, we merchandise the Marketplace on a country-by-country basis to make sure the local apps are surfacing. So if you open the store in turkey, you’ll see a bunch of local apps. You won’t just see the top 25 global list.”
Besides giving local apps better placement in the Marketplace, Nokia and Microsoft are investing a lot of time and money in hand-holding developers through the platform.
Besides seeding the developer community with 25,000 devices, Nokia says it runs workshops and builds relationships with developers.
As a result, Argenti says 80% of the developers who were creating apps for its legacy operating systems (Symbian, MeeGo) have switched over to the Windows Phone.
“We don’t just carpet-bomb devices out there,” he says. “We follow the developer’s journey. We follow up, we ask if they need help developing apps and we providing training. For example, we’ve recently done a lot of events in asia — Vietnam, Indonesia — addressing local developers.”
What do you think of Nokia and Microsoft’s locally fueled strategy for Windows Phone? Have your say in the comments.
BONUS: Nokia Lumia 900 in Photos
Nokia Lumia 900, Home Screen
The Nokia Lumia 900 ($99.99 from AT&T with contract) is the first Windows Phone to have a high-speed LTE network connection.