Software titan Microsoft has confirmed that it is paying a selection of third-party developers to make apps for its forthcoming Windows Phone 7 mobile platform in order to have the new operating system hit the ground running and have a better shot at competing with the likes of Android and Apple’s very well-established iPhone and App Store. A Microsoft spokesperson told InternetNews.com that Microsoft is “co-funding strategic projects on a limited basis,” presumably as a way to make sure the Windows Phone 7 platform has key areas covered—like social networking and location-aware apps and services—as soon as the platform launches.
This isn’t the first time that Microsoft has helped subsidize application development; the company also co-funded third-party projects for the original Xbox gaming console.
Microsoft has not yet committed to a launch date for Windows Phone 7, saying only that it the first devices will ship in time for the end-of-year holiday season. The company seeded developers with a beta version of the Windows Phone developer tools last week, and says “thousands of prototype phones” from the likes of Asus, LG, and Samsung are going out to developers now. The Windows Phone 7 OS is now in what Microsoft is calling a “technical preview,” meaning they believe the software is solid enough for everyday use.
Microsoft does face an uphill battle with Windows Phone 7: the operating system will not offer backwards compatibility with any Windows Mobile applications, so none of the (literally) hundreds of apps available for Windows Mobile devices can migrate forward to Windows Phone 7. However, that actually puts Microsoft is an interesting position: it can afford to make a clean break with its previous smartphone platform and start fresh without ticking off a huge pool of partners and developers—plus the company plans to keep the existing Windows Mobile around for people who need it as Windows Phone Classic. However, Microsoft’s track record for introducing new device platforms is not stellar: the Zune has failed to kill (or even significantly challenge) the iPod, and Verizon Wireless just stopped selling Microsoft’s Kin phones, returning its inventory to the company.