Microsoft’s (MSFT) outdated Windows Mobile operating system needs all the help it can get in its race against Apple, Google, Palm, and RIM. So why is Microsoft imposing small, silly fees on developers who want to write a lot of software for Windows Mobile?
Microsoft announced more details about its forthcoming Windows Mobile app store today. Nothing surprising: Like Apple (AAPL), it will offer developers a 70/30 revenue split, with Microsoft keeping 30% of app sales. And like Apple, it will charge developers $99 per year to participate in the app store. Sounds fair to us.
Microsoft, in an attempt to be un-Apple-like, also promises “transparent policies.” That might win the company some goodwill with developers, who are often frustrated with Apple’s black-box approach to business.
But this part won’t win any goodwill: If you want to submit more than five applications per year to the “Windows Marketplace for Mobile,” Microsoft will charge you $99 per app — a fee Apple does not impose.
This is silly. Microsoft is not in a position to turn away developers’ meaningful attention. And a $99 fee is not going to bring in any meaningful revenue for Microsoft. Even if all 20,000 current Windows Mobile apps had a $99 fee added to them, that’s just $2 million — couch change for Microsoft, which is expected to pass $60 billion in sales this year.
At JkOnTheRun, Kevin Tofel posits that this could be a way to keep Microsoft’s app store “fartless,” referring to the $0.99 fart-noise apps that have proven quite popular in Apple’s app store.
No, it won’t. Fart apps could easily be among the first five apps per year that a developer creates, so that logic doesn’t hold. And anyway, a few iPhone fart apps actually made a lot of money, meaning that fart app developers should be happy to shell out $99.
What it will do: Give developers an incentive to charge for apps they might have ordinarily offered for free. Which gives people less incentive, overall, to make apps for Windows Mobile. Which doesn’t strike us as something Microsoft should be doing.
Update: On Twitter, Chris Mampe suggests “it keeps every developer from flooding the $MSFT Q-A teams with 50 junk 99c apps in a month just to see what sells.” If this sort of thing is really happening, we suppose that makes sense. But it seems like there should be a better way to deal with those types of developers than subjecting legitimate software companies with silly fees.