With a rising tide of bad news threatening to engulf its most recent major platform releases, Microsoft this week renewed efforts to entice developers to create apps for Windows 8 and Windows Phone. The devices and services firm has created contests for developers who target either platform with apps.
For Windows 8, Microsoft this week announced a Windows Startup Challenge that will “help startup developers take an app from the prototype phase, through design and development, and finally to a great launch.” Aimed at new Windows developers, the winner of this event will be invited to release the new app to a global audience at DEMO Mobile in April. The top five teams will also receive a promo package that includes banners, marketing, and PR support from Microsoft.
(A related and previously announced partnership with Startup Weekend saw the creation of Windows 8 developer “boot camps” in 50 cities around the world. These events will run through at least June, and if you're a developer interested in Windows 8 apps, you should consider attending one.)
For Windows Phone 8, Microsoft is offering a chance to get your app featured in a TV ad that will be shown in prime time in the United States later this year. This contest, dubbed Windows Phone Next App Star, runs through March 5 and will include several brackets of winners. Even those who aren’t featured in an ad can win a Nokia Lumia 920 Windows Phone and a one-year Dev Center subscription.
These contests come in the wake of decidedly mixed news for the two platforms. While there are some bright spots—Microsoft claims 60 million Windows 8 licenses have been sold, and CEO Steve Ballmer recently said that Windows Phone 8 handsets were selling at a rate five times that of the previous version—the bad news has been far more damning.
PC demand during Windows 8’s launch period actually fell, year over year—the first time a new Windows version has ever ushered in a sales drop-off. This news is alarming because traditional PC sales were expected to shore up the platform while Microsoft tried to make inroads in the crucial market for tablet devices. But Windows 8 sales on tablets were even worse. And one analyst believes Microsoft sold 1 million or fewer units of its Surface tablet.
And despite Windows Phone 8’s rosy launch, it’s jumping a low bar: Windows Phone sales have always been next-to-nothing, with the platform accounting for only 2 percent of the total market for smartphones. And market leader Nokia sold only 4.4 million Windows Phone handsets in the last quarter. That compares with an estimated 62 million Samsung smartphones and 45 million iPhones in the same time period.
We should know more next week when Microsoft releases its quarterly financial results. That said, don’t expect a full reckoning: Microsoft has a habit of ignoring bad news—it has never announced Windows Phone license sales, tellingly—and it’s quite possible that the firm will simply reiterate the 60 million figure for Windows 8 and not provide any hard numbers for Surface.