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Microsoft plans “Skymarket” apps store for Windows Mobile 7 in 2009

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Prince McLean, AppleInsider
Following in the footsteps of US mobile provider T-Mobile and Google’s Android platform, Microsoft is plotting its own effort to create an online store for mobile software in the model of Apple’s iPhone App Store.The project, tentatively called “Skymarket,” was revealed in a job listing Microsoft posted earlier today at computerjobs.com for a Senior Product Manager to oversee a marketplace service for Windows Mobile.

According to the job listing, Microsoft doesn’t plan to commercially launch Skymarket until the release of Windows Mobile 7, slated for late 2009. However, the company does hope to find someone who can handle “driving the cross group collaboration for the initial launch of the marketplace offering to the developer community this fall.”

‘Competitive spirit’ required to monetize

The posting also indicates Microsoft hasn’t made much progress so far about its conceptual goals for the store. It calls for an applicant who can assume responsibilities for “definition of the product offering, pricing, business model and policies that will make the Windows Mobile marketplace ‘the place to be’ for developers wishing to distribute and monetize their Windows Mobile applications.”

It also demands “responsibility for the business model and key elements that will drive the optimal experience for developers and monetization of the service by Microsoft” and the ability to “define and mange the consumer, developer and mobile operator value proposition and supporting materials for use by PR, MCB’s [Microsoft's Mobile Communication Business] developer outreach organization, and other teams across Microsoft.”

The listing also cites “working with multiple stakeholders (product team, product planning, developer outreach, business operations, legal and more) in definition on the process, policies and terms of use through which developers and consumers take part in the marketplace,” as a key responsibility, along with the ability to “work closely with product planning on prioritization of consumer, developer, and mobile operator scenarios.”

The product manager position is also tasked with “management of KPI’s [Key Performance Indicators] for the service post launch.” KPI is used to define metrics for setting and reaching organizational goals within the world of corporate middle managers and committees. Among other qualifications, the position also requires a “competitive spirit” and “demonstrated success in starting, building and driving new business.”

A half decade of Windows Mobile

Microsoft’s Windows Mobile was unveiled as a conceptual project in 2000 as a way to move the company’s underlying Windows CE operating system from the dying world of handheld PCs and PDAs into the emerging market for smartphones.

The effort followed the promising success of Handspring’s 1999 Visor, which licensed the Palm Pilot operating system to deliver a PDA with an expansion slot that allowed the device to be used as a mobile phone with the appropriate Springboard module. The device turned into the Treo, and its success resulted in Handspring merging back into Palm itself and converting Palm from a PDA vendor into a smartphone company.

Microsoft delivered its first WinCE-based support for phones with Pocket PC Phone Edition in 2002, followed by a release the next year branded as Windows Mobile 2003 (WinCE 4.0). In 2005, Microsoft released Windows Mobile 5.0 (WinCE 5.0) and began a partnership with Palm that replaced the Palm OS with Windows Mobile on certain Treo models noted with “w,” a move that nearly doubled the market share of Windows Mobile among smartphones at the expense of the Palm OS.

In February 2007, just weeks after the announcement of the iPhone, Microsoft released Windows Mobile 6 (WinCE 5.2). The company has released one update since, branded Windows Mobile 6.1. Despite the expansion of Windows Mobile across Palm’s Treo models, Microsoft’s share of the worldwide smartphone market has fallen from 23% in Q1 2004, to 18% in Q1 2005, and down to 12% in Q1 2006 where it remained in its Q4 2007 figures according to Canalys.

Microsoft’s slide is due in part to the advance of US market leader RIM and its popular BlackBerry, as well as the iPhone. Apple grabbed a 7% share of the worldwide market in Q4 2007, over half that of Microsoft’s global Windows Mobile partners put together, although Apple’s sales only represented one market, one model, and one mobile provider, after only having been on the market for six months.
The Spectacular Failure of WinCE and Windows Mobile

The race to sell mobile software

The rapid success of the iPhone and its even faster expansion worldwide with the launch of the iPhone 3G have been matched only by the explosion of interest in Apple’s iPhone App Store, which reported 60 million downloads and revenues of $30 million in its first month. T-Mobile announced plans to open its own store for the various different phones on its network, and Google recently announced its own outline for Android Market, intended to distribute software in the model of YouTube.

Apple executives have stated that the goal of the Apps Store was to add value to the iPhone rather than bring in big profits. Google’s plans describe a similar intent to foster interest in Android development; it has not yet released any details on how it might being handling paid transactions.

A Microsoft-run mobile software store designed to “monetize” mobile software for the company would compete against the company’s existing partners, including Handango, a site Microsoft currently recommends to interested developers. Handango takes a cut from between 40% and 70% of mobile developer’s revenues.

Microsoft has already established a store for selling games called the Xbox Live Marketplace, as well as a separate store for music called the Zune Marketplace. Microsoft also acquired a mobile software subscription service in its purchase of Danger, the maker of the TMobile Sidekick.

The company’s inability to make any money in its consumer-oriented products division has caused some of the company’s investors to demand that Microsoft spin off its Windows Mobile business along with the Xbox and Zune and focus on PC operating systems and software.

11 comments

1 sebastianlewis { 09.01.08 at 5:48 am }

Well that’s good news in the sense that more competition in the mobile market is better (what’s RIM and Nokia doing in terms of platforms?), but probably bad news in the end since it just creates more noise in the market place… but if it has unexpected success, it would at least for Microsoft to put more effort into making Windows Mobile a better alternative to other mobile products on the market.

Sebastian

2 Scott { 09.01.08 at 6:29 am }

Is Windows Mobile the roadkill Nathan P. Myhrvold wrote about in September 8 1993 – Road Kill on the Information Highway? I foresee blood on iPhone’s home button! First Palm’s OS, then the various Linux derivatives (excluding Android), then Windows Mobile and finally RIM?

@ Daniel – like the short pieces but miss and loved the long packed ones… Should we expect to see frequent postings but short?

3 lmasanti { 09.01.08 at 6:56 am }

Other than the irony on Microsoft “monetizing”, it seems just a rehash of other articles from the bloggsphere.

A “comparison” of stores/marketplaces would be nice (although you just only have one store and several promises!)

Apple: One hard/soft platform. Fixed charge on free price selection. Some restictions apply to submissions.
Google: Multiple hard/One soft platform. No news on charge. No (?) restictions apply to submissions.
T-Mobile: Multiple hard/Multiple soft platform. No news on charge. No (?) restictions apply to submissions.
Microsoft: Multiple hard/One soft platform. No news on charge. No (?) restictions apply to submissions.

4 dallasmay { 09.01.08 at 8:28 am }

I have long wondered why neither Apple nor Microsoft have built a App Store for their Desktop OS’s. I see no reason why the finder can’t have a Store Button similar to iTunes. It can’t be that difficult. I suppose the reason is DRM. That is the main reason why the iPhone App store has been such a success. Developers are guaranteed that their software won’t be pirated.

5 Berend Schotanus { 09.01.08 at 8:32 am }

Is this really news? After Android Market and SkyMarket, Blackberry will probably follow with a “Black Market”…
I do feel sympathy for Amazon opening an MP3 store in competition with iTunes and sympathy for Google opening competition with the App Store as well, just for the sheer of competition and because both Google and Amazon deserved their traces.
But a Microsoft store – I cannot even explain why – seems to me so terribly sad. Will I have to choose between Home, Premium and Professional? Will I be caught in their DRM-web and get betrayed in a few years when they finnish support? Why would I trust Microsoft?

6 limey { 09.01.08 at 12:07 pm }

“@ Daniel – like the short pieces but miss and loved the long packed ones… Should we expect to see frequent postings but short?”

If you increase the font size (Apple +) the articles become much longer (and more readable for us old blind bats.)

:)

ps Let’s face it, Prince is a man of few words.

7 John E { 09.01.08 at 12:52 pm }

the revolutionary feature of the appstore is the one-click app purchase followed by auto installation at the next synch. just works, even for dummies. by the time winmobile 7 can do this late next year it will be too little way too late.

btw, i predict snow leopard will include a comparable desktop software appstore. will windows 7 add that also a year later?

8 lmasanti { 09.01.08 at 1:36 pm }

quote:
“I have long wondered why neither Apple nor Microsoft have built a App Store for their Desktop OS’s. I see no reason why the finder can’t have a Store Button similar to iTunes. It can’t be that difficult. I suppose the reason is DRM. That is the main reason why the iPhone App store has been such a success. Developers are guaranteed that their software won’t be pirated.”

I think that there are a couple of points while this has not happened (although it can happen soon):

1) Although everybody knows that software is “soft” be like the hard part: diskettes/cds/manuals! as a proof (at least to ourselves) that we paid a “high price”. Also, be have a 30+ years of picking the box out of the shelf! (Remember the lack of shelf space for Mac applications?)

2) Although downloads are everywhere now, as you cited, piracy would be even easier. So, here comes DRM protection: in Apple’s case, it can be easy, because you use Mac soft in Mac hard (as in iPhone/iPod toucht platform). In Windowsland, every dev would have to pay Microsoft for the DRM… good for M$, bad for everyone else.

9 gus2000 { 09.01.08 at 2:13 pm }

The Microsoft job posting sounds more like a cry for help. It reminds me of an email virus I received a few years ago:

“Hi, I’m new at the whole virus thing, so if you could format your C: drive for me I’d really appreciate it. Oh, and if you could forward this email to everyone in your address book first, that would really help me out alot. Thanks! You got pwned!”

10 nat { 09.01.08 at 4:31 pm }

lmasanti said:

“1) Although everybody knows that software is “soft” be like the hard part: diskettes/cds/manuals! as a proof (at least to ourselves) that we paid a “high price”. Also, be have a 30+ years of picking the box out of the shelf! (Remember the lack of shelf space for Mac applications?)”

You aren’t really serious, are you? :D Many people never install software. Only those who need an Adobe or Microsoft piece of software that they can’t download (legally or otherwise) install via discs. How the heck could software piracy get any worse by providing digitally signed Macs apps on the iTunes App Store (within a specific Mac section)? Apple already has a make-shift app store here:
http://www.apple.com/downloads/

They could easily take that which they already have and put a pretty face on it in iTunes. It would be optional of course – Apple can’t condone P2P and such – but it would put a spotlight on Mac App Store developers, make updating third party apps easy with one click (rather than going from program to program), ensure the given app was not malware and make piracy rather difficult.

11 Windows Mobile 6.5 shows clever burst of originality. Haha no. — RoughlyDrafted Magazine { 02.18.09 at 5:24 am }

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