Microsoft Windows Phone 7 devices go on sale Monday at AT&T (NYSE:T) and T-Mobile stores and the company has done a nice job of building the app selection.
While there has been a good amount of hoopla over Windows Phone 7—the tiles, the interface, whether people will buy the devices and put Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) in the mobile game—the app selection will tell the tale.
Simply put, you can buy a Microsoft Windows Phone 7 device, but you need something to do with it when you get there. I’ve been monitoring the Windows Phone 7 app selection via Microsoft’s Zune software. In a nutshell, the app selection has improved every week to the point where there are plenty of tools, games and other apps to choose from.
As far as ease of use and selection, I’d put the Windows Phone 7 outlet on par with Research in Motion’s App World after just a few weeks. Note the raw app counts are different, but Microsoft has come a long way quickly.
The app quality also looks pretty strong—although the Windows Phone 7 store is dominated by games. In fact, the business category looks to be light compared to other areas.
So how did Microsoft garner developer interest in Windows Phone 7? For starters, Microsoft has been courting developers heavily. In addition, developers are already familiar with Microsoft’s development tools. Those points are highlighted by Robert Scoble.
Microsoft has always had an army of developers. Now it appears that Microsoft has leveraged that advantage on the mobile front. Indeed, connecting Windows Phone 7 with Xbox is critical.
The rub: These app efforts won’t matter a bit if Microsoft doesn’t sell phones. As far as the interface and visuals, Windows Phone 7 is certainly strong enough to attract interest. The problem is that consumers have been brought up on Apple’s iPhone and the Android army.
Will this story have a happy ending for Microsoft? The odds are solid, say 65 percent or so. Microsoft won’t be No. 1, but it will be a credible player. Sales are likely to be portrayed as disappointing at first—you are not going to see people camped out for a Windows Phone 7 device running on AT&T. However, Windows Phone 7 could get a good word of mouth among developers and users.
Windows Phone 7 devices are likely to see momentum build slowly. I think fast followers will be watching closely, but few are going to jump into a two-year commitment and see if Microsoft can be a player.
At the Gartner Symposium conference last month, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer was sure to mention that Windows Phone 7 success wouldn’t be measured in months. Microsoft seems to be running a half marathon of sorts. One thing is clear: Microsoft will have a nice buffet of apps if folks decide to come to the Windows Phone 7 party.