A large factor for a successful phone is the quality and quantity of applications. When I switched from iPhone to Android I was annoyed by the lack of quality in so many applications, and still today I’m annoyed that Instapaper and other apps don’t support Android. Furthermore, you can see the importance of applications in the advertising around Android. Tons of providers and phone makers taunt Android’s app marketplace. However, what’s not as obvious to consumers is the ecosystem that is built around mobile applications. Mobile applications have the opportunity to make lots of money through advertisements and purchases, and tons of companies are being funded to build and grow mobile applications. The ecosystem created by a mobile app store is much more tied to a mobile platform’s success than the applications. As long as innovative, smart, game changing developers are working on a mobile platform, that platform will continue to gain consumer adoption on so many different levels. You see Apple advertising awesome applications like Redfin. You see mobile applications marketing themselves, talking about how they support Android, iPhone, iPad, etc. And you see big players like Amazon marketing their support as well. All of this marketing, largely in the form of advertising, further engrains a platform into the consumer’s mind.
The problem with the Windows Phone lies in the barrier to entry around becoming a part of their ecosystem. All the cool kids these days develop on Linux and Mac, in languages that Microsoft doesn’t support. And the cool kids are the leading drivers of innovation in the mobile application space. Sure, companies like Amazon are building cool things in the mobile space. But most innovation comes from the little guy. And at least in Silicon Valley, the little guy doesn’t use or develop on Windows. I’m having a hard time thinking of a single person I know who actually developers on Windows. Some of my friends use Windows for gaming and other basic functions, but they develop on their Mac laptop, or in a Linux VM. Honestly I can’t think of a single person I know, in Seattle, Silicon Valley, or wherever, who develops on Windows.
Microsoft Visual Studio, the IDE of choice for all things Microsoft development, is actually an insanely powerful tool. Studio’s debugging is wildly better than any other debugger I’ve seen. But Microsoft development just isn’t cool. It’s not where innovative people will spend their time. And for this reason the Microsoft application ecosystem will stagnate. Microsoft will be alone in their battle to win over the consumer, and they will fail by themselves when they’re up against Apple and Android.
(Sorry to all my Microsoft friends for being such a downer.)