Why you should include the Windows Phone as part of your global mobile strategy

Photo of Kunal GuptaToday, the Toronto Board of Trade hosted a luncheon to discuss the “Global Mobile Opportunity” with speakers Gladstone Grant, VP, Developer and Platform Group, from Microsoft Canada and Kunal Gupta, CEO, of Polar Mobile. The event focused on why the Microsoft Windows Phone platform should be part of any mobile app development strategy, and why developers shouldn’t just focus on creating apps for the iPhone and Android platforms.

Yes, it is true that in North America, iPhone and Android devices are the leading brands being consumed by users today. However, as Gladstone Grant mentioned at the luncheon, the recent Microsoft partnership with Nokia will make Windows Phone a leading global player in the next few years. For example, Nokia has an 80% plus penetration in India alone, providing a huge opportunity to grow the Windows Phone market share as smartphone adoption increases around the world.

Grant talked about the lessons that Microsoft was able to glean from watching Apple launch the iPhone first. Although it took Microsoft a little longer to get into the smartphone game, they were able to take their time to reboot their mobile strategy by watching the iPhone launch and therefore create a developer-friendly ecosystem to foster the creation of engaging mobile apps.

Although the Windows Phone just launched in September of 2010, Grant says that it is already on track to overtake Blackberry phone penetration by 2013 and overtake the iPhone by 2015 worldwide.

Kunal Gupta then spoke about the opportunities and challenges that media and mobile platform fragmentation has created for mobile apps developers.

Opportunities for mobile app developers

Gupta says that mobile platforms are changing the way people consume media. Last week, there were currently 530,605 apps available for download worldwide. Gupta predicts that we can expect to see roughly 1 million apps created by the end of the year and 2 million by the end of 2012. He also believes that you can expect to start seeing apps developed for televisions and available in cars very soon.

While mobile apps are not a standalone business for media companies, Gupta told the audience that they are the only media that actually travels with the consumer constantly. Therefore, apps should be a gateway to accessing all media content on the go.

Gupta, whose company works with big media businesses like Time Inc., Conde Nast and Sports Illustrated, also sees opportunities to expand app consumption onto tablets in a big way in the next few years.

Challenges for mobile app developers

While Android is on track to outpace the iPhone very soon as the leading mobile platform, Gupta says there are some challenges with developing apps for the Android operating system.

Although Android provides a great user experience and is slated for huge growth across multiple devices (including Samsung and LG), studies have shown that user engagement is lower compared to iPhone and Blackberry app usage. This is a challenge for companies like Polar Mobile because they need engagement to be high in order to sell more mobile app downloads.

In addition, with the Android operating system being available on different devices, developers need to customize the experience on each device, creating more work on the back-end.

While HTML 5 might change the game for the way apps are developed and consumed in the near future, Gupta says that HTML 5 is not fool proof. Developers will still need to do some customization for each platform and device in order to create a seamless experience for the user.

Apparently, Polar Mobile, who recently signed a contract with Microsoft to create a large number of apps for the Windows Phones, has developed a scalable mobile app development platform which makes it easier for them to handle the fragmentation issue. They will also be making an announcement about a solution for tablets in the near future, so stay tuned.

Tell us what you think about the Windows Phone platform and whether you think it will be a serious contender in the next few years?