An Update on Windows Phone Marketplace; new tips, policies and regional access program

As we enter the final month of a very busy first quarter of 2011, I thought I’d take this opportunity to update developers on the status of the Windows Phone Marketplace and share some news. There are many ways to measure the vitality of a marketplace and I’m pleased to report that we’re seeing strong results across several fronts; from the number of available apps and popularity of our tools, to more tangible developer benefits stemming from monetization opportunities that drive downloads and sales. And of course, our recently announced partnership with Nokia represents a big step forward in our efforts to create a vibrant ecosystem for developers. To show that we’re taking feedback seriously, I’ll also touch on a few policy shifts we’ve either implemented recently or will address in the coming weeks.

Windows Phone Marketplace currently offers more than 9,000 quality apps and games and enjoys a base of over 32,000 registered developers, delivering an average of 100 new apps every day. The Windows Phone Developer Tools have now been downloaded more than one million times, and we recently announced an update to let developers take advantage of OS updates such as the addition of copy and paste functionality.

The first round of developer payouts began in January, which generated some interesting feedback from developers about what’s working and what isn’t. We’ve been doing some analysis ourselves as well that we wanted to share with the Windows Phone developer community around trial use and ad monetization to incorporate into your new app or app update plans.

Trial Use

The Windows Phone platform enables developers to easily add a configurable Trial capability to their application. Our theory when building this capability was that more users would consider and buy apps if they could try the app out first to see if they like it. Results?

  • Users like trials. Paid apps that include trial functionality are downloaded 70 times more than paid apps that don’t include trial functionality, expanding the number of potential customers to purchase the full paid version.
  • Trials result in higher sales. Nearly 1 out of 10 trial apps downloaded convert to a purchase and
  • generate 10 times more revenue, on average, than paid apps that don’t include trial functionality.
  • Trial downloads convert to paid downloads quickly. More than half of trial downloads that convert to a sale do so within one day, and most of those within 2 hours.

Of course some apps do much better, and some worse, depending on the quality and nature of the app, but the trial functionality grows customer exposure and revenue substantially for most developers.

Ad Control

While it is still early days, we are also seeing some exciting results from developers taking advantage of the Ad Control.  Since the release of our Ad Control for Windows Phone 7 last September, developers have been increasingly enjoying success building ad supported Windows Phone 7 apps, for example:

  • Roughly ¼ of all registered U.S. WP7 developers have downloaded the free Ad SDK for Silverlight and XNA
  • Of ad funded apps in the Marketplace, over 95 percent use the free Microsoft Advertising Ad Control
  • Monthly impressions from our Ad Exchange has continued to grow by double digits – impressions increased by nearly 400 percent just since January

To ensure app developers are getting the most out of advertising and the Ad Control, the first wave of “How Do I” videos are now available on MSDN:

1. Create an Ad in a Windows Phone 7 XNA Game App

2. Register Ad-Enabled Windows Phone 7 Apps

3. Measure Ad Performance of Windows Phone 7 Apps

Global Publisher Program

As Windows Phone 7 continues to evolve as a platform, we will continue to expand the opportunities for developers. One area of focus for us is reaching developers in more countries and regions around the world. To that end, I’m pleased to announce today a new Global Publisher Program. This program will enable developers worldwide to work with a Global Publisher to submit apps to the Windows Phone Marketplace. Developers from countries and regions all over the world can now submit apps and games to the Windows Phone Marketplace.

How It Works: Publishers will submit applications to Marketplace on behalf of their developer customers, according to pricing and service terms defined by the Publisher. For example, During TechEd Middle East in Dubai, Microsoft Senior Vice President, Developer Division, S. Somasegar announced the launch of Yalla Apps, a new regional Windows Phone application publishing portal managed by Global Publisher, Prototype Interactive. Yalla Apps enables developers to submit and publish Windows Phone 7 applications from the developer community across the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region. We are working with additional Global Publishers in other regions to bring the same opportunity to more developers around the world.

Policies

Finally, we’ve been revisiting a few of our Marketplace policies based on feedback from developers to reduce friction and cost:

1. We have raised the limit on the number of certifications that can be performed for FREE apps at no cost to the registered developer from five to 100. This was a common request from developers which we are glad to implement after building alternate methods to ensure that users can find and download high quality apps.

2. We have converted policy 5.6 – related to the inclusion of contact information for support – from a mandatory to an optional policy. This is still a strongly recommended best practice, but we recognized and responded to developer feedback that this policy was creating excessive drag on the certification process for developers without commensurate user benefit for all apps.

3. We also understand the desire for clarification with regard to our policy on applications distributed under open source licenses. The Marketplace Application Provider Agreement (APA) already permits applications under the BSD, MIT, Apache Software License 2.0 and Microsoft Public License. We plan to update the APA shortly to clarify that we also permit applications under the Eclipse Public License, the Mozilla Public License and other, similar licenses and we continue to explore the possibility of accommodating additional OSS licenses.

We remain very pleased with the Windows Phone Marketplace ecosystem and are grateful for the time, patience and hard work that developers have committed to make it a success. We will continue to take feedback and take steps to make Windows Phone Marketplace and App Hub a more convenient, fun and rewarding experience for developers.

UPDATE 310: I’ve read a few comments over the past few days from people that appear to be misinterpreting what the Global Publisher Program means for Microsoft’s long term plans for regions such as the Middle East and Africa. GPP does not preclude Microsoft from bringing full Windows Phone Marketplace and App Hub support to a given region. If anything, GPP demonstrates that Microsoft is working hard to bring the Windows Phone opportunity to more regional developers as quickly as possible. Regions in which we work with a local publisher are clearly priorities. GPP should be viewed as another way Microsoft is gradually making great services available to Windows Phone developers and customers around the world.