Windows Phone Developers Get New App Hub Features: Mango app submission just one month away

This week marks another significant developer milestone on the path to the release of Mango and also gives me a chance to talk about where we’re headed.

We know there’s tremendous excitement among the developer community, with tens-of-thousands of you already using the beta tools and a significant increase in new developer registrations over the past couple of months. More importantly, we’re hearing from you directly and learning about some of the new and creative ideas you’re bringing to life through Mango. The combination of new platform capabilities such as multitasking and hardware accelerated IE9 with the new opportunities that come from our partnership with Nokia and expansion to twice as many consumer markets is attracting a new wave of Windows Phone developers. These are also some of the reasons that firms like Gartner are *forecasting end users open OS sales in excess of 600 million units by 2015 for Windows Phone.

Today we are officially announcing the rollout of the new App Hub developer portal with key new functionality, multiple enhancements and support for several new markets. For those of you who are new to Windows Phone, App Hub is where you manage your account, change settings, submit applications and stay up to date on Windows Phone. For Mango, we’ve updated App Hub to give you:

1. More geographic markets for developers, consumers and advertising coverage.

2. New private distribution options.

3. Enhanced application and account management capabilities.

New App Hub functionality and geographic expansion:

1. Geographic expansion: A large part of your success in Marketplace hinges on your app’s discoverability and reach. I’m excited to announce a number of new consumer and developer markets to help get your app in front of more people.

  • 19 new consumer markets. Starting today developers can publish their apps to consumers in 19 new countries, in addition to the 16 that Marketplace already supports. The 19 new markets include Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Hungary, India, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden and Taiwan.
  • 7 new developer markets: Also starting today developers from 7 new markets (Welcome!) can register in App Hub and submit apps. The 7 new developer markets enabled include: Chile, Colombia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Israel, South Africa and South Korea.
  • In a couple of months (early fall 2011), developers will also be able to register from China. We will also expand the registration support already available in India.
  • App Hub localization: App Hub is now localized for Korean and Simplified Chinese in addition to English and Japanese.
  • Updated price tiers: Periodically (such as with the addition of new markets) we modify price tiers on a country-by-country basis to adjust for fluctuations in global currency exchange rates. The goal is to maintain consistent application pricing (net of applicable taxes) across markets. During the nine months since our initial launch, some currencies have gained and some have lost strength relative to one another. The changes made this week bring global prices more closely in line with the values established 9 months ago. We’ve also added more pricing tier options below (US) $5 to give you more flexibility in pricing.
  • Upcoming mobile in-app advertising market expansion: The international availability of Microsoft pubCenter remains a priority so developers can receive mobile in-app advertising revenue in their local currency. To this end, Microsoft Advertising pubCenter will support Windows Phone 7 app developers in the following 18 countries by the end of 2011: Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

To enhance developers’ long term success with ad funded Windows Phone 7 apps, we continue to offer more effective ad monetization and expand overall demand.

  • Earlier this week, two developers used their apps to compare which advertising platform helped them make more money – Microsoft Advertising or another ad platform. After a nearly three week period, the Microsoft Advertising SDK for Windows Phone 7 drove a 71% higher yield, producing greater overall gross revenue earnings and fill rate.  See the blog post for more details.
  • Last month we announced the availability of Windows Phone 7 in-app inventory to all demand sources (e.g. ad networks) on the Microsoft Advertising Exchange for Mobile in any of the 17 countries where the Windows Phone Marketplace is currently live. Over a dozen new demand sources, including ChoiceStream and Suite 66, can now bid in real-time for this valuable in-app inventory increasing bid density.

2. New private distribution options: Developers can now choose to distribute apps privately to users using two new options: beta and/or targeted distribution. Apps distributed through these private distribution methods can only be downloaded by users using a deep-link and the apps cannot be discovered via browsing or searching in Marketplace.

  • Beta Distribution: Enables developers to distribute pre-certified applications to a group of up to 100 access controlled beta testers for up to 90 days. This distribution method gives you the opportunity to test apps with a hand-picked set of beta testers more quickly and build high-quality apps before publishing them in Marketplace.
  • Targeted Distribution: Enables you to distribute applications through Marketplace in a hidden state, where they are not discoverable via browsing or searching Marketplace. To enable targeted users to access your hidden app you simply share the deep-link to the app with the users you want to have access via e-mail, text or other mechanism. Unlike beta distribution, you may distribute your app to as many users as desired and publish publicly in Marketplace at any time.

3. Enhanced application management: For Mango, we’ve also heard your feedback and made lots of improvements, big and small, to App Hub to give you better account management tools, a streamlined application submission process and enhanced reporting capabilities.

  • Better application management: By selecting ‘Edit catalog details’ on the app ‘Lifecycle’ tab you can now change the app metadata without submitting your app for re-certification, thus reducing the time to update and publish new information.
  • Enhanced developer dashboard: Now from a single location, when you sign-in you can quickly see all top app performance metrics, payout status, distribution reporting and all available ratings & reviews on your app(s) on a per language basis.
  • More detailed reporting: You are now able to select between ‘Summary’ and ‘Detail’ views of all reports and export them in an Excel-compatible format for offline data handling and analysis.
  • New ‘Crash Count’ report: App Hub now enables you to retrieve data on crash counts and stack traces for each of your apps to use in debugging publisher updates faster.
  • Streamlined application submission process: Developers no longer need to upload artwork files one-by-one. By clicking the ‘Browse’ button, developers can bulk select upload multiple artwork files all at once during the app submission process. The App Hub will automatically detect the image sizes of all artwork and place them in the correct artwork locations for developers to edit or delete before final app submission.
  • New App Categories: To make discoverability of apps easier we have added 3 new top level categories (education, kids & family and government & politics) and several new sub categories. In addition, during the app submission process, developers can now select categories and sub-categories for all languages.

What Should You Do?
As you can see we’ve acted on your input and continue to improve and expand the Marketplace opportunity and experience for developers and consumers alike. Here are three things developers can do today to take best advantage of these new opportunities:

1) Increase your global distribution opportunities today. Starting today you can publish any of your existing applications (but not Games, see below) to the new Marketplace markets to increase the availability of your app. For apps that were previously published with “Worldwide Distribution,” and for anyone wishing to extend their current distribution, you will need to select the new consumer marketplace by clicking on the “Edit catalog details” on the new app Lifecycle tab. Without this step, previously published apps will not be available for distribution in the new consumer markets. Mango is coming soon, so make sure your app is there when it arrives.

Game developers please wait just a little longer. The App Hub is adding functionality to support game ratings and allowing developers to upload the associated rating certificates. Please be ready to publish your games to new Mango Marketplace markets in late August. We will be in touch shortly with more information.

2) Review app prices. We recommend that developers review the country-by-country prices for their existing apps to determine if they want to make any changes. Adjustments can be made either by changing the price of an application in its default currency (which will result in changes to the auto-generated prices for the other countries in which the application is available) or by submitting a different version for each country in which an application is offered and separately choosing the price for each country.

3) Submit Mango apps in August. We’re just about a month away from enabling developers to begin submitting Mango apps to App Hub. Developers will need to use the Windows Phone Release Candidate (RC) tools that we expect to make available in late August to finalize their Mango apps and submit to App Hub. In the meantime, developers should get the free ‘Windows Phone SDK 7.1 Beta 2’ here.

We appreciate your patience as App Hub comes on line. Developers can report any issues between the beta tools/emulator and production phones on the App Hub ‘tools for wp7′ forum.

I hope you find this information useful and the resources give you what you need to be Mango-ready in August. It’s time to put the finishing touches on your Mango apps and have them ready to submit in August. Finally, thank you for contributing more than 23,000 apps in just 8 short months and making Windows Phone one of the most vibrant and fastest growing mobile ecosystems in history.

Todd Brix

*Source: Gartner Inc., Forecast Mobile Communications Devices by Open Operating System, Worldwide, 2008-15, Roberta Cozza, April 5, 2011).