Get Ready for 60% More Potential Customers

As Terry outlined in his post, today we’re announcing support for a new series of lower cost devices like the affordable Nokia Lumia 610. These phones will open the door to new price points and customer segments in several high growth markets. We’re proud of the great experience consumers (and devs) are having with Windows Phone. This spring we’re going to bring that experience to a lot more people!

Growing the Developer Opportunity

We recently enabled Windows Phone Marketplace in Argentina, Indonesia, Malaysia, Peru and the Philippines. Today we’re announcing that in the coming month we plan to extend Marketplace to customers in 23 more markets, including; Bahrain, Bulgaria, China, Costa Rica, Croatia, Estonia, Iceland, Iraq, Israel, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Qatar, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Thailand, Turkey, UAE, Ukraine, Venezuela and Vietnam.

That’s 28 new consumer markets this year alone, for a total of 63 markets worldwide where your Windows Phone apps may be sold. In terms of actual potential app customers, the addition of new price points and customers in China and the other new markets represents a near 60% increase in the total addressable market for Windows Phone. I told you it was a big step!

Deliberate Growth: Preserving the Customer Experience

We’ve tried to be very methodical in how we grow Windows Phone and Marketplace. You’ve seen new devices from Acer, HTC, LG, Nokia, Samsung, Toshiba and ZTE in major markets around the world in recent months. We continue to evolve the developer experience as well. We regularly add new developer markets and improve the App Hub experience to make the submission process a little easier. As a result, we’ve seen an amazing 300% increase in the number of new apps published every day (thank you!).

The additional new devices and markets will likely generate another wave of developer interest. While we don’t yet offer full App Hub developer support in every new market, local developers are still able to build and publish their apps to Marketplace through our Global Publisher Program. These Global Publishers are third-party companies that work with developers as intermediaries in regions where App Hub is not yet available.

Bringing Windows Phone to these new markets and price points isn’t something we’ve taken lightly. We’ve been very deliberate in understanding local requirements, behavior and of course the ramifications of introducing lower cost phones to the ecosystem. For example we recently amended our Marketplace policies to reflect unique local legal requirements in China, Indonesia and Malaysia. We looked at local customer behavior too. We recognized that customers in China consume apps a little differently from other countries. These consumers are highly sensitive to the costs of downloading content and simply expect their phones to come with a lot of apps. So, we’re working with local partners to provide up to six times as many preloaded apps.

We also did significant engineering optimization work on the OS to deliver a great customer experience on lower cost phones. This work will be largely invisible to you. For instance we improved our paging support to enable apps to automatically take advantage of more memory than is physically on the device. Our approach is balanced to provide the greatest amount of application compatibility with the least possible overall performance impact. As a result, we’ve been able to reduce our minimum memory and processor requirements to accommodate 7×27 processors and 256 MB of memory while still enabling nearly all 65,000 published apps to run on these new phones.

Windows Phone SDK Update & Preview

To help you test and fine-tune your applications for these new devices, we’re providing an update to the Windows Phone SDK. Today we’re releasing a technical preview of the 7.1.1 SDK Update that gives you access to the 256MB emulator to let you determine how your apps install and run on lower memory devices. This preview does not include a “go live” license so you can’t publish apps created with it. A final version of the SDK, complete with the go-live license, will be available next month.

In addition to the engineering work we’ve done in the OS to optimize for lower cost devices and the release of a new SDK with emulator, we have identified a small number (around 5%) of current applications that will not run properly on the new lower cost devices. We’re contacting the developers of these apps directly to advise them of steps they can take to make their app compatible with lower cost phones. In most cases the guidance is simply to use less memory.

Ultimately, whether your app should be available to these phones or not is your call. We’ve enabled you to update the app manifest file in order to state whether your app does or does not work on lower memory devices. We’ll honor whatever value you choose. If you say no, your app will not be installable on these phones. Those we’ve automatically opted out already have this value set appropriately. If you disagree with us or alter your app to perform adequately on these devices, you can change the value in your application’s manifest file and resubmit your app. Details on this process will be available on App Hub.

You may wonder how we identified the apps that were opted out. First, we reviewed anonymous data provided by actual users who opted-in to the feedback mechanism on their phones. These data told us (anonymously!) how much memory each app consumes in real-world use. If we found that in more than 3% of cases an app uses more memory than we provide with the new paging mechanism, we opted it out automatically and began the process of engaging the developer directly. We combined this programmatic approach with a comprehensive, hands-on assessment of the most popular applications in Marketplace and tuned our paging algorithm to balance high app-compatibility with enabling the largest number of most-popular apps.

Your Next Steps

We’re happy to be bringing the Windows Phone design and experience to so many more people around the world. To take advantage of today’s news, just:

  1. Check out the 7.1.1 SDK Update preview and make sure your app performs just the way you want it to in low memory, and
  2. Remember that it’s up to you to select new markets as they come on line through your App Hub account at http://create.msdn.com so that new customers see and install your app. It doesn’t happen automatically.  Don’t miss out on these potential customers!

Joe Belfiore

VP, Windows Phone Product Management