$19 “Summer Break” limited time offer – start publishing apps for Windows Phone today

As the 2013 //build/ conference gets underway, I wanted to check in to share an update on our progress toward our goal of fostering a Windows Phone ecosystem characterized by quality, scale, and developer opportunity. I’ve also got a special offer to announce to encourage those of you who haven’t yet published a Windows Phone app to join us. Think of it as a “summer break.”

Windows Phone – the 3rd ecosystem

We believe we have the right strategy at the right time to accelerate developer opportunity faster than any other smartphone platform. In fact, our internal estimates indicate that Windows Phone is growing 6x faster than the overall smartphone market.  But don’t take our word for it…

The Q1 2013 numbers from industry analysts, including Kantar and IDC, all report rapidly accelerating Windows Phone unit sales and market share growth.  In fact, according to the IDC Worldwide Mobile Phone Tracker (May 2013), Windows Phone posted the largest year-over-year (YOY) gain among the leading operating systems (131% YOY), more than doubling in size from a year ago, and leapfrogging BlackBerry for 3rd place.  In Q1 2013, according to IDC, Windows Phone shipped more units than BlackBerry in 33 markets, and more units than iPhone in 11 markets.  Gains by Windows Phone demonstrate user demand, OEM support, and the need for alternatives in the smartphone market. 

Based on Microsoft estimates, currently there are 4 billion feature phone users worldwide. According to Kantar, 52% of the US Windows Phone buyers are upgrading from feature phones.  With 50% of the US market owning a feature phone today, we expect upgrades to be a big contributor to Windows Phone growth in 2013. Kantar is also reporting that 23% of the people who purchased a Windows Phone in the last year moved over from an Android device. (Kantar Worldpanel ComTech US Consumer Panel, April 2013),

Creating this momentum are our device and mobile operator partners who are bringing innovative new phones to market across a wide range of price points, and providing customers with a real choice. A few recent announcements:

  • Budget-friendly Nokia Lumia 520 is the fastest-selling Windows Phone mid-tier device, with sales in the first 90 days outpacing the Lumia 610, Lumia 510, and Lumia 620 device launches.
  • Nokia Lumia 928, offered exclusively by Verizon in the US, offers the best low-light smartphone camera, capturing high-quality images even in low light.
  • Recently announced and sure to be a crowd pleaser, the new Nokia Lumia 925 features a sleek aluminum/polycarbonate design and an award-winning PureView camera with 6 lenses.
  • Earlier today, Sprint announced its new lineup of Windows Phones coming later this summer, including HTC 8XT, designed for music lovers who appreciate superior sound capability, with HTC BoomSound™ and Beats Audio™ integration, and Samsung ATIV S Neo, equipped with ATIV Beam that uses near field communication (NFC) to share photos, video, and music with other Windows Phone 8 and Android™ users.

Increasing monetization opportunity

People who purchased a Windows Phone in the last year are downloading and purchasing apps at the highest rates in Windows Phone history. Transaction volumes in the Windows Phone Store now are reaching 200 million per month, with a 2.5x increase in daily revenue since the launch of Windows Phone 8.  Developer revenue growth is being driven by unit sales but also by the removal of consumer purchase barriers through expansion of mobile operator billing connections and new payment options like PayPal and Alipay in China with over 800 million subscribers. We’ve enabled carrier billing with 30 carriers connected across 20 markets so far, ahead of Google Play. Just as encouraging, when carrier billing is put in place in a market, we see an overall 6-8x lift in paid transactions in emerging markets (where credit card use is low), and a 3x uplift in more developed markets.

We’re also investing in new programs to drive traffic and to encourage users to check out the Store’s 160,000+ apps and games. This includes the recent launch of a weekly deal program, Red Stripe Deals, which offers users the opportunity to purchase one app, one indie game, and one Xbox game each week, at a savings of at least 50%. So far there has been an average 4x lift in net revenue for developers featured in each week of promotion, with revenue lift for up to 4 weeks following the promotion as a result of increased rankings and exposure in high-traffic areas of the Store.

And we have more in the works, including Microsoft Gift Cards, coming this fall.  The new gift cards give users the ability to add money to their Microsoft account to purchase apps, games, and more for Xbox, Windows 8.1, and Windows Phone 8.  In addition, Xbox is retiring Microsoft Points and, in connection with that retirement, users will receive a one-time local currency credit equal to or greater than the marketplace value of their remaining Microsoft Points balance. The credit will be available this fall in users’ Microsoft accounts for shopping on Xbox, Windows 8.1, and Windows Phone 8.

We continue to address your feedback through improvements to the Dev Center app submission workflow, including the option to cancel a submission, the ability to manually manipulate or automatically resize screenshots, and the ability to review a submission before you submit. Over the past couple of months, we’ve also reduced app certification completion time from the standard 5 business days to an average of less than 3 business days (results vary and apps do take a few hours to be visible upon completion of certification).  We continue to streamline the process to deliver faster completion times, improve consistency, and add clarity to test results. Please continue to provide us with feedback via the Windows Phone Dev Center UserVoice Forum. We’re listening.

Finally, many of you have asked for information about when we will be promoting your app via on-device and online merchandising so you can align your promotional efforts to drive added impact. This week we’re launching a pilot program to notify app developers of planned merchandising placement a few days in advance. Watch for more on this in a future post as we begin global rollout in the next couple of months. You’ll want to be sure to download one of the newly refreshed Windows Phone Store badges to start promoting your app on your website and in your marketing campaigns. Badges are now available in added formats, sizes, languages and color options to better align with your creative and space requirements. Here are a few examples:

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$19 “Summer Break” limited time offer – start publishing apps for Windows Phone today

Summer is a great time for vacations, having fun, and building apps. We want to help you make the most of all three, so for the next 60 days we’re offering a “Summer Break” on Dev Center registration with a $19 annual registration fee (normally $99 for individuals and companies). We know many of you have downloaded the SDK, have started building an app, and just haven’t had the time to finish and publish your creation. Now you have the opportunity to do so. If you could use a little help getting started, this week we published a refresh to our popular educational series – Windows Phone 8 Development for Absolute Beginners.

We truly believe Windows Phone offers you a canvas and the platform to design and develop apps that offer a unique and personalized experience that other platforms don’t offer. Not only will your app look better with our unique UI and Live Tile experience, but with the integration of Windows Phone software with hardware innovations from partners like Nokia, your apps can actually do more. We’re seeing users respond positively to this approach: overall customer satisfaction ratings for Windows Phone are now higher than BlackBerry and Android (Microsoft Customer Satisfaction Study Q1CY13, May 2013).

Investing in the future

At the launch of Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8, we moved to a common core, a shared UI, and a standard toolset. Windows 8.1, announced this week, continues to build on that common core, and adding capabilities that encourage app usage, without changing tools or technologies the developer community uses to build apps today. We will do the same with Windows Phone – we’re designing the next release to run existing Windows Phone apps and games with the same tools and the same technologies you’re using today.

If you’re attending //build/ this week, you’ll want to attend the Windows Phone sessions to learn more from our team of technical PMs. For those of you who are not able to attend, you can view the live stream or review the sessions on Channel 9 after the close of the event.

We continue to invest in the Windows Phone developer platform to give you ways to reach more users across more devices—all using the same tools and skills you already know. That’s true today, and it’s true for our next release, which we’re designing to run the same apps you’re building now, on a next-generation platform. The time is right to see for yourself just how easy it is to bring your app to life on Windows Phone.