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Microsoft makes appeal to iOS developers

Windows Phone - Interoperability logo

Microsoft hopes to lure iOS developers to Windows Phone 7. A new website published by the company earlier this year now offers guides and testimonials specifically designed to entice iOS developers to transform their iPhone apps into Windows Phone compatible software.
Currently, Microsoft finds itself on the wrong side of the mobile application availability debate. Mac supporters are used to hearing about the thousands of additional software titles available for the Windows platform on the desktop. In fact, those numbers often influence a customer’s purchase decision. Similarly, the nearly 400,000 apps for iOS and 300,000 titles for Android eclipse the mere 15,000 applications available for Microsoft’s newest mobile platform. The massive app markets available to iOS and Android may influence customers to choose those devices instead of Microsoft’s.
Worse for Microsoft, a recent survey by Appcelerator found only 29% of developers expressed high interest in developing for the Windows Phone 7 ecosystem. In contrast, 91% and 85% of developers said they were “very interested” in building software for iOS and Android, respectively.
Based on these numbers, Microsoft may be trapped in a chicken-and-egg conundrum. In the Appcelerator survey, developers cited the dominance of competing products and Windows Phone 7’s small share of the market as reasons for their general lack of interest in Microsoft’s mobile platform. Meanwhile, consumers may be choosing rival platforms because many of their favorite apps aren’t available for Windows Phone 7.
To solve the problem, Microsoft aims to tap into the vast talent and resources currently focused on developing apps for its rivals. The company’s Windows Phone Interoperability site touts a developer experience Ars Technica calls “one of the undisputed high points of” the platform and offers extensive documentation specifically tailored to convince iOS developers to make the leap to Windows Phone. On April 26, Microsoft added an API mapping tool to help iOS developers inspect the APIs used in their apps and “quickly look up the equivalent classes, methods and notification events in WP7.” The website also indicates plans to add similar guidance for mobile platforms beyond iOS.
Despite these efforts, the Windows Phone platform faces steep challenges. According to Ars Technica, Microsoft often has difficulties getting software updates into the wild. Microsoft claims its rich development tools offer equivalent or better experiences than its competition, but since the platform reportedly lacks certain familiar technologies such as a native SDK and OpenGL ES 3D support, developers must invest time to rewrite existing apps to operate on a Windows device. But with Microsoft’s vast resources and recent partnership with Nokia, the company may be able to grow market share despite the lack of developer interest. Perhaps the Redmond-based company hopes to make Windows Phone too big to ignore and end the “not enough time” argument prevalent in the developer community.
What do you think? Can Microsoft attract new developers to its platform and grow its app library and customer base? Will the company throw its weight around to grow its market share and attract developers? Or should the software giant give up on Windows Phone and contribute its efforts to backing a competing platform? Let us know in the comments.