Monday, January 16, 2012

2011 Summary - Why we went with WP7

Well 2011 was an interesting year for Mayhem Software.  We published our first application Rescue Ring on the Windows Phone 7 Marketplace on 7/06/2011 and by the close of the year we had a total of seven applications published and 7436 downloads.  So unfortunately we didn’t make the hundreds of thousands of dollars we were hoping for.  But we learned a lot and it wasn’t a terrible start for two guys who are new at this and have only been spending about 15% of their time on it.

Why WP7
When my business partner and I were discussing which mobile platform to target first Windows Phone 7 was not neccessarily our first choice.  In fact initially we were leaning towards Android. I already had a nexus one and android’s lack of restrictions and fast growing market share seemed like the most attractive choice. However on the other hand the potential for huge profits and the many success stories of developer’s who’d targetted iOS were making it look attractive too.  One which we’d been hearing alot about was Halfbrick (the developer’s of fruit ninja) who are from our hometown Brisbane.  At the time Fruit Ninja had already netted Halfbrick over $20,000,000.

However in the end the thing that turned us off both those platforms was the fact that their marketplaces were already extremely crowded.  At the time iTunes had over 300,000 apps on their markplace and Android was not far behind.  Both marketplaces have now exceeded 500,000 apps. 
Windows Phone 7 was a fresh new platform and the opportunity to get in "relatively" early appealed to us.  So needing a new phone my busisness partner bought himself a shiny new HTC Mozart and we dived in.

Things I like about WP7

  • Ease of development.

    The Windows Phone developer tools are easy to install and if you hav a decent net connection you can be running a hello world app in aprox 15 minutes.  Also having extensive .net development experience meant there was a much smaller learning curve for myself as opposed to developers who are unfamiliar with xaml and c#.
  • Slick and original platform.

    WP7 is a slick and responsive OS with a great overall user experience. It's also totally original unlike iOS and Android which are very similar to each other in terms of GUI and user interactions.  So much so that Steve Jobs "reportedly" felt that Android was a rip off of iOS.  I certainly don't agree with that but the similarities cannot be denied.
  • Uncrowded marketplace.

    Ever have a brilliant and original idea for a new app and then feel like breaking your phone when you search the Android or iTunes marketplace and realise loads of similar apps already exist. This happens less often with WP7.
Things I didn't like about WP7
  • Stupidly slow and inefficient verification process.

     To verifiy you really are a legitimate developer Microsoft use  Our experience with them was not good.  We had registered as a partnership and because of this they decided we had to jump through some rediculous hoops to be verified.  The whole process took approximately 3 months.  They would ask for one thing at a time instead of providing us with a complete list of what they needed.  They didn’t accept the statutory declaration we provided them with was signed by a legitimate solicitor and decided they needed extra time to verify his identity and credentials. Unfortunately this seemed to take forever and everytime we asked them how they were progressing the response was always "we need more time". Eventually we gave up waiting and did a new statutory declaration with a justice for the peace. Worst of all they were at best painfully slow to respond to emails. Often they wouldn't respond at all.  This experience almost made us give up and target another platform. After paying $99 and taking a risk on a new and untested mobile operating system this was not the welcome we were hoping for.
  • $99/year developer license.

    When compared to Android’s $30 one off fee this did seem a bit pricey for a platform which almost no one was making any money off.   Infact the price was initially $129 but eventually they reduced it to $99 and issued us a refund.
  • Lack of marketshare. 

    With only 2-3% smartphone marketshare Windows Phone 7 has less users which means less potential customers for us and therefore lower revenues.
  • API restrictions. 

    Windows Phone 7 is more locked down than any of the other 2 platforms we considered.  We are unable to access parts of the API we needed such as the video camera which was often frustrating and meant some of our application features were just not possible to implement.
  • Application certification process is slow and inflexibile. 

    Everytime you submit an update it has to go through certification with Microsoft. Initially this was about 2 days of waiting but over the last 3 months of 2011 this is usually taking about 5-7 days.  In addition once you've made a submission you cannot stop it.  Last month I detected a major bug in the application Secret Santa only half an hour after I'd submitted it for certification.   I was not able to update the submitted application or even delete it.  When I emailed support they advised "wait until the application completes certification.  If it passes just hide it in the marketplace and then submit an update".  It did pass and I did as they advised.  However I had to wait an unneccesary 6 days for them to certifiy it and then another 5 days for them to certify the update that included my bugfix. This was annoying as being an application which is really only useful around Christmas these 11 days meant I missed out on lots of precious downloads.  In addition as I hid the application in the marketplace as soon as it was new it missed out on showing up in the "new application" list on the marketplace which also meant I lost a lot of downloads.
Despite some of the above points I still think Windows Phone 7 is a great platform.  I love it's slickness and responsiveness. (My wife's LG Optimus 7 really makes my Nexus One seem clunky in comparison).  I love developing in .net and silverlight and it’s great to be able to develop apps which don’t get lost in amongst the hundreds of similar apps that already exist. I’m hoping Nokia will continue to build on the success of the Lumia phones and this will result in more money in the pockets of windows phone 7 developers.


  1. Chris,

    thanks for post your experience - in fact it just inspired me to post my experience. Thanks for sharing.


  2. Thanks for the comment Hermit. I'm Looking forward to reading about your experiences with wp7 in 2011.