Stateside: The iOS-Android duopoly is over – it's time for developers to acknowledge Windows Phone

There is a third way

Stateside: The iOS-Android duopoly is over – it's time for developers to acknowledge Windows Phone

It's very easy to look at the mobile market as a whole and see it as a struggle between iOS and Android alone. They dominate the headlines and the thought processes of those involved in mobile.

However, Microsoft's much-maligned Windows Phone platform is showing some real signs of growth - and it's time for developers to start paying attention.

There's no denying the fact that, after a difficult start, Microsoft's platform is gaining a firm foothold.

A large part of that is down to the soon-to-be-acquired Nokia, which – despite Windows Phone's still undoubted 'niche' status – has risen from its "burning platform" to become the fourth largest smartphone manufacturer in the US.

Considering the difficulty Nokia has had making a mark in North America throughout its history – even when it was the world's dominant manufacturer – that's nothing to be sniffed at.

All hail Nokia

Thanks to Nokia's savvy deals with carriers – and its focus on delivering a range of different devices packed with its own software that offers genuinely unique alternatives to iOS and Android – people are starting to buy Windows Phone handsets in America, and it's Nokia's logo that adorns them.

And it's not just the US where Windows Phone is making advances. In Europe, Windows Phone now has a larger marketshare than the mighty iOS, and it's growth that's been driven "almost entirely by Nokia sales."

Windows Phone's market share Europe currently sits at 10 percent and, while in the US it's further behind on 4.6 percent, it's growing, and growing steady.

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Microsoft's US advertising makes great play of being in third place

Still, there's no denying that, on either side of the Atlantic, 10 percent market share or less sits you firmly in third place, but Windows Phone's growing userbase is hungry, and they're hungry for games.

It's still not a platform not going to make anyone rich just yet, there's mounting evidence that it's possible to make decent money on Microsoft's OS.

No krash landing

Jeff Weber, a solo independent developer based out of Wisconsin, released his game Krashlander initially for Windows Phone. So, how did it do?

"I built Krashlander for Windows Phone back before Windows Phone was even released," he opens.

"I was there on launch day. I like the Windows Phone platform and Krashlander did pretty well. To date, it's made roughly $50,000.00 on the Windows Phone platform. This is from direct purchase and ad revenue from a free version of Krashlander."

That's undoubtedly not a lot of money, but it's a lot more than many iOS-only indies are party to.


Weber has since gone multiplatform launching on iOS as well, but the bright lights of Apple's OS hasn't changed his view of Microsoft's platform. It remains a good place for developers.

"The biggest thing Windows Phone did recently for game developers, in my opinion, was add support for Unity3D," he adds.

"Now that Windows Phone has Unity3D support, I think it's an even better option for developers than it was when I was developing the original version of Krashlander. It's not that hard to port an iOS or Android Unity3D game to Windows Phone."

The fact Windows Phone is controlled to a much greater degree by Microsoft than Android is Google – Microsoft controls exactly which handsets run its OS and which do not – developers can expect an easier job porting games to it than to Android.

At least there's far fewer devices to support - and it's entirely possible they will all be from one manufacturer soon.

'Industry joke'

Nevertheless, Windows Phone remains under the radar for many – for others, it's even something of an industry joke – but those who do take a punt on the platform may have the last laugh.

"The nice thing about Windows Phone is that it's not quite as saturated with games as iOS," claims Weber.

"Windows Phone is slowly gaining traction and I think will continue to do so. I definitely think iOS and Android game developers, especially those using Unity3D, should consider it as a viable option to make a little more money from their games.

"The single best thing Microsoft can do now is continue to grow its market share for Windows Phone."

And that's the important thing. Perhaps Windows Phone doesn't need to be the sole revenue generator for developers. In this multiplatform world, if it can simply be a significant revenue generator, then it's on the right track.

Indeed, as an under served platform on the upswing, that's fertile ground for enterprising developers willing to take a risk.

Microsoft's mobile presence doesn't end with Windows Phone, of course. There's also Windows 8 - another maligned platform, yes, but it's only really been an option for about a year now.

Opening windows

Manufacturers (and even Microsoft itself) are still going through the growing pains of how to compete in the market. Android tablets are a bigger business now - and the market share proposition turned in a matter of a twelve months.

A lot could happen in a year. If Windows tablets get cheaper, if Windows RT starts to make up for the deficiencies between it and the x86 flavor of Windows, or if Nokia's RT tablets make a splash . then it too could be a viable market despite being only a small niche so far.

And if Windows abandons ARM processors and goes x86 entirely at some point, there's room there for developers who have 'traditional' games to try and push to real tablets.

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It's not about the now so much as it is what will happen in the next year, two, or three - Microsoft wants to be on mobile, and developers need to watch the Redmond giant's efforts closely.

The important thing is this: Microsoft doesn't have to win the market with Windows' mobile efforts. It just need to make them viable propositions for developers to make real money off of.

Being the biggest isn't important: Android eclipses iOS' marketshare, but iOS still makes more money for developers. If Microsoft can get enough users - especially ones who will spend money on apps and games - developers will start taking Windows seriously.

Chicago-based Carter Dotson is a senior writer at 148Apps.com, which was acquired by PocketGamer.biz publisher Steel Media in 2012.
Carter  Dotson
Carter Dotson
Carter is a senior writer over at recent Steel Media acquisition 148Apps.com.