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Developing Controls for Windows Phone 7 as a Business

11/22/2010 10:48:07 AM

Yesterday I couldn’t sleep and was thinking about feasibility of developing Windows Phone 7 (Silverlight) controls as a business. Since I’m already in the the WPF/Silverlight control business and we already have an open-source charting product for WP7 this is a really interesting and sensitive topic for me.

Here are some of my thoughts. Some are facts, some are pure speculation and/or brain dump.

As you probably know, at this stage Windows Phone 7 is a consumer platform and the only way to get and distribute apps is through Windows Phone Marketplace. This makes it pretty easy to see the current state of the whole market/ecosystem.

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As of this writing there are almost 2500 apps in the marketplace. Almost 600 are games meaning about 24% of the total number. Obviously the total number of apps is going to grow over coming months and years but I guess we can assume that the proportion of games will stay at approximately the same level. Let’s fix it at a nice number of 25%. Out of the rest of the apps a really large chunk are various “flashlight”, “fart” and other simple apps. These are not a target market for custom controls either. I’d say the number of apps that would benefit from advanced controls is no more than 10% of non-games (pure speculation based on non-scientific observation).

imageSo let’s say apps using 3rd party controls constitute 7% of all apps (I’d say that’s in optimistic range). Also, let’s say that the total number of apps grows to about 50,000 over the next 1-2 years. That’s roughly 3500 apps.

Now I’m not sure where to get the actual average number of apps per publisher but my guess is that what says “1325 Top publishers” in Bing’s Visual Search for Windows Phone 7 Apps is actually a total number at this point in time.

So basically the average is close to 2 apps per publisher. Meaning that with 50,000 apps in the marketplace we’ll have ~1750 publishers interested in 3rd party controls.

Now I believe most of the publishers are one man shops or really small companies. I guess the average number of developers per publisher is not more than 2. So let’s say these publishers are going to spend $1000 per developer on 3rd party controls over the next 2 years (again optimistic number, imho). That makes the market worth no more than 1750 x 2 x $1000 = $3,500,000 over all 3rd party control publishers. And that’s on the optimistic side in my opinion.

Conclusion

This post is pure speculation and I would like to hear your thoughts either based on more facts or deeper knowledge or just higher intelligence, but as I see it now the market is really small.

That said I still see some reasons to participate:

  1. These are still Silverlight controls and should cost less to adopt from desktop Silverlight than writing from scratch. That said WP7 Silverlight is going to be 2 versions behind pretty soon and that imposes serious challenges balancing between doing things the better (new) way and making them work on the phone.
  2. Sooner or later Microsoft is going to open the platform for enterprise development and distribution and that is going to be a much bigger market for control developers. The question is when is this going to happen? But hopefully this happens sooner than later and you’d want to be in the game when it does.

Again, I’m sorry for posting such a speculative rant, but if governments can expect 3% higher budget incomes by upping taxes by 3% why can’t I speculate using the same “Excel logic”?

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