Microsoft to launch “Skymarket” applications marketplace for Windows Mobile 7

If one of the most compelling features of the iPhone are the third-party applications then it’s a sad fact for Microsoft since Windows Mobile has supported third-party applications since the last ice age.

Side by side, there’s an impressive 18,000 applications (hopefully at least a 1:5 gem-to-crap ratio) for Windows Mobile compared to just over 2,000 for the iPhone. The exception being there’s only one iPhone marketplace and about a bazillion WM marketplaces. Personally I’ve avoided purchasing any WM applications because of this.

Probably realizing they’ve been down the wrong path and missing out on a couple of millions from revenue sharing, Microsoft is looking to roll out its own centralized marketplace codenamed “Skymarket” as soon as 2009 with the release of Windows Mobile 7 as a couple of job postings indicate.

Job Title: Senior Product Manager – Skymarket
This is a unique opportunity and time of rapid change in the mobile industry for a Senior Product Manager in the Mobile Communications Services team to drive the launch of a v1 marketplace service for Windows Mobile.

Key Responsibilities include the following:

  • Definition of the product offering, pricing, business model and policies that will make the Windows Mobile marketplace “the place to be” for developers wishing to distribute and monetize their Windows Mobile applications
  • Responsibility for the business model and key elements that will drive the optimal experience for developers and monetization of the service by Microsoft
  • Preparation and driving the cross group collaboration for the initial launch of the marketplace offering to the developer community this fall
  • Preparation and driving the cross group collaboration with stakeholders in the commercial launch of the marketplace service with the launch of WM 7
  • Define and mange the consumer, developer and mobile operator value proposition and supporting materials for use by PR, MCB’s developer outreach organization, and other teams across Microsoft
  • Working with multiple stakeholders (product team, product planning, developer outreach, business operations, legal and more) in definition on the process, policies and terms of use through which developers and consumers take part in the marketplace
  • Work closely with product planning on prioritization of consumer, developer, and mobile operator scenarios
  • Support business development on engagements with mobile operators and integration of the marketplace offering into broader Microsoft services offerings or discussions
  • Work closely with the Mobile Communication Business developer outreach organization
  • Management of KPI’s for the service post launch

Product Manager – Commercial Integration

This is a unique opportunity for a Product Manager in the Mobile Communications Services team to drive the commercial operations and infrastructure integration for the v1 launch of an applications marketplace service for Windows Mobile 7.

Key Responsibilities include the following:

  • Drive the commercial operations and infrastructure integration that will enable the Skymarket service and enable revenue collection from consumers of the service and payments to 3rd party developers selling applications/content through the marketplace
  • Drive the cross group collaboration for the commercial operations and infrastructure that enable initial launch of the marketplace with the launch of WM 7
  • Benchmarking 3rd party mobile marketplaces for commercial integration options for consumers and developers, generating a set of best practices as input for the app market planner
  • Working closely with product teams and potentially 3rd parties on mobile operator commercial integration
  • Define the processes and KPI’s for measurement of the performance of the business
  • Define processes for the on-going operation of the business including unds collection, payment, reporting requirements
  • Oversight of 3rd party developer payments, tax issues, and funds management
  • Work closely with product planning on prioritization of consumer, developer, mobile operator integration, and internal commerce integration scenarios
  • Preparation and driving the cross group collaboration for the commercial operations and infrastructure that enable initial launch of the marketplace with the launch of WM 7
  • Working with multiple stakeholders (product team, product planning, developer outreach, legal and more) in definition on the process, policies and terms of use through which developers and consumers take part in the marketplace
  • Support business development on engagements with mobile operators and integration of the marketplace offering into broader Microsoft services offerings or discussions

If global warming hasn’t yet screwed up our seasons then “this fall” would translate to the next couple of months – when developers should get an early look at the marketplace and hopefully to start adopting like newly-wed Hollywood couples. As of last sighting on a blurry HTC PowerPoint slide, Windows Mobile 7 along with “Skymarket” should be an early 2009 release.

49 insightful thoughts

  1. I think its fair to say that Apple had some effect in their decision to go forward with this. As Long points out, the current 3rd party application experience is a mess on WiMob, and good user experience is why Apple will make inroads into WiMob.

    Disclaimer, I know someone on the team.

  2. the way I see it is that Apple actually did some good market research and delivered a product mix they felt filled a niche.

    Given Microsoft’s reaction with Skymarket I would say Apple actually was successful and caught Microsoft of guard.

    See this is the great thing of being neither a Macboy or Windows Nerd but simply someone that buys the best technology they see fit best for them at this point in time. Reality for me is Mac OSX in combo with the iPhhone at least for me is the best there is. I have had Windows Mobile phones, I have had Nokias and I have had Motorolas… But to be honest I have not been as excited about a technology such as the iPhone since the first time I discovered the WWW back in 1995.

    I think Microsoft has a chance if they succeed in delivering a product that closely emulated what the iPhone actually is: a handheld computer with touch interface!

    This feels like the iPod vs Zune situation all over again.

    In the end I am stunned how a company with so much brain power available to them can get it so wrong over and over again. I mean seriously… come on Microsoft, you are paying your employees truckloads of money yet your are getting your ass kicked by a measly little company in Cupertino… and not just once. It’s happening over and over again…

    PS: I used to be a Windows Nerd through and through until about 2007… when Apple switched to the Intel platform I realized it was time to start looking at alternatives… now I consider myself a technology nerd… I use/ buy what make my live easy and get my job done quickly… right now I have to say that’s Mac OSX and the iPhone… in 5 years time who knows… Google… or maybe a company doesn’t even exist yet?

  3. Nice to see that Microsoft has decided to join Apple in following Danger’s footsteps. The Hiptop’s had its software Catalog (and OTA firmware updates) since its original release back in 2002. ;-)

    Then again, this makes perfect sense considering MS bought Danger earlier this year.

  4. Note to any Apple people stating MS is copying: Xbox Live Marketplace. Windows Marketplace.
    I’m super aware of iTunes, but that, much like the two I mentioned, aren’t the first things of their kind.
    No copying going on, just a good idea being implemented.

    And I totally forgot the Danger buy for a second; thanks for reminding us SDWolf. That is an important factor too. Remember it.

  5. They should just name the product “Skymarket” instead of it only being the codename. Knowing Microsoft, they’ll probably name it something lame like “Microsoft Windows Mobile Marketplace Live for Devices”

  6. Wonderful. About time. It’s so hard finding really good WinMo apps on the web, even with a search engine. A centralized application store would be so much useful. As long as there’s no limit as to what you can put on there. And of course, a great digital store experience with all those little ratings, reviews, screenshots/video-demos, similar ones, etc.

    Microsoft’s traditionally let itself be a software supplier for all those manufacturers and partners. It’s only in the past few years that Microsoft’s trying to go straight to the consumers with their software and own services. The old-fashioned way isn’t working anymore, since everything is about the consumer these days. The software is probably the most noticeable experience for users, and what Microsoft offers is too basic, and letting the hardware makers and even cellular carriers put a bunch of yucky fluff or cruddy hardware components is the wrong approach. Apple’s done a great job at knowing what consumers WANT, and Microsoft should be working more at user experience as well.

  7. They have to do this if their Live Mesh cloud platform is going to take off. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Skymarket is actually more ambitious than just a mobile app marketplace. It may be the one stop shop for Live Mesh apps that run on Windows and Mac desktops as well as on Silverlight-capable mobile devices.

  8. @Oran – Oh, yes. It is WAY more important. This is SkyNet in it’s earliest form.

    Why Windows Mobile? An evil monopolizing computer must come from an evil monopolizing software company, right?

    Oh, and it won’t be called SkyNet. It will be called Microsoft Windows Mobile Sentient Live Mesh Assistant for Devices – Ultimate LIVE Zune Edition 2011 RC2. And nobody will ever get their Ultimate Extras despite it having a time machine. No… it will be too busy trying to kill Long Zheng with Ballmerbot and Steven Sinofsky.

  9. This is not a copy of Apple. It’s an unavoidable conclusion that Microsoft should have done much sooner. Microsoft tries to take the most profitable steps so they are slow to react. They try and keep their partners happy (and profitable) which adds even more time.

  10. Will I be able to go down to my local supermarket or newsagent and purchase a WindowsMobileBucks card to purchase apps like on iTunes/App Store, or will I have to use my credit card? :)

  11. Microsoft probably even toyed with this sort of notion way before apple as they have a long history of providing centralised resources for both consumers and developers. It would have had limited success as unfortunately this marketplace will mostly as it lacks other tie-ins to drive traffic. Apple have been very clever (with some good luck and good timing thrown in) by firstly establishing the music store tied into a cool music device that everyone wants. Now they can incrementally build on this huge established market. Microsoft has no such base to start with so they will struggle with the marketplace regardless of how much sense it makes.

    I still think it is a good idea and good luck to them but they will need more than this to challenge Apple on this front.

    Microsoft needs to pay developers (or at least offer fantastic prizes in some competitions) to write cool apps that they give away free. They also need to take their head out of the sand and make sure these apps connect to or use every current cool technology not just their own. They really need to break down the barriers on this one as the only advantage they can offer is no vendor lock-in (which has been their modus-operandi in the past much like Apple is now doing).

  12. SkyMarket… SkyNet… are the members of the MS Marketing department SOooo young they forgot the name of the computer that enslaves the world? When are Windows T2, T3, and T2000 scheduled for release?

  13. This is a perfect example of what’s wrong with Microsoft today. Now MS will have 3 slightly different but over lapping digital “stores”. Xbox Live, Zune, and Skymarket. Instead of figuring how how to do this once and do it well, and have it work everywhere (pc, phone/zune, and living room) there are three separate fiefdoms each more focused on what the other internal competitors are doing than making their customers happy or beating their external competition.

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