Windows Phone Store: Woes and Hopes

By | October 12, 2012

Despite being in the news for several years already, the mobile revolution is only just beginning. In 2012, the mobile apps industry will most likely reach $9B in revenue and is expected to grow exponentially in the years to come (Forrester predicts $38B in 2015). Apple and Google are in the lead, no surprises there. With Blackberry postponing the BBOS10 launch (again) and the lifeless Symbian, the number one contender for a spot in a potential triumvirate is Microsoft’s Windows Phone platform.

No one will disagree that besides device quality, user experience and affordability, the app offering is crucial. Naturally, this is why Microsoft is constantly waving its banner trying to rally app developers. And this is why news about Rovio’s decision to finally develop it’s latest installment of Angry Birds for Windows Phone is a big deal. Here at Melon Mobile, we develop on all top platforms; however, we’ve been attached to Microsoft’s application development platforms (.NET, SharePoint, etc.) even before mobile began, so we were quite excited and still keep rooting for Microsoft to break into the mobile OS top three (or two?).

Here’s a short recap of our experience as a registered (by means of a symbolic $99 per year) mobile app developer for Windows Phone.

July 26th, 2012: After approximately 2 months of hard work by developers, QA engineers and the marketing team, we finally submit our Hotel Finder application to the Windows Marketplace.

August 1st, 2012: We are informed that we would need to resubmit because of a missing privacy policy and the fact that China does not condone the use of Bing Maps (Microsoft’s map platform). Which is weird, but fair enough. We resubmit the same day.

August 10th, 2012: We are informed that we need to enable explicit approval for using location-based services on the user’s device. Why this wasn’t mentioned in the first round of feedback remains a mystery. We resubmit the same day.

Mid-August 2012: Microsoft starts updating it’s app store with the goal of allowing developers to deploy apps and updates more quickly. Being part of the group that was planned to benefit most from this and other developments in the few weeks before the big announcement of Windows 8 in mid-September, we were patient and optimistic. In the meantime, we submitted another free app for the local Bulgarian market on August 3. We received an e-mail confirmation that the app was live on August 15. However, on August 23 we realized that the app was not visible at all on the store. It usually takes around a week for download numbers to appear in the administrative panel. After hitting a dead-end with Microsoft’s support staff, we republish the app and it then miraculously and immediately shows up in the app listings.

September 6th, 201227 days after the last and 42 days after the first submission, our Hotel Finder finally wakes up to see the light of day. We can now finally write to our contacts by first explaining why there was a 6-week delay between the beta version we sent out and the go-live date. Not the best way to leave a good impression.

September 25th, 2012: Thanks to constructive and flatteringly positive feedback from gracious individuals, we decide to release an update.

October 3rd, 2012: We are informed that our app cannot be certified because content in Serbian language is still not supported. Our submission contains Bulgarian and Russian only (of the Cyrillic languages). Same as the previously approved content.

October 5th, 2012: We try to resubmit; however, this time we are unable to upload anything from our account (new or updated apps) because our last registration expires on Nov 1st (yes, in about a month’s time) and no valid payment option for a renewal is available.

October 6th, 2012: We try two different credit cards and a PayPal account. The third credit card works. However, we still cannot update anything.

October 7th, 2012: We get in touch with Symantec who now seem to be handling the store’s authentication saying that the e-mail of the contact person (at the time tony[at]melontech.com) needs to be changed to coincide with the name of the contact person (Ivo Ivanov). We change it to ivo[at]melontech.com. Symantec informs us that we will need to wait around 10 days for confirmation (3 days from them and the rest thanks to Microsoft).

As of today, October 12th, 2012, we are still waiting. Unable to update our apps. Unable to upload new apps. To say the least. In the meantime, we are reading news of Microsoft’s efforts to urge developers to join their cause. 120 countries now. It’s understandable that this is no simple matter, but given that you are one of the biggest and most reputable software companies in the world, at a key turning point before the most important launch in years in the most competitive of environments – how is this possible?

We are not about to give up on the platform. We have high hopes. We have dealt with and been kicked in the head by the biggest players for all sorts of reasons. But Microsoft needs to get its shizzle together if they plan to stand a chance in the battle for developer mindshare.

But, you know what, Microsoft? It’s COB Friday, let’s forget this, enjoy the weekend and try again on Monday? Good times could be right around the corner…

-Petar

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