Microsoft is throwing cash at iPhone games developers in a bid to increase the number of applications for its yet-to-launch Windows Phone 7.
A report from Pocket Gamer says that Microsoft is contacting successful iPhone developers and offering them "substantial" amounts of money – up front – to port their software to Windows Phone 7.
Microsoft refused to comment directly on the claims. Instead, it offered a roundabout statement saying the company provides what it called "limited" financial support – "most commonly in the form of an advance on revenue" among numerous other resources.
A Windows Phone 7 move would be an evolution in Microsoft's campaign to woo developers from the platform that's helping to kill Windows market share on mobile.
Last year, Microsoft hoped that by establishing a clear set of rules for publishing apps to its own mobile market place, in contrast to Apple's opaque and idiosyncratic set of rules for the App Store, would be enough to tap a vein of popular discontent with Apple and win converts.
But turns out that people are prepared to accept the uncertainty you get with Apple. The number of applications on the App Store keeps growing.
Microsoft also stressed that with 30 million mobile devices running Windows Mobile 6.0 and 6.1, there is potential to make money from an existing customer base.
It then upped its game by offering technical advice on converting iPhone apps to the then planned Windows Mobile 6.5, flagging Gripwire.com, which ported Amplitude to an early release of Windows Mobile 6.5 on an HTC Touch Pro phone.
It will take more than cash to convince developers to move, or at least straddle both mobile platforms. Developers will need to invest in different architectures – the Silverlight media player and XNA for Windows Phone 7 and Apple's Safari browser and Objective-C Cocoa for Apple.
And while some might be willing to invest the time and effort, there's a huge question mark over the long-term wisdom of such a move.
Not only does Windows Phone 7 have zero market share – it doesn't yet exist – it's also a high risk strategy because Microsoft's own level of commitment is not known. Meanwhile, the apps themselves cannot be back-ported to previous versions of Windows on mobile.
Further, Microsoft's own goals for Windows Phone 7 cannot be taken seriously: with Windows Phone 7 due by the end this year, the company believes it can ship 30 million devices by the end of 2011 by converting feature-phone users.
To provide some context, it took Apple just two-and-a-half years to hit 33 million iPhones sold. ®