Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) said on Monday (Sept. 2) that it will buy Nokia's (NYSE:NOK) struggling mobile phone business for €5.44 billion, or about $7 billion. The key question that raises for mobile retailers: Does this make Microsoft's Windows Phone a higher priority for app and mobile web development?
The short answer: Maybe a little, but only if Microsoft ownership—and marketing money—can move a lot more Nokia phones.
Windows is already the number-three mobile OS, though it badly trails both Android and iOS both for market share and mindshare among app developers. (For the record, IDC says Android's current market share is 79.3 percent, with iOS at 13.2 percent and Windows Phone at 3.7 percent. Among mobile app developers, 71 percent develop for Android, 57 percent develop for iOS, and Windows Phone and BlackBerry 10 tie at 21 percent, according to a survey released in July of 6,000 developers by market analyst VisionMobile. (That survey didn't break out results for developers working on retail apps.)
That VisionMobile survey also said that about one-quarter of app developers plan on adding Windows Phone development to their list. But currently, the third-most-popular target for mobile app development is HTML5 web apps, which should theoretically run on the majority of non-Android and non-iOS phones and tablets.
Putting it all together, Windows is already the next target in app-developers' sights. The challenge is overcoming that huge gap between Android and iOS and Windows phones. Simply buying Nokia won't solve the problem of tiny market share among Windows phones, which is why it's crucial for Microsoft to sell dramatically more Nokia hardware. If not enough shoppers use Windows phones, it will make much more sense for retail app developers to focus on HTML5 apps—leaving Windows Phone marginalized.
And until the Microsoft/Nokia deal closes in early 2014, none of that can happen. Until then, retail app developers will have to make their best guesses—and hope.
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