Microsoft says Windows Phone apps growing

Marketplace offer 9,000 apps; new policy allows more free app certifications

While it sounds miniscule next to Apple's App Store and its more than 350,000 apps, the Windows Phone Marketplace now offers 9,000 apps and games and is growing by an average of 100 apps a day.

Microsoft touted its Marketplace on Tuesday in a Windows Phone Developer blog , noting it has 32,000 registered developers working on apps for the Windows Phone platform. Windows Phone developer tools have been downloaded more than 1 million times, according to the blog post from Todd Brix, senior director of Windows Phone Marketplace.

Microsoft also announced via the blog that it is changing some policies for developers, including raising the number of app certifications -- a type of approval -- it will do at no cost to builders of free apps, from five free certifications to 100.

The policy shift seems to be in line with a tip Microsoft passed along urging developers to create trial apps, which Microsoft said result in higher eventual sales on paid apps. "Trials result in higher sales," Brix wrote. "Nearly 1 out of 10 trial apps downloaded convert to a purchase and generate 10 times more revenue, on average, than paid apps that don't include trial functionality."

Also, paid apps that include trial functionality are downloaded 70 times more often than paid apps without trial functionality, the blog said. "Trial functionality grows customer exposure and revenue substantially for most developers," the blog added.

One commenter on the blog, however, said there is a critical bug in the trial capability software that prevents any app using a trial mode from being updated. Microsoft couldn't be reached for comment on the bug.

Microsoft also announced a Global Publisher Program, which enables smaller developers to submit apps through a Global Publisher partner. In the system, a publisher will submit an app to Marketplace on behalf of a developer, according to pricing and service terms set by the publisher. Microsoft recently announced Yalla Apps, a publishing portal maintained by Prototype Interactive, which will work with Windows Phone developers in the Middle East and Africa.

Despite the Apple App Store's enormous size, and Android Market's more than 100,000 apps, Microsoft also touted its partnership with Nokia as a "big step forward in our efforts to create a vibrant ecosystem for developers."

Application stores continue to be a priority for mobile software makers. For example, also on Tuesday, Opera Software in Oslo, Norway, announced the opening of the Opera Mobile Store , which offers free and paid apps for virtually any mobile OS and device.

About 100 million people have an Opera browser on their mobile phones.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed . His e-mail address is mhamblen@computerworld.com .

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