Microsoft’s App Approval Process Just Got More Apple-Like, but in a Good Way
By: Hillel Fuld (@hilzfuld)
Competing in the mobile game against companies like Apple and Google is not a simple task and I would not want to be in RIM or Nokia/Microsoft's position right now. Over the last 24 hours, both RIM and "Nokiasoft" made it very clear that they are in it for the long haul.
RIM went all in with its $10,000 guarantee to developers, which you can read about here. Microsoft announced that the days of the Windows Phone Marketplace offering low quality junk apps are over.
Let's back up a little. If you use an Android phone, go pick it up and search Google Play for the words "Jetpack Joyride". That is the name of an iOS game by Halfbrick that is not available on Android. Now by searching Google Play, you would never know that. Why? Because you get many results for that search. And the reason you get many results is because many people search for it, as it is one of the most popular games on iOS.
Developers know this and try to target those words in the hopes that many people will download their app thinking it is the original Jetpack Joyride.
The same is true for the words "Angry Birds". Of course, those words are very popular and that game DOES exist on Android, but you will get tens, if not hundreds of results that are NOT the game itself when searching Google Play for the words "Angry Birds".
So how does this happen? In one word... Open. Android is open in every way, one of which is the policies of the app approval process. As compared to Apple, Android's market, Google Play, is the Wild West.
Now, I have complained about this in the past and every time I do, I get the response, "You think Google Play is a mess? Try the Windows Phone Marketplace!".
Now, Microsoft is stuck between a rock and a hard place because on the one hand, the company is struggling to make a dent in the mobile market, but it keeps hearing the same complaint. "Windows Phone has no apps!"
Of course, that is a slight exaggeration with over 80k live Windows Phone apps and a faster growth rate than both iOS and Android, but hey, semantics, right?
So Microsoft needs to get its numbers up, it needs the quantity. Now what happens when you focus on quantity? Quality suffers and that is exactly what is happening here with the Marketplace.
Well, Microsoft just made a pretty gutsy move and announced that it is going to be tightening up the approval process of the Marketplace and begin rejecting and even removing apps it deems offensive. You can read the guidelines here.
Now, there are different models for app approval out there. There is the Apple model, which has developers holding their breath for weeks once they submit an app to the App Store, not to mention, objectively unfair rejections that Apple is famous for. Like this one.
On the other side of the spectrum, if I challenged you to find a developer whose app was rejected from Google Play, you would have a hard time meeting that challenge. It is not a common occurrence.
So where does Microsoft fall? Based on these new developments, it seems they are somewhere in the middle. They will not approve every app that is submitted but if their guidelines are met, developers have nothing to worry about. I don't know about you but to me, that sounds like a classic case of "Everything in moderation".
Of course, it will be interesting to watch how this affects the fast-pace growth of the Marketplace. Will it slow it down or will it give developers more incentive to develop for Windows Phone? Stay tuned...