While Apple and Google are flying ahead with growing app developer communities, Windows Phone is languishing at the back of the pack. With this in mind the two firms will be investing €9 million in an app development programme in Finland.
The AppCampus at the Aalto University will attempt to foster the creation of start up companies to work on the Microsoft platform. For its part, Nokia will also see its mostly dead Symbian platform getting some attention.
Starting in May this year, students applying will be hoping to make the best of Aalto University’s premises, coaching services and business network. TechEye has visited and the university, in Espoo - near Nokia HQ - is a hub for start-up businesses. Microsoft and Nokia will also help bring any products to a wider audience, giving a bit of guidance in commercialising their ideas. Finns are still proud of their Nokia, even with the job cuts and Microsoft exerting its influence, so the companies have chosen the location of their initiative carefully.
A lot is resting on the creativity and hard work of the Aalto students. With such a gap between Windows Phone and its competitors, there is a risk they could be arriving later to the app development scene than an undergraduate to a Monday morning lecture.
Of course, Nokia has released some well received phones recently and the Lumia handsets hint at something of a return to form. But for smartphone users hardware is often not enough, particularly as many phones bear a striking similarity to each other, and strong app content is absolutely crucial.
Android and iOS have been racking up hundreds of thousands of app in their respective stores, around the half a million mark - but Windows Phone is languishing way behind, with approximately 70,000 apps.
Investing in the university programme might be a sign of the gulf between its rivals, it does at least appear to be another step in the right direction for the two fims.
According to Ernest Doku, mobile expert at uSwitch.com, the investment is "much needed" in order to start to think about catching up with its smartphone competitors.
"Despite the tens of thousands of applications currently available on Windows Phone, the platform itself is still a long way behind Apple's iOS and Google's Android, both in terms of development and market penetration," he told TechEye. "Inevitably software developers tend to focus much of their attention on the more lucrative revenue opportunities presented by Apple's App Store or Google Play, leaving Microsoft's OS out in the cold with a paucity of quality content."
With a lot of ground to make up it seems the duo will have to invest a lot more time and money to create a vibrant app development community.
"Nokia and Microsoft have placed a massive bet on the success of Windows Phone, and with apps such an integral part of the mobile ecosystem, this university programme is likely to be just one of many concerted efforts to stack the deck in their favour," he said.