As it struggles to gain ground in the mobile market, Microsoft has apparently reached a milestone of more than 30,000 applications in its Windows Phone Marketplace.
As of Tuesday morning, the website WindowsPhoneAppsList.com, a light version of the French site monsmartphone.com, devoted to Windows Phone, offered 30,133 apps for browsing, with 4,542 apps removed for unspecified reasons by the Marketplace.
The news comes less than a year after the software giant launched its updated operating system to replace its Windows Mobile platform in October 2010, with the accompanying Marketplace.
The tally still falls far short of Google's Android Market, which has over 250,000 apps, and Apple's App Store, which has more than 300,000.
Microsoft is now betting big on its alliance with Finland-based Nokia to try to stem the domination of Apple's iPhone and Google's Android-based devices in the mobile market.
The first Nokia device powered by Windows Phone 7 is expected to be the Sea Ray, introduced by Nokia CEO Stephen Elop in June, with an unspecified release date later this year. It will run Mango, the most recent update of the operating system.
Surveys have shown apps are one of the most important considerations by customers when choosing a phone. A recent study by Nielsen, for example, found that Android users access the Internet 67 percent of the time through apps, compared with 33 percent of the time using browsers.
But while a rich selection of apps to add practicality and fun to Windows phones is important, it isn't the only ingredient needed to boost the platform.
It's All About the OS
"Regardless of the number of apps, its all about the operating system and how robust, intuitive and easy to use the next generation Microsoft/Nokia devices will be," said wireless analyst Kirk Parsons of J.D. Power and Associates.
The level of developer interest in making apps for Windows represents a vote of confidence in Windows Phone 7 because "they do test the OS platform to make sure the app works, and more important, how well it works," Parsons said.
A Distimo report on the app market in March showed Apple head-and-shoulders above the competition, with 333,214 apps for the iPhone and 75,755 for the iPad. Android had 206,143 apps then, and Research In Motion's BlackBerry App World had 26,771.
The Ovi Store for Nokia's Symbian platform, soon to be replaced on most new phones by Windows, had 29,920 apps.
The Marketplace at the time had just 11,731 apps for Phone 7, showing a 38 percent growth rate from launch, the highest in the survey, which shows how fast development for the platform has taken off in the months in between.
Earlier this week Microsoft announced that it was opening its App Hub to accept applications for Mango, and last week it released its Silverlight for Windows Toolkit.