There has been a lot of press this week around the release of what had been Windows Phone exclusive apps on Apple’s iOS platform. There is good reason. This week Microsoft released three titles for iPhone – My Xbox Live, Kinetimals and Skydrive. But does this make sense for Microsoft to do? Are they caving in to make a few quick bucks (seriously, if they are planning on making big bucks with Skydrive they are in real trouble) or is this part of a larger, grander plan? I for one think it is a little bit of both.
From a marketing perspective, having apps across multiple platforms is a good thing. It shows that you are meeting the needs of consumers and are listening. Microsoft is fully aware that they are the small kid in the game when it comes to mobility. But they also realize they are the biggest kid on the block when it comes to game consoles. Having an app like My Xbox Live on both platforms allows them to meet their biggest customer share regardless of what mobile device they happen to be using. And for us Windows Phone fans, we still get this for free. Apple iPhone users get to pay for it. Kinetimals ties into this nicely as well but there is something even more important about Kinectimals that I’ll cover in a bit.
While I somewhat through Skydrive under the proverbial bus in my first paragraph, I do like the service. It works reliably and having photos and files instantly accessible from my phone or my PC or Mac is very handy. It isn’t nearly as powerful as Dropbox but will it always be that way? If Microsoft positions Skydrive right it could become a serious player in Cloud storage. Mind you, that’s a ways off but it could happen. If they want to build such a solution then it cannot remain exclusive to one platform. It has to be across many. Today you can access Skydrive from Windows Phone, iPhone (thanks to the new app), PC and Mac (thanks to your web browser or Microsoft Document Connector in the Office for Mac package). The reason that Dropbox is so successful is because you can get to it from virtually any device or platform. If Microsoft wants to compete then they have to do at least then plus offer something different to get people to use the service.
But there is another point on Skydrive. If they want people to move from iPhone to Windows Phone they have to have an app ecosystem that can meet the needs. They are getting there but there are table stakes that have to be there first and cloud storage is one of them. Fast forward a couple of years and if Microsoft has played it right and Skydrive is a serious player, the story for someone wanting to move from iPhone to Windows Phone just became a lot less problematic because all their files will be there on their new phone.
Let’s turn back to Kinetimals as my final point. One of the big knocks on Windows Phone is that it does not have the graphics engine power to produce games to the quaility of iOS games. On the surface this looks to be reasonably true. I have yet to find anything with the graphic richness of Infinity Blade on Windows Phone. But that could be changing. Kinetimals for both Windows Phone and iOS was written using the Unreal3D engine. For those not keeping score, that is the same graphics engine that is used by Infinity Blade. Now this got next-to-no press this week but it is one of those quiet moments that is really critical for the long term success of the platform. Windows Phone needs high end quality games. There are some good ones out there but they really need a EA Mobile for example to step up and offer a Madden 12, FIFA 12 or something like that on the platform. It doesn’t matter if you like games on your phone or not. Others do. A lot. Having top level games on Windows Phone will make people who would otherwise dismiss it give it a hard look.
So Windows Phone fans, take heart and don’t be dismayed. The release of these apps on iOS is a good thing in the long run for Windows Phone. It may not seem like it now but it will make sense in the end.