Microsoft entices WebOS developers toward another doomed smartphone OS

Promise of free support draws ISVs toward Windows Phone 'Mango'

It may have been completely obvious from the beginning that WebOS was going nowhere and HP was foolish to pursue it.

It wasn't obvious to anyone how dramatically HP was going to react to a failure it should have expected.

In retrospect, it should also have been obvious that other companies would circle in like vultures to pick at whatever is still valuable among the remains.

According to the criteria of virtualization and operating-system vendors, the most valuable commodity is developers who are willing to build applications for your platform.

Without developers all you have is a big fat piece of software that will make a computer run but not do anything of any value to the person that bought it.

Apple has always been standoffish with developers; Google has always been welcoming toward developers, but is too big, a little too self-important and definitely too reserved to go chasing after them. (That reserve is actually similar to the open-source movement's priority on volunteerism and the avoidance of coercion; if you don't want to work on something, no one should try to persuade you, even by paying you to change your mind.)

Microsoft on the other hand...

Well, you remember the Monkeyboy dance. That' was Steve Ballmer emphasizing at a company meeting how important it is to recruit developers for Windows.

In a tweet Friday the head of Microsoft's Windows Phone developer recruitment program promised WebOS developers anything they need to make their apps work on Windows Phone.

To Any Published WebOS Devs: We'll give you what you need to be successful on #WindowsPhone, incl.free phones, dev tools, and training, etc. – @BrandonWatson

Competitive upgrades – a drastic discount or bonus for switching from a competitor's product to one from Microsoft – are a time-honored and successful tradition at Microsoft.

It's good to see it continue with Windows Phone, which continues to lose share even in a market for smartphones that's growing so quickly makers of Android and iOS devices can hardly keep up.

By Tuesday afternoon Watson had raked in more than 1,000 responses (some positive, some bitter, some inexplicable, like the guy who said he couldn't morally or ethically support an app that runs on a Nokia phone) that the CRM system into which all the names were loaded was having trouble keeping them all straight.

Few had anything to do with WebOS specifically; most were typical technical or licensing questions, or complaints at not having previous complaints answered more quickly.

It's more attention than Windows Phone has gotten for a while, though.

Some developers even sounded optimistic about the upcoming version of the OS code-named Mango, even though that seem just as unlikely as HP's original assertion that what the smartphone market really needed was yet another operating system from a company that wasn't very good at them any more.

Read more of Kevin Fogarty's CoreIT blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Kevin on Twitter at @KevinFogarty. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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