Are the first Windows Phone 7 developer payments enough to encourage more apps?

The first round of payments to Windows Phone 7 app developers are beginning to trickle out of Redmond. Developers are reporting that have received deposits. How much those payments add up to is still an open question, however.

For any mobile platform, having a diverse selection of apps can be seen as a key factor for success. While the offerings for Windows Phone 7 have yet to reach hundreds of thousands of apps like as they have for Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android, Microsoft is able to boast a notable catalog of apps.

Keeping developers interested in the platform will be a crucial task for Microsoft. The vast majority of mobile app developers (including those from large companies as well as individuals working part time) will focus on the platforms that offer the widest customer base and therefore the best chance of exposure. That great customer base can easily translate into more money.

While Windows Phone 7 hasn’t been a runaway success, it hasn’t been a failure either. Earlier this week, Microsoft reported that it had sold two million devices to OEM partners and wireless carriers. Reporting sales that way rather than by actual device activations (as Apple and Google tend to do) allows Microsoft to obscure how many devices are in the wild, but we can easily assume not all two million have been activated yet.

Somewhat less than two million devices more than decent number for a platform that’s only four months old, but it pales in comparison to the 160 million iOS devices that Apple has reported as being in active use. It also significantly lags the number of Android devices and BlackBerries on the market.

That doesn’t mean Microsoft is in immediate danger of losing developers. CNet's Josh Lowensohn spoke with some developers who generally reported that sales were decent but spectacular (and certainly not enough for individual developers to quit their day jobs). As with other mobile app marketplaces, Microsoft does highlight individual apps in its catalog, which appears to significantly impact an app’s success, though getting Microsoft to pick your app to be featured seems a challenge in itself. The issue seems to be particularly challenging for game developers, who must convince Microsoft to allow them to offer Xbox live integration in their titles before the company will consider featuring them at all.

Ultimately , the good news for both Microsoft and Windows Phone 7 users seems to be that while app developers may not have been blown away by outlandish successes, they also haven’t been turned off future WP7 development. So long as the platform continues with at least moderate growth, there will probably be sustained developer interest.

Ryan Faas writes about personal technology for ITworld. Learn more about Faas' published works and training and consulting services at Follow him on Twitter @ryanfaas.

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