Microsoft is the mobile world's child with lots of unrealized potential.
Its smartphone software has only a sliver of the market, after the company redesigned it from the ground up and gave it a new name, Windows Phone 7. Still, many are watching and waiting after Nokia, the world's largest phone maker, said it plans to make Windows Phone 7 its primary smartphone platform.
This week, Microsoft will try to get developers off the fence to make more applications for Windows Phone 7.
At Mix 2011, a Web and Windows Phone app development conference in Las Vegas, Microsoft plans to hold workshops on building apps for Windows Phone 7. Boot-camp sessions begin Monday, and Joe Belfiore, corporate vice president with Microsoft's mobile business, is expected to give a keynote speech on Wednesday.
Microsoft frustrated users recently when it fumbled a software update to Windows Phones that was supposed to add copy-and-paste and other performance enhancing features to speed phone performance. Belfiore said on Microsoft's website, "We are sorry the process has been rocky."
"They need to show that they are emphasizing quality in the platform" at Mix after the update problems, said Rob Sanfilippo, research vice president at Directions on Microsoft, an independent analyst firm in Kirkland. "Then the secondary thing will be what are the new features coming this year?"
At Mobile World Congress in February in Barcelona, Spain, Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer announced several new features that will be coming to Windows Phone 7 this year: Twitter integration with the phone's address book, multi-tasking and Internet Explorer 9. He also showed an experimental project showing an Xbox Kinect game that a second player could control with a Windows Phone 7.
The company will likely give a progress report this week on when those features will be arriving and how developers can start building them into phone applications.
The Mix conference used to focus more narrowly on Web development, but it has grown to include Windows Phone 7 app development. The conference drew about 1,000 people in 2010. On Tuesday, Microsoft Corporate Vice President Dean Hachamovitch is scheduled to talk about progress with Microsoft's newly introduced Web browser, Internet Explorer 9.
Microsoft will hold workshops on designing websites in HTML5, cloud computing on Windows Azure, development of its video and animation software Silverlight and mobile software.
Microsoft said it now has 11,500 apps available for Windows Phone 7. The company also dropped hints in a blog post that its competitors double count apps published in different languages and "lite" apps such as wallpaper. Apple boasts 350,000 apps on iTunes. Google says the Android marketplace has more than 150,000 free and paid apps.
Phone sales have not added up to a blockbuster, but observers say progress has been decent for a new entrant. Microsoft said at the end of January that phone manufacturers bought 2 million software licenses for Windows Phone 7. Microsoft has not given numbers on how many customers have bought phones with the software installed on it.