Microsoft operates one of the richest software businesses in the world, but that doesn’t mean the company always finds it easy to get its way.

In the mobile space, the Redmond giant has arguably developed a respectable mobile OS, but by in large, iOS and Android are getting most of the love from developers.

They say money can’t buy love, but don’t tell that to Microsoft. It has teamed up with its mobile partner Nokia to put up $24m for a new initiative called AppCampus. The goal: help startups that want to build for the Windows Phone ecosystem.

BGR’s Zach Epstein explains:

Nokia and Microsoft recently announced a new program called AppCampus. In association with Aalto University in Finland, the companies have devoted up to $12 million each that will fund developers at the university who build apps for Windows Phone and other Nokia platforms.

“The AppCampus program has been set up to foster the creation of innovative mobile applications for the Windows Phone ecosystem, and in addition, Nokia platforms, including Symbian and Series 40, to create a new generation of self-sustaining mobile startups,” the companies noted on the AppCampus website.

Obviously, $24m is not a whole lot of money for Microsoft and Nokia, but it could go quite far for participants in the AppCampus program. The big question, of course, is whether or not the two companies will get their $24m worth.

This isn’t the first time that Microsoft has opened up its wallet to developers. In 2010, there were reports that the company was offering cash to developers of popular apps on other OSes in an effort to get them to port their creations to Windows Phone 7. Assuming these reports were accurate, we have no way of knowing how successful Microsoft’s efforts were.

But there’s reason to be skeptical. At the end of the day, it’s all about delivering a large crowd of potential customers to app developers. That’s far more appealing than a hand-out from Redmond.

The big question: will Microsoft ever be able to deliver that audience? As noted, the company has arguably done a decent job with Windows Phone, but even so, growth in market share probably isn’t occurring fast enough to make Microsoft executives happy. Subsidizing developers isn’t likely to change that. So what can the company do? Perhaps at some point, it will go to work on the demand side and pay individuals to use Windows Phone a la its efforts with Bing.