Can Microsoft still compete in the mobile arena? Windows Phone 7 might
be the company’s last chance, as it’s unlikely that Microsoft will ever
be able to catch up to Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android if it
doesn’t make a big splash now.

But if one report is accurate, Microsoft thinks it has what it takes to compete: a really big bank account.

According to, Microsoft is courting developers of successful iPhone apps and offering to pay them to port their apps to Windows Phone 7 technology:

One developer has told that Microsoft is contacting successful iPhone developers, offering them upfront cash to port their games to the new platform.

Amounts are said to be substantial, although not enough to tempt the developer in question. Because Windows Phone 7 is limited to Silverlight or XNA Framework (C#) development, the cost of reworking its games from C++ remains too high.

Although it may seem foolish at first glance, such an approach may not be so bad after all. It may very well be worthwhile for Microsoft to pay developers to port attractive apps over to Windows Phone 7, but only if this is a short-term strategy designed to reduce initial consumer objections to choosing a Windows Phone 7 smartphone. A Windows Phone 7 ecosystem will not grow long term, or be sustained, by a constant subsidy to developers who are developing for other platforms. At some point, Windows Phone 7 will have to become an attractive development platform for developers based on the merits, not Microsoft’s moolah.

Unfortunately, if past is prologue, Microsoft will overestimate what it can accomplish with cash alone. As we’ve seen time and time again, throwing more money at a desirable market hasn’t been a very effective strategy for Microsoft. Perhaps its most notable success story in this regard is Bing, but despite all the money Microsoft has spent on it thus far, it’s still not evident that Microsoft’s progress will be meaningful in the long term. After all, Microsoft may be stronger in search today (as measured by market share) than it was a few years ago, but its target — Google — isn’t any weaker.

From this perspective, Microsoft should consider who it is competing against. In my opinion, Microsoft is competing more with its former self in the mobile space than it is competing with Apple and Google. And if it can’t build a product consumers and developers really want, no amount of money can put it in competition with Apple and Google.

Photo credit: aanjhan via Flickr.