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Microsofties: Writing Windows Phone 7 Apps for Personal Profit

According to an article in the New York Times over the weekend, Microsoft is encouraging employees to write apps for Windows Phone 7 on their own time, and will share any revenue on those apps in a 70/30 employee/Microsoft split. From the article:

"It has relaxed a strict rule and will let employees moonlight in their spare time and keep the resulting intellectual property and most of the revenue, as long as that second job is writing apps for Windows Phone 7-based devices.

"And they don't have to do that work quietly. The company is having weekly pizza parties for workers who pitch in to write code for the platform and is planning ways to publicize their work, including posters and awards of recognition, said Brandon Watson, director of developer experience for Windows Phone 7."

This is encouraging news for anyone who would like to see Microsoft harness its considerable engineering talent to the vibrant smartphone apps market that's been taking place mostly away from Microsoft's platforms. A lot of Microsoft partners are rooting for Microsoft to do much better, and giving Microsoft's brightest and most motivated engineers incentives to populate Microsoft's app store is a good way to build some momentum. (It's not like stock options are much motivation over there anymore, anyway.)

Once it was enough for Microsoft to sell its mobile OS by saying that Windows phones offer the tightest integration with the Windows platform. As Apple's and Google's vibrant app markets show, few developers and phone users seem to care about the plumbing. Microsoft is going to have to compete on the fun or usefulness of the apps themselves.

This human resources rule change is the most concrete sign yet that Microsoft has awoken to its underdog status in the mobile fight. If you can get an HR department of a Fortune 500 company to change a policy, you must be pretty serious.

Posted by Scott Bekker on February 28, 2011


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