Nokia And Microsoft To Invest £15 Million Into Windows Phone Apps

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AppCampus in Finland will become a prime destination for Windows Phone developers

Microsoft and Nokia have today announced plans to invest €18 million (£15.06m) into AppCampus – a program intended to boost the number of apps on the Windows Phone platform, by giving developers funding, training, support and business opportunities.

The program hopes to raise much-needed developer interest in Windows Phone 7 and nurture a new generation of self-sufficient start-ups which will support Microsoft’s mobile ecosystem for years to come. AppCampus also incidentally includes Nokia’s own Symbian operating system, and will be based at Aalto University, located in Espoo and Helsinki in Finland. The project will launch in May 2012.

Let the Apps begin

After re-inventing itself with the help of Windows Phone 7 -based Lumia handsets late last year, Nokia’s next challenge is getting developers interested in populating the Microsoft’s app store.

At the moment, Windows Phone Marketplace barely exceeds 70,000 apps, which is more than BlackBerry manufacturer RIM has to offer (around 65,000 apps), but nowhere near Apple’s App Store and Google Play’s almost half a million apps.

According to research quoted by Reuters, at the moment only 37 percent of developers are keen to make apps for Windows Phone. To try and change this, Nokia and Microsoft will each invest up to €9 million (£7.53m) into the AppCampus during the next three years.

The Finland-based program will be led and managed by Aalto University, which has been described as a “hotbed of new start-up companies”. As part of the program, the university will offer training in mobile technology, design and usability. AppCampus will also provide funding to create new mobile apps and services.

“Such investment into early-stage concepts has rarely been seen in this sector, and this demonstrates how highly both Nokia and Microsoft value Finnish mobile expertise,” said Klaus Holse, president of Microsoft Western Europe.

The great Finnish hope

Project managers expect thousands of application proposals from students and entrepreneurs from all over the world when AppCampus opens its doors in May. In addition to Windows Phone 7, developers can pitch apps for the other two Nokia platforms – the failing Symbian and feature-phone oriented Series 40. Under the program, developers will retain the full intellectual property rights for their innovations.

“The ICT industry and knowledge base in Finland is one of the most competitive in the world, particularly in the mobile technology field,” said Jyrki Katainen, Finnish prime minister, at the launch event for the AppCampus program in Helsinki.

“Finland is an early-adopter market, and the significance of national education and technology innovation is deeply rooted in our culture. The partnership between Microsoft and Nokia is a critical investment in this growing ecosystem and represents an exciting opportunity and access to global markets for our local start-up community,” he added.

“This program will provide a unique opportunity to turn application ideas into real business with the support of world-class partners and coaches,” commented Will Cardwell, head of the Aalto University Center for Entrepreneurship, which will be charged with managing the program.

Although the launch of the Lumia phones went fairly well, Nokia still reported a loss in the last quarter of 2011, and Microsoft had to rescue the company with “quarterly support payment” of €180 million (£151m).

Even though some reports predict Windows Phone will overtake Apple’s iOS by 2015, the success of the Microsoft platform will depend on whether it can become attractive enough to developers busy working with other, more established mobile operating systems.

Entrepreneurs can apply for grants within the AppCampus program from May 2012. More information can be found here.

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