A response to Apple's App Store for the iPhone, Microsoft's Windows Marketplace opened this morning in Australia with 250-300 apps. These include both free and paid apps, which range in price from $3.99 to $30.
When questioned about the applications having higher prices then iPhone apps, Microsoft stated that "developers set the price of apps," but refused to discuss the profit margin for Marketplace. Apple receives a 30 per cent cut from the sale of apps, with 70 per cent going to the developer.
Among the key features of the Windows Marketplace are the ability to access stores in other markets and the introduction of carrier billing to pay for apps — a service that Telstra says it will launch "within the next few weeks".
In a move believed to be designed to combat bill shock, no Windows Marketplace file is greater than 10MB; any apps over this size will be downloaded post-purchase.
Other features of the Windows Mobile 6.5 operating system include an all-new home screen, a better organised Start menu, a new Internet Explorer mobile Web browser and a custom theme creator.
Microsoft also released a new backup service called My Phone. Providing automatic backup of files on any Windows phone as well as the ability to track your phone if it gets stolen or lost, the free service can also upload photos to social-networking sites such as Facebook and comes with a 200MB online storage allowance.
The HTC Touch Diamond2 will be the first smartphone in Australia to run Windows Mobile 6.5 and will be available exclusively through Telstra. The first of 30 new Windows phones to launch in 20 countries by the end of 2009, the Touch Diamond2 will be followed by the HTC Snap and LG's GM730f — Windows Mobile 6.1 smartphones that will be upgradeable to Windows Mobile 6.5 in the coming weeks.
Microsoft also introduced new branding for Windows Mobile–based smartphones, which will now be referred to as simply "Windows phones".
"With Windows Phones it's easier to manage work and play," said Alex Stewart, Microsoft Australia's general manager for consumer and online. "People can easily navigate their phones with the touch of a finger, browse the Internet using a great mobile browser experience and access two new Microsoft services."
Stewart also confirmed that all Windows Phones will include a physical Windows button, regardless of manufacturer or form factor.