Nokia Lumia gets exclusive apps; is Windows Phone fragmentation next?

Are exclusive apps the right thing to do, and is this the beginning of Windows Phone fragmentation?

Nokia continues to push its Lumia line of Windows Phone smartphones hard, announcing several deals with app developers on Tuesday, including some that would be exclusive to the Lumia platform initially.

ESPN's Windows Phone app will be exclusive to the Lumia through May of next year; Groupon's and AOL Entertainment's app are exclusive for six months from a summer 2012 debut; and the PGA tour's app will be exclusive to the Lumia for one year following launch. Nokia will also partner with Rovio and Electronic Arts to speed the availability of top games.

In addition to the partnerships and exclusive apps, Nokia says it has agreed to work with PayPal to port a version of its mobile app for Windows Phone, and with Time and Newsweek on mobile versions of their weekly publications. Even popular file sharing service Box gets some development help from the Finnish company.

The Lumia line (and the Lumia 900 specifically) have become the Windows Phones of choice for consumers, and some of the best-selling models yet. That said, the phones have the same problem every other Windows Phone has: A lack of popular apps. About 82,000 apps are currently available for the platform, far less than the 600,000+ in both Google Play and the iTunes App Store.

Windows Phone Fragmentation?

With such a wide gap in app availability, Nokia's work to encourage developers to take a second look is sorely needed. But is it the right thing to do, and is this the beginning of Windows Phone fragmentation?

Probably not (at least yet). Nokia is only offering assistance in exchange for first dibs on some potentially popular applications. Had it negotiated permanent exclusivity, it would be much more worrisome. That's not to say Windows Phone will not have the fragmentation problems of Android real soon, though.

Windows Phone 8 could potentially cut off the Lumia and other Windows Phone 7 devices due to incompatibilities: Sources told The Verge last month that current Windows Phones are not upgradable to WP8.

If you own a Lumia or another Windows Phone 7 device, this means your phone could be totally obsolete in a matter of months. No more upgrades to new software, and apps will become incompatible with your device.

Imagine if a manufacturer signs a similar deal for its new Windows Phone 8 device. Will you ever get a compatible version for your phone? Probably not. You are warned.

For more tech news and commentary, follow Ed on Twitter at @edoswald, on Facebook, or on Google+.

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