If you're a developer looking to make a splash, Windows Phone is the place to do it.
Now, I know Windows Phone isn't exactly the most popular smartphone operating system out there. Apple's iOS remains the go-to platform for developers, and Android offers a massive potential customer base.
But in both cases, your app risks getting lost in the sea of other programs available on both platforms. You want to be noticed? Take a chance on Windows Phone, which has a fraction of the apps available on iOS and Android. There's a higher chance you'll be a big fish in a smaller pond, but it's a pond that's steadily getting bigger.
It's still a good time to jump on the bandwagon before it actually takes off. There's some buzz around the Lumia 900, with some AT&T stores selling out of the device, but Windows Phone isn't exactly a must-have platform yet.
The key word is yet. With Windows Phone 8 around the corner, and the eventual integration with Windows 8, there are more reasons to excited about the platform and establish a position there.
One such reason is the combined resources between Microsoft, Nokia, and AT&T, which have all pledged to take Windows Phone mainstream -- something the platform hasn't been able to do over the past year.
Even Verizon recognizes the value of having a third mobile ecosystem beyond Android and iOS, as Chief Financial Officer Fran Shammo said last week. You can expect Verizon to eventually throw its weight behind Windows Phone.
With all that support, it's hard to bet against Windows Phone. Either way, it would behoove developers to start taking a more serious look at the platform. Most of the up-and-coming apps I've seen all start at iOS, with a few at Android. A developer starting with Windows Phone first may win support from Microsoft, which has shown it isn't afraid to pay for good apps.
So how does a developer start? The first thing developers should do is register with Microsoft at the company's App Hub. The site has tools that are free to download, and can get you started on making apps for that platform.
Microsoft said developers should then contact their local Windows Phone "Dev Champ." You can find one through Twitter or the FindMyChamp app, which is available both on Windows Phone and PC (in case you haven't yet bought a Windows Phone device yourself). The Windows Phone Developers Blog is also another resource for tricks and tools for app development.
To be sure, Windows Phone still offers a tiny customer base -- an important factor for developers looking to reach as many people as possible. But a good app can generate buzz on any platform, and can probably do so a little easier on Windows Phone, where there are fewer quality apps. That goodwill could help a developer looking to port that app over to iOS and Android.
Microsoft and Nokia acknowledge they are still waiting for those killer apps to show up on Windows Phone. The companies are providing resources and support to help foster high-profile apps, with the hope that one will be a breakout hit.
If you're a developer with a good idea that's the next killer app, perhaps Windows Phone might be the place to foster it.<