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IDC: Windows Phone marketplace to be third biggest in 2011

Microsoft's Windows Phone Marketplace may not have the massive volume of some of its competitors, but research firm IDC predicts it won't be that way for long.

Windows Phone 7's Marketplace.

A report by research firm IDC pegs 2011 as a big year for Microsoft's Windows Phone applications platform, saying that the software maker is already seeing faster growth in terms of its app library than competitors, and could even grab the third spot in terms of overall app volume by mid-2011.

IDC analyst Al Hilwa's research on mobile momentum, which was picked up by eWeek, notes that Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 Marketplace reached 4,000 apps in two months time--a feat that took Android some five months after its launch (from October 2008 to March 2009). At that pace, Hilwa conjectures, Microsoft could be in the number three spot behind Apple and Google, beating out rivals like Research in Motion, and Nokia in terms of app volume by mid-2011.

There are some details to note with these claims, the first one being that the app development scene is very different from where it was in 2008, as is Microsoft's market penetration. In fact, just this morning we've gotten a clearer picture of that, with the company having announced that it has sold more than 1.5 million Windows Phone 7's worldwide. Now that's not a precise number of how many users have made actual purchases yet, but it does very handily beat out the 1.5 million G1 Android phones (the first Android phone to hit the market), which took six months to sell.

Coming back to the development side though, developers now have a much stronger, and deeper set of tools available for them than they did two or even three years ago. And companies like Microsoft, Apple, and Google are going to greater lengths to get developers to code an app or a game for their platform. Leading up to the release of Windows Phone 7, Microsoft did this extensively, offering developers prime real estate in the Marketplace app--something that can bring a big boost to sales.

Microsoft also stands to have what could be a larger impact on the types of games and media applications that are able to run on its platform with the continuing development of Silverlight, a technology that makes up part of the Windows Phone 7 SDK, and something that could become a big differentiator in future iterations of the platform.