Does Seattle have an obligation to support Windows Phone?

Nokia-Lumia-925It’s common these days for mobile app developers to start with iPhone and Android, and get to Windows Phone later — if at all. But should that be the practice in Microsoft Country?

That’s the question following the city of Seattle’s release of a new “Find It, Fix It” app that lets citizens report problems in need of attention, including potholes, graffiti and abandoned vehicles. The app is available on Android and iPhone, but not Windows Phone.

Essex Porter, a KIRO-TV reporter and Windows Phone user who has highlighted this type of omission in the past, raised the question on Twitter, sparking an interesting debate with Curt Woodward of Xconomy, among others.

Despite Windows Phone’s low worldwide market share, there are some 40,000 Microsoft employees in the Seattle region, plus contractors, partners and family who are more likely to carry Windows Phones than people elsewhere in the country. The concentration of Windows Phones here no doubt rivals the market share in Finland, home to Nokia.

finditBased on that, and as a self-interested Windows Phone user myself, I was initially inclined to agree with Porter.

But it in this case, it turns out the city was essentially precluded from making a Windows Phone app, in a way that illustrates the larger challenge Microsoft faces.

Erin Devoto, the city of Seattle’s chief technology officer, explained via phone this afternoon that the citizen reporting technology is based on a customer relationship management system from Motorola, and the only app developer positioned to combine that Motorola CRM with mobile services, Connected Bits LLC, wasn’t able to make the app for Windows Phone.

The city’s decision to go with that Motorola CRM dates back several years, to a previous city administration — before Windows Phone was on the market.

“I totally support Windows, but in this particular case, the stars didn’t align,” Devoto said.

This is also interesting: Despite the region’s large population of Microsoft employees, Devoto noted that the city currently sees hardly any mobile web traffic from Windows Phone.

However, the city is a big user of Microsoft technology in general, and it’s currently taking steps to move to Office 365, upgrading from its existing Microsoft Exchange installation.

But is there an obligation beyond that for the city to support a hometown tech brand? No, obligation isn’t quite the right word, Devoto said. 

“I certainly believe in Microsoft products in general,” she said. “From an enterprise-wide approach, I think they are the best solution right now. I do believe in also partnering with them since they are right here and so many of their employees live here.”

And finally, here’s a glimmer of hope for KIRO-TV’s Porter, me and other Windows Phone users: Devoto says the city would be open to considering a Windows Phone app in future phases of the “Find It, Fix It” rollout — if they see enough interest.

In the meantime, all of you Android and iOS people can get the app here.

  • http://adamgering.com/ Adam Gering

    I misread your headline as “Does Microsoft have an obligation to support Windows Phone”? Which is a much more interesting conversation, because debatably they do have such an obligation and have not met it.

    Until they support their own phone, certainly no one else has any obligation to do so.

    • Jason Farris

      I would be curious as to what exactly you mean. How does Microsoft fail to support Windows Phone? I can think of several popular complaints but not one tied to a lack of support from Redmond. Would you explain?

  • http://www.extendedresults.com/ Patrick Husting

    Oh Todd, you are just hoping you can get some more apps on that thing. :o)

    • http://geekwire.com Todd Bishop

      My own twisted form of advocacy journalism. :)

  • http://www.christopherbudd.com Christopher Budd

    Thanks for this. I really liked this and found the detail of the “why” enlightening.

    I myself chafe at the word obligation in any context, but I think an obligation in this one can be a particularly bad thing because it can lead to detachment from reality that can be deadly.

    Certainly anyone who lives here has a reasonable self-interest in all our local businesses succeeding (Amazon, Boeing, Microsoft, Dick’s). And that self-interest expressing itself in giving the locals at least an equal consideration if not first consideration is reasonable.

    But when we get to “obligation” we cross the line where we sacrifice our self-interest for another’s.

    To make this concrete, I would expect (or at least hope) that WP was given equal consideration as the other two, even with its lesser numbers because of its place in the regional economy. But if an evenhanded evaluation shows that it’s not the right tool for the job (or as in this case, just won’t work) then it’s reasonable to pass (though one would hope that the city and Microsoft has a close enough relationship that Seattle could provide feedback to Microsoft that would help them improve the product).

    In the end, it’s a balancing act.

    • Viet Nguyen

      I’d like to see a Dick’s Phone. Made of polished chrome in a 1950′ style. You could even slap on a rotary dial. It’d be an instant classic and people of all ages would love it.

      • http://geekwire.com Todd Bishop

        And you could only pay cash.

        • Jason Farris

          yes.

        • http://www.christopherbudd.com Christopher Budd

          And then that other local stalwart, Starbucks, could release a version of Square for the Dick’s phone that takes bills instead of credit cards!

          • Still Bitter

            By “bills” you mean “basketball team”, correct? And most likely those bills would be sent elsewhere for processing…say Oklahoma?

  • http://ClaussConcept.com Jason Gerard Clauss

    As Adam said, Microsoft has obligations to support its phone and until it does we have no obligation toward it. Microsoft has the budget to seriously subsidize development of Windows versions of all the most popular apps but they don’t. The dev subsidy program they have is pathetic. $100 per app submitted to the Windows store with a cap at $2000. To get heavyweights like Instagram in the game, MS will have to pony up much more, but it’s money they certainly have. I still don’t get why they haven’t done it yet.

    • Arch Stanton

      I was trying to understand what the hell Adam was angling at, thanks for clarifying it here. Basically you guys are like the cops in México, that 911 call better come with some dinero to back it up and grease the wheels for next time.
      This is where MS is smart not to go overboard with payola. It will be done for the biggest of apps, but the small fry can expect a free surface and not much more.
      May I ask what “support” Apple and Google have offered you guys?

      • http://ClaussConcept.com Jason Gerard Clauss

        But it isn’t even done for the biggest apps. There is no Instagram for W8. Snapchat doesn’t exist either. Actually, in that case, Snapchat actively stopped a 3rd party from making a Snapchat emulator for Windows Marketplace. Microsoft could subsidize cooperative developers and punish noncooperative ones like Snapchat by telling them to GFTS when they C&D 3rd party apps. Microsoft has the money to make such a “plata o plomo” strategy work.

  • http://blog.nordquist.org Brett Nordquist

    “Despite the region’s large population of Microsoft employees, Devoto noted that the city currently sees hardly any mobile web traffic from Windows Phone.”

    Makes sense. So many Microsoft employees I know won’t be caught dead carrying a Windows Phone. Walk around campus today and you’ll see many iPhones.

  • Karl Cramer

    My borough uses a similar citizen reporting technology, City Sourced, and it supports Android, iOS, AND Windows Phone. Both WP7 and WP8. Seattle’s chief technology officer should’ve done more research.

    • Karl Cramer
    • Arch Stanton

      Exactly.
      A publicly funded way of reporting potholes should be presented politically -in order of importance: a phone number, an address where you can report by mail or in person, a web site, an Android app, an iPhone app, a Windows Phone app, and a BlackBerry app. There, you can cover all of your bases without first catering to a class of people with disposable income or available credit.
      If you are going to support one app store you have to do all. 75% of the market that has a smartphone is not a fair representation of your populace.

  • Hashtag_David

    Well, at least GeekWire has a WP8 app so there’s that.

  • Duane Mortensen

    Isn’t there an obligation for MS to support the city and state first? They send billions overseas to charity while people go homeless and hungry here. Screw them. Let it die on the vine, the company and the phone.

  • NOOOOOO

    Heck no! Socialist garbage.

  • panacheart

    If Microsoft paid Washington State corporate tax, I’d say yes. But they’ve incorporated in Delaware and licensing is in Nevada, specifically to avoid as much Washington state tax as possible. So while we’re happy for the jobs and the positive impact they have on the economy, if we’re talking about “obligation”, well, then no.

    • Les B Honest

      Hmmm…hopefully you don’t order anything from Amazon either since they too are incorporated in Delaware. So no Microsoft or Amazon…you’d better be drinking a ton of Starbucks, shop at Costco everyday, and only buy clothes from Nordstrom if you want to support major businesses incorporated in our state. Wonder what type of computer you are using…can’t be Windows based or Apple.

  • toddwseattle

    It’s funny. we were having this conversation in my family. I think individuals and organizations have to make the decision that makes sense for them. For Seattle, if they aren’t seeing much windows traffic from their “customers” then they shouldn’t do windows phone first. For me, I’m a venture capitalist and entrepreneurship educator; and because of that, iPhone ends up being the clear choice (most apps start on iphone, as i talked about in my forbes blog a year ago, and not sure the numbers have changed in a way to change that http://www.forbes.com/sites/startupviews/2012/05/09/is-apples-dominance-of-mobile-development-on-the-wane/).

    I think from a pure phone point of view, Microsoft has finally closed the gap with both iphone and their own previous efforts for business users starting with mango; and so for me if it was just about email, browsing, core music; winphone would be fine. the problem is apps on the “edge”—new things like AnyVideo,Vine, and Day One that I’m experimenting with; or things in my angel portfolio (anyvideo, groovebug, puzzazz, timebox) that are all iphone/ipad. The new nokia device is very nice however; and I was a VP in the mobile division and met my wife at Microsoft; so I have more Microsoft brand loyalty than Apple loyalty.

    Now for my wife; who doesn’t particularlly like the iphone, mostly does email (exchange) and browsing; doesn’t care much about apps; it makes sense for her to consider windows phone in her switch.

  • Jeremy Schroder

    This is an interesting topic. While I don’t feel obligated, I do have a strong desire to support local businesses, including Microsoft. This ranges from the big boys like Microsoft and Starbucks, to the local markets, butcher shops, and even a milkman.

  • Ceo

    There is no obligation and yet tons of people like mobile apps that include Excel. For everyone else who just wants to see the Mariners, baseball email just entered the major leagues. YOU@MLB. See http://www.mlb.vc and use pw: playball. During private beta!