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Updated Tuesday, March 27, 2012 at 06:23 AM

[Updated] Microsoft and Nokia investing $24 million to goose Windows Phone app development

Janet I. Tu

lumia900.jpgWhen Angry Birds Space launched last week, the high-profile game wasn't available for Windows Phone.

And at first, Rovio, the makers of the Angry Birds app, said the game wouldn't be coming to Windows Phone at all. But then the company did an about face, saying it was "working towards" getting the game onto Windows Phone.

That incident serves to highlight one of the big challenges Microsoft faces in trying to get people to buy Windows Phones: getting developers to create more apps for the platform.

The Windows Phone marketplace has grown quickly, with some 70,000 apps now available. But that's still far behind the marketplaces for Apple's iPhone and Google's Android, which boast about half a million apps each.

So it's probably no surprise that Microsoft and its closest handset-maker ally, Nokia, have announced that they'll each invest up to 9 million euros (about $12 million U.S. dollars) to a establish mobile application development program at Aalto University in Finland.

The AppCampus program is intended to foster the creation of apps for the Windows Phone ecosystem and also Nokia platforms including Symbian and Series 40, according to the companies' news release.

The two companies have a lot riding on their collaboration. The Windows Phone platform currently holds less than 1.5 percent of the worldwide smartphone platform market and less than 5 percent of the U.S. market, by some research firms' estimates. Nokia, meanwhile, has been logging heavy losses.

The flagship model from the two companies' collaboration -- the Lumia 900 -- will be available in AT&T stores starting April 8 for $99.99 with a two-year contract, according to AT&T.

The question is: Will there be enough apps -- or the right ones -- to entice more buyers?

[Update 8:39 a.m.: Also available at AT&T stores on April 8 will be HTC's Titan II Windows Phone. It will be priced at $199.99 with a two-year contract.]

(Photo of Lumia 900 from Microsoft)


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