by Shane O'Neill

Microsoft’s Ozzie on Smartphones: It’s Not About the Apps

Nov 18, 2009
Data Center

Microsoft software chief Ray Ozzie says smartphone apps are overrated. Is he talking smack to Apple or does he have a point?

So the iPhone now has 100,000 apps. Big whoop, says Ray Ozzie.

At Microsoft’s Professional Developer’s Conference yesterday, Ozzie, Microsoft’s chief software architect, told a group of tech bloggers that he doesn’t see mobile apps as a reason for why one smartphone is better than another.

“All the apps that count will be ported to every one of them,” he reportedly said.

Ozzie is claiming that all those apps that Apple is constantly bragging about (they have 100,000 in case you haven’t heard) are just thin little applications that link to a service. They can be developed rather quickly and, unlike a PC where software is built to run on Windows or a Mac, mobile apps can be ported to different smartphone platforms easily.

[ For complete coverage on Microsoft’s new Windows 7 operating system — including hands-on reviews, video tutorials and advice on enterprise rollouts — see’s Windows 7 Bible. ]

In a follow-up interview with CNET, Ozzie went further.

“Yes, iPhone has a lot of momentum, unquestionably. But I think the phenomenon we’re in right now is the app phone. And if you look at the depth of apps that are on these phones, they’re not very deep. It’s not like Office or AutoCAD, where there are just thousands of man years that have gone into developing these apps. They’re relatively thin apps that are companions to some service.”

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Ozzie went on to emphasize again that mobile apps are easily interchangeable. “All the apps that people want will be on all the phones. They’re relatively straight porting efforts.”

If that’s the case then Microsoft better get porting. Windows Mobile is second to last ahead of Palm in the mobile apps race, well behind Android and BlackBerry and way, way behind leader iPhone, according to Consumer Reports. And though Ozzie may be taking the importance of smartphone apps lightly, consumers are not.

Ozzie’s comments came at the same time that Microsoft announced that its Windows Marketplace for Mobile app store has expanded availability to older Windows Mobile 6.0 and 6.1 devices. This equates to 30 million more phones, according to Microsoft. The app store had previously only been available for new Windows Mobile 6.5 phones.

With more qualified phones, more apps are sure to follow, right? Could Ozzie’s comments paradoxically have been a prelude to a flood of Windows Mobile apps? Maybe the guy’s just playing it cool and trying to get under Apple’s skin. We shall see.

For the time being, Windows Marketplace for Mobile has approximately 800 apps, depending on the WinMo phone you are using. Microsoft has claimed there are 18,000 Windows Mobile apps floating around the Web from third-party developers, but the software giant has yet to test and consolidate all of them in its Windows Mobile app store.

What do you think of Microsoft’s casual attitude toward mobile apps? Is Ozzie creating a diversion because Windows Mobile is losing ground in the market or is he correct that more apps don’t make a smartphone better?

Let me know your thoughts.

Shane O’Neill is a senior writer at Follow him on Twitter at Follow everything from on Twitter at