Networks In Motion Wins Mobile Incubation Week, Microsoft's "American Idol" For Mobile Applications

There’s a good chance you didn’t even know it was going on, but last week Microsoft hosted a competition for mobile application developers on its Silicon Valley Campus in Mountain View, and yesterday announced Networks in Motion as the winner.

The startup was one of six finalists – selected out of a pool of 50 applications – invited by Microsoft to come present ideas for applications running on Windows Mobile and get certified for the upcoming Windows Marketplace for Mobile, which is supposed to become the big, central commerce and distribution point for WinMo apps that is currently lacking.

The company is widely expected to introduce the latest iteration of Windows Mobile at next month’s TechED 2009 conference in Los Angeles (11 May), although devices running Windows Mobile 6.5 won’t start shipping until after the Summer. Microsoft’s a heavyweight in the smartphone OS market but is getting some serious heat from Apple and its iPhone / App Store (which is about to hit 1 billion downloads), and is going to be facing even more stiff competition on the mobile application front from RIM / Blackberry, Nokia and Google Android in the coming years.

Microsoft is hoping to up the ante with its new mobile OS and its own version of the App Store, but is evidently going to need a lot of good mobile applications once the Windows Marketplace kicks off, and in that sense hosting a competition was probably a good idea (there will be more of those in Europe and Asia in the near future by the way). Too bad for Microsoft, there was little buzz about the event and press coverage of the outcome is virtually nowhere to be found.

Anyway, the six finalists were:

Brighkite, the location-based social networking service
Motolingo, a telematics solution that will monitor car diagnostics and report mobile phone behavior in the car
VisTracks, enterprise app for real-time product location and tracking company shipments
Networks in Motion, turns GPS-enabled mobile phones into full-featured navigation devices
VoiceMuffler, real-time, two-way speech-to-speech translation designed for foreign military personnel and civilian travelers
DJ Nitrogen, facilitates legal sharing of user-generated content, such as ringtones and music mash-ups

Yesterday, Senior Business Development Manager on Microsoft’s Emerging Business Team Brian Hoskins announced Networks in Motion to be the winner, on Twitter no less.

The startup is the maker of Gokivo Navigator, an interesting application that brings real-time turn-by-turn visual and audible directions to GPS-enabled mobile phones, combined with hyper-local search and location-based services. In light of the event, Gokivo got some new features to its core offering, including the ability for users to update their Facebook profile with the specific place they are (address/map). They’re on our radar now.

Besides the advice it received from and connections it made with Microsoft developers and external experts at the Incubation Week, Networks in Motion will receive ‘early placement’ in Windows Marketplace for Mobile once it’s launched, and also took home a Zune music player.

(Via Digits)