Microsoft Wooing WebOS Developers With Free Phones And Training

In the aftermath of HP’s decision to axe all WebOS products, the question for many a developer is “what’s next?” While I’m sure a few WebOS diehards will continue to work on the platform (and hopefully create some great new apps for all of the bargain bin TouchPads out there), Microsoft has opened their arms to these disenfranchised developers.

Brandon Watson, Microsoft’s Senior Director of Windows Phone 7 development, tweeted an offer to published WebOS developers this past Friday: Microsoft will give them whatever they need to be successful, from free phones to development tools and training.

A bold move by Watson, and one that seems to have paid off already: he received over 500 emails from interested devs in under 24 hours, and Watson was understandably “floored” by the response. This isn’t the first time Watson has gone out on a limb to endear himself to the developer crowd: in the past he shared his personal cell number on Twitter to field questions about the development process.

Warm welcomes aside, former WebOS devs may struggle with the transition. Many WebOS apps were written in HTML and JavaScript, while getting the most mileage out of Windows Phone 7 requires familiarity with C# and the .NET framework. Microsoft’s commitment to making resources available to new WinPho devs may be just what they need to get accustomed to the waters.

With a generous offer like this, Microsoft seems to realize that forging strong developer relations is critical to the success of their mobile platform. The Windows Marketplace’s app count is rapidly approaching 30,000, and Brandon’s welcoming stance on developer relations could help Redmond bolster their numbers even further. Microsoft’s mobile OS rivals have app counts in the hundreds of thousands, and while there’s certainly something to be said for quality over quantity, big app store numbers are a quick (if short-sighted) way to measure platform health.

Picking up traction among former WebOS devs is only the tip of the iceberg for Microsoft’s mobile dev efforts. Their next big focus? Watson says working with students will be “huge” for Microsoft this year.