On the one hand, the new Windows Phone Marketplace looks awfully cool. On the other hand it looks like it’s going to kill one of the things that really set Windows Mobile apart from the iPhone: The ability to install any old application on your phone after finding it on the web.
Microsoft officially introduced the new version of the Windows Phone Marketplace that will be the one-stop-shop for Windows Phone 7 Series applications when the new platform launches later this year. And Engadget has discovered that it’s actually the only-stop-shop. There won’t be any officially approved way to install applications on a Windows Phone 7 Series device without going through the Marketplace.
That’s not necessarily the worst thing in the world. The Windows Phone Marketplace will feature free, paid, and ad-supported applications. And since Microsoft will be supervising the Marketplace, you can be fairly certain that you aren’t going to be installing applications designed to introduce a virus or steal your personal data.
But as Apple has demonstrated, it can be hard on developers having just a single place to sell applications. Apple has a tendency to reject applications for sometimes arbitrary-seeming reasons. For example, apps that show a bit too much skin often get rejected if they’re produced by independent developers. But there are official apps for Playboy, Maxim, and the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue in the App Store.
Of course, if there’s one thing we’ve learned over the years, it’s that just because a company says there’s only one way to do something doesn’t mean it’s true. I’m fairly certain that there will be plenty of tools for installing unofficial third party applications — and even custom ROMs on Windows Phone 7 Series devices soon enough.