Think Windows Phone is out for the count? Think Xbox, then think again

Turning Windows Phone into a mobile player won't be easy, but it isn't impossible...

...ecosystems sell phones, not the other way around - as Apple and its App Store have amply demonstrated.

To get any significant uptake, Microsoft must get the developers onside, as it acknowledges in its recent SEC filing:

Steve Jobs at iPhone 4 launch

With the App Store, Steve Jobs and Apple wrote the book on using an ecosystem to sell a devicePhoto: James Martin/CNET

"We will also provide Nokia [the company announced earlier this year it is to make Windows Phone its primary smartphone OS] with developer tools to accelerate developer support for Windows and Windows-related platforms. Microsoft and Nokia will collaborate on joint-developer outreach and application sourcing. Microsoft's Windows Marketplace infrastructure will support a new Nokia-branded application store. Participants in the Windows Phone ecosystem will be able to take advantage of Nokia's billing agreements with operators in markets worldwide."

If Windows Phone is to make a showing, it needs to be working on an all-encompassing, sticky ecosystem for the next generation of Windows Phone, just as it did with Xbox 360.

Of course, getting developers to work on a self-confessed "very small" platform will be no easy task but it's what Windows Phone needs. If Microsoft can't woo them, it can always buy them - after all, it's what it did with the team behind Halo, who came on board when Microsoft acquired Bungie. Granted, it's not a strategy that always worked well. The Microsoft acquisition of mobile software developer Danger for $500m was supposed to give it a kick-start in mobile but only resulted in the miserable and short-lived Kin and the departure of most of the original Danger staff.

Nevertheless, getting the ecosystem in place is the only way Windows Phone can be a serious contender - even if it means spending big and headhunting some big names to keep the acquired staff happy and stop innovation being stifled by Microsoft bureaucracy.

Nokia is the object lesson on what happens when you get it wrong, as it did with Ovi. There was no ecosystem to sell its phone, no must-have apps, and it ended up as the mobile industry's Cinderella in reverse. It finished with no options other than to get into bed with Microsoft, and tie its software future to Redmond's.

Should Microsoft fail to get its ecosystem right, it could end up in a worse position. Get it wrong, and for Ballmer and co, there won't be another Microsoft around to bail them out.