Microsoft to Allow For Mobile App Returns?

Posted by: Olga Kharif on June 30, 2009

When Microsoft launches its Windows Marketplace later this year, it will apparently allow buyers to return mobile apps they don’t like.

According to this story, users of Windows Mobile devices who buy apps through the store will be able to return them within 24 hours. My initial reaction: I am not sure that’s a good idea.

Surveys show that most Apple App Store users rarely use mobile apps they download for more than a day. That makes sense: You may download a game today, and play it for a couple of hours. By tomorrow, you are sick of it, and you move on to something else.

So Microsoft’s generous return policy could backfire: People may download a game, play it, and then return it. Essentially, users might use this policy to take independent app developers for a ride. The developers will get less money — and might be less willing to create apps for Microsoft.

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Reader Comments

XiFu

June 30, 2009 04:26 PM

Or maybe this could spur users to try more apps and keep more of those apps, thus actually enlarging the app market. And just maybe developers might be more willing to create apps because users are more willing to try their app, provide feedback, and help the developer establish an appropriate price point. With more apps being test-driven, this could give more developers (at the long tail end) a better chance for their app to succeed. Hmmmm...

Leia

June 30, 2009 05:44 PM

The return policy will get me to try some apps that are pricier ($4.99 and up). After trying it, I might keep it if it really is worth that price point. It will also spur me to download more apps, especially games, with the intention of just returning it. Out of the apps I've downloaded on my iPhone, there are only 2 or 3 that I use daily and only a couple of games that I play more than once a week. The rest like Olga says are played for a day or two tops then maybe revisited months later when I'm bored and looking for something "new" again.

I think developers will end up not getting paid as much because of this policy. Then again, I'm not sure they'll get paid as much since the user base for the Windows Apps store will be smaller than the Apple Apps store.

srinivas reddy

July 1, 2009 02:36 AM

Interesting strategy. I guess people should consider the increase in number of people willing to try different applications. Its more a direct feedback to the developer. Developers need to get creative. They need to come up with applications which sort of tie the users or create a cult. From a customer point of view if I use it just for a day or two then its not worth buying. It sounds logical that I have that discretion.

Cy Cabell

July 1, 2009 09:04 AM

@Leia=>I think you've got a good point: it may get people to try out more apps, and if worth the price point, to retain the apps. However, it has been my experience that if given an opportunity to beat or exploit "the system" a sizable number of people will do it. Maybe Microsoft should just think it all the way through one more time.

CrabbyVision

July 1, 2009 11:01 AM

There's one real fact here drawn from the iPhone experience: Apps users are done with most of their downloads in just one day.

I like the foresight of some of the speculative comments here, like users exploiting the opportunity and the chance to test-drive pricier apps.

But I see it this way: Apple has given big lip service to the amount of applications available and downloaded for the iPhone; it's actually the iPhone's best selling point. I especulate that Microsoft would like to use the same appealing marketing point for its Windows Mobile.

This strategy would promote a download frenzy, returns won't be advertised, MS and developers will fail to make money on returns but MS can afford it (screw the developers!). It's typical MS strategy to undercut competition when they come late to the party.

Amateur Hack

July 3, 2009 03:42 AM

Do you really expect to get WM apps for $4.99 or less? Given the history of paid, non-beta WM apps, I fully expect that pay-for apps will start at $10. Anything you might actually want to use will be $30 or more. Would you even consider a $30 app that you couldn't at least try for a day? I wouldn't.

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BusinessWeek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, Douglas MacMillan, and Spencer Ante dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. One of the first mainstream media tech blogs, Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.

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