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Microsoft pays for Windows Phone 7 apps, but not for finding browser bugs

July 23, 2010 |  6:27 pm

Is Microsoft more concerned with Web browser security or having a populous mobile app store? Its paychecks to outsiders may provide a hint.

For some software developers who pledge to build applications for Microsoft's impending Windows Phone 7 smart-phone platform, the Redmond, Wash., company says it will offer an array of financial incentives.

Third-party developers can score free creation tools and handsets, as well as cash to cover development and marketing costs, Todd Brix, a senior director at Microsoft, told Bloomberg last week. Microsoft is also selectively offering revenue guarantees, which it will cover in case targets are missed.

Partner developers have already begun receiving phones, The Times has learned.

The 90,000 or so Microsoft employees also will get free Windows Phone 7 devices. Those workers have allegedly been encouraged "to develop apps for Marketplace [the system's app store] in your spare time," according to a supposedly leaked memo from  Andy Lees, Microsoft's mobile senior vice president. A Microsoft spokeswoman said the company is offering a development tool kit to employees but did not acknowledge the memo.

Microsoft will pay for apps, but apparently won't pay volunteers to squash bugs in its Internet Explorer browser.

Google, which makes Chrome, and Mozilla Foundation, which makes Firefox, each say they will pay about $3,000 per report of a new security flaw in their browsers. But Microsoft spokesman Jerry Bryant said the company wouldn't reimburse people who discover security holes in its browser.

"While we do not provide a monetary reward on a per-bug basis, like any other industry, we do recognize and honor talent," Bryant said in a statement. "We’ve had several influential folks from the researcher community join our security teams as Microsoft employees."

So as far as security is concerned, Microsoft won't hand out checks to any old schmo, but you might get a job out of it.

However, Microsoft has historically expressed willingness to dole out cash for help on some things. To promote the Bing search engine, Microsoft launched a program called Cashback that offered financial incentives for shopping on its website.

"Cashback ended up having mixed success for us," Yusuf Mehdi, Microsoft's senior vice president of online, told The Times last month. "It was a big hit for advertisers ... but it didn't actually change the consumer search behavior."

Despite Cashback's ineffectiveness, Microsoft found other ways to progress its prized search engine -- a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign, for one.

Whether the financial incentives for app developers pay off is yet to be seen. A commercially available device running Windows Phone 7 won't materialize until at least the fall.

But investing a piece of last quarter's $16 billion in revenue toward ensuring that there are plentiful software options available to Windows Phone 7 customers is a solid indication that the app ecosystem is a priority for Microsoft.

-- Mark Milian
twitter.com/markmilian

Photo: A Windows Phone 7 device. Credit: Microsoft

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