Something that hasn’t gotten as much attention as I expected it would was a slide shown by Todd Brix from the Windows Phone Marketplace team about upcoming additions (read: Improvements) to the Windows Phone Marketplace distribution capabilities during the Mango timeframe.
Here’s a screen cap of the slide from his talk at MIX11:
What Todd is showing us here is that when these changes are released, there will be essentially three distribution channels for Windows Phone applications:
- Public Distribution Service – this is the existing marketplace you’ve all come to know and love. There are some great things coming in the Mango timeframe related to the discoverability of applications, the new Application Details page, and improved search relevance, but this will still be the primary distribution channel from whence most of us will get our software.
- Beta Distribution Service – this is a new offering that allows developers to distribute pre-certified applications to an access-controlled set of beta users. Right now, the team is thinking that limit will be capped at 100 users and limit the evaluation period to 90 days. The goal, of course, is to enable users to effectively test these application and provide any important feedback.
- Private Distribution Service – this is another new offering that will allow developers to distribute certified applications privately to a targeted set of users. There is no scheduled time expiration or limit to the number of users; the developer controls access to the software by sending out download links.
The last 2, of course, are the most interesting ones. Firstly, they both share one important distinction that differentiates them from the public distribution service option: the applications in the Beta/Private channels are NOT discoverable via search. Instead, developers will send a “deeplink” to the users with whom they wish to share the application.
For those who are unfamiliar, Here’s an example of a deeplink:
Clicking on this link from your desktop computer or laptop will launch the Zune client and take you to the details page for the application (in my case, the Random Number Generator application). If you click this link from an email or the browser on your Windows Phone device, it will take you straight to the Windows Phone Marketplace Details page for that application and allow you to install it straight away.
Second, although the beta distribution channel is access controlled by a finite set of Windows Live IDs (up to 100), the "private" channel provides only link obscurity to keep prying hands off your application. From what I can tell, anyone who gets their hands on the deeplink for an app hosted through the private distribution channel can download and install the application without restriction.
This NOT the Enterprise Marketplace that many enterprise developers have been asking for, but it is a giant leap in the right direction, allowing for some finer-grained control over who gets access to your applications and for potentially how long.
For more information about these announcements, please watch Todd’s session at MIX11 (Making Money with your Application on Windows Phone) or you can watch it right here with my nifty HTML5 (or Silverlght) video player, courtesy of the wonderful folks at Channel9: