Instagram is one of the most popular apps on the iPhone. The photo-sharing service, which lets users snap pictures and spruce them up with one-click filters, has rocketed to 15 million users, and was recently named iPhone app of the year by Apple.
Android users have been clamoring to get their hands on the service–and cofounder and CEO Kevin Systrom has promised that the app is indeed coming to Google’s OS.
But is there a chance it might arrive around the same time–or even earlier–on Windows Phone 7?
A source recently left the impression that the Windows Phone team has possibly been working with the folks from Instagram. Why would Instagram come to an OS with such a low market share? Mainly because it’s sexy. And there’s a ton of money behind it.
Windows 7 offers a beautiful user interface, and not just any device maker can slap it on their hardware. “The old Windows Mobile effort suffered from the fact that any hardware vendor could choose to be as high-end or as low-end as they wanted,” Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore, who oversees software design for Windows Phone, said recently. Under Windows Phone 7’s new design approach, however, devices have to live up to certain standards. And that works for Instagram, too, which doesn’t want to deal with slow hardware or cheap cameras. Also, designing an app for Windows Phone 7 means Instagram wouldn’t be dealing with the fragmentation that comes with dozens of models of Android smartphones.
Instagram cofounder and CEO Kevin Systrom was tight-lipped about a potential pairing with Windows Phone 7. “Other than having pre-announced Android, we don’t comment on roadmap stuff,” he wrote to Fast Company via email.
The Windows Phone team was just as vague. “We are working with many different developers who have expressed interest in Windows Phone and the capabilities of the new Mango tools and platform are inspiring a new wave of great apps and games,” Microsoft said in a statement. “The right time to support our platform varies by application and business model, and Microsoft does not comment on rumors or speculation.”
By most accounts, Microsoft has a hit with Windows Phone. Media outfits from Wired to Gigaom to Time have praised it as the big draw of CES, while critics from Slate and TechCrunch have gushed over its refreshing design.
But while Microsoft may have won over critics, it hasn’t yet won over consumers. One downside of Windows Phone is a lack of apps, some say. “Personally, as much as I would like to switch … there is one thing that is holding me back: apps,” wrote The New York Times‘ Nick Bilton. “The apps that I use the most on my iPhone, including Instagram, Path, Instapaper and NPR, don’t exist for Windows Phone 7.”
Certainly, Microsoft has an incentive to bring big-name apps such Instagram to its marketplace–Foursquare and Netflix, for example, already offer clients on the phone’s Mango OS.
But most importantly for app makers is the big marketing push behind Windows-based smartphones. Microsoft is heavily invested in the project, and is said to have sunk more than $1 billion into Nokia to promote and build their smartphone partnership. It’s also been reported that Microsoft, Samsung, and other OEMs could spend as much as $200 million in the next few months marketing the Windows Phone. That could translate into huge marketing for apps like Instagram, if they were to be featured in any promotions (or presumably written about in any reviews of upcoming Windows Phones).
After all, given Instagram’s interest in scale, the app will have to be on more devices than the iPhone if it expects to compete with social networks like Facebook and Twitter.
“Not 3 million users,” as Kevin Systrom told Fast Company once, “300 million.”
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