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Microsoft launches Windows Phone 8 'app star' contest

Microsoft is looking for the next big app. The Redmond firm has launched a new developer contest that will place the winning app in a primetime US TV ad.

Dubbed Windows Phone Next App Star, the competition is open to Windows Phone developers worldwide, and aims to bring them more visibility and customers.

Anyone who has a Windows Phone app published in at least one country by 5 March can participate. Microsoft will then narrow it down to the top 64 apps. Running in conjunction with the NCAA basketball tournament, Redmond will seed each app into brackets, at which point users will vote for their favourites, until a winner is selected.

"Two apps enter, one app leaves," senior director of Windows Phone apps Todd Brix said in a video about the contest. "Consumers all over the world get to vote and decide who should be the Next App Star. Based on user ratings and Redmond's own quality metrics, each week's field will be narrowed to 32, 16, eight, four, and two, until the grand-prize winner is chosen.

Prizes will be handed out along the way, starting with a Nokia Lumia 920 Windows Phone and a one-year free Dev Center subscription for everyone who makes it into the top 64.

The last app standing will be featured in a Windows Phone primetime television advertisement sometime in the late spring or early summer, according to Brix.

To participate, registered developers can visit the Dev Center to opt in by 5 March, and Microsoft will automatically enter into the competition your catalogue of published apps. Newcomers or those who want to tweak an existing application must register now and publish before the March cut-off date.

"This isn't just about picking the most popular app in the Store," Brix wrote in a blog post. "Windows Phone Next App Star is about giving developers a shot at being the next big hit. You don't have to be a longtime developer on the Windows Phone platform — even a newcomer can win fans and win big."

Microsoft helped to introduce its Windows 8 operating system in February by unveiling a handful of new apps to launch with its consumer preview, including PuzzleTouch Jigsaw, Air Soccer, Pew Pew, SigFig Portfolio, and Elements Weather.