Guest blog by Ruud de Jonge

When we lifted the hood on Windows Mobile 7 for developers a while back, there was a lot of excitement from the BizSpark startup community here in Europe.  While we’d like to think that was just about the quality of the platform, the other reason has to be that startups here in Europe are ahead of the game when it comes to realizing the potential of mobile apps.

The figures speak for themselves: IDC predicts that app downloads will soar from 10.7 billion in 2010 to 182.7 billion in 2015. The revenue for mobiles apps in Europe alone is estimated to increase nearly 40% up to 43 billion Euros between 2011 and 2014

Every day,  my colleagues and I hear about or speak to entrepreneurs in Europe who have impressive ambitions and some very cool apps.  But, great ideas are rarely enough, especially in the region’s tough economic environment.  Startups – particularly young entrepreneurs just starting out in their careers – need all the help they can get.

One way in which we can provide more assistance is through the ‘AppCampus’.  Announced at the end of March, this is a mobile apps development program in conjunction with Nokia and Aalto University in Finland.  We already partner with these two organizations – our relationship with Nokia is pretty well-publicised and both Microsoft and Nokia will each invest up to 9 million Euros in this venture.  Perhaps less known is that Aalto University is one of our premier and longest-established BizSpark Network Partners in Europe, who have been doing great work to support local startups.

So what is the AppCampus all about?  Well, it comes down to how we can help startups turn their ideas into something with real economic potential.  AppCampus will help them not just with tech support, but also access to business expertise too, including mentoring from mobile industry veterans.  It’s kind of a  hothouse for mobile innovation and program participants will be able to retain the full intellectual property rights for their innovations.  AppCampus kicks off in May 2012 and will be managed by the University, but it’s important to point out that applications are welcome from students and entrepreneurs all over the world.  Successful applicants can expect

Helping the next generation of mobile entrepreneurs succeed is in everyone’s interests:  in Europe alone, the mobile industry is responsible for the direct employment of 370,000 people and induced employment of 1.3 million more (according to the GSMA’s European Mobile Observatory, December 2011).

For Microsoft, it also helps us to interact with our rapidly growing Windows Phone ecosystem, which by the end of March, had more than 100,000 registered developers, 65,000 apps and 300% year on year growth in the number of new apps being published every day.  And it’s a great complement for our BizSpark program, which already provides startups all over Europe and worldwide with free technology, support and market visibility.

I’m very excited by the AppCampus and I look forward hearing more about the successful applicants later this year.

More information on AppCampus can be found at http://appcampus.aalto.fi.