When it comes to Windows Phone 8 apps, how many mobile application developers will support Microsoft's forthcoming smartphone operating system upgrade? Survey results from R.W. Baird provide some promising clues, but Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) must climb a steep hill to match Apple iPhone and Google Android developer interest.

First, the good news for Windows Phone 8. The R.W. Baird survey covered 200 app writers -- most of whom are from North America and Europe.
  • Seventy-one percent of developers say Microsoft's recent Windows Phone 8 strategy announcement increased their interest in the platform.
  • Sixty-four percent are upbeat about Microsoft Surface, the tablet computer family based on Windows 8 and Windows RT.
  • Two-thirds of respondents say a common code base across Windows Phone 8 (WP8) and Windows 8 for PCs is the most exciting feature of the new OS.
Sounds promising. But here's the challenge.  Only 20 percent of those developers currently write mobile apps for Windows Phone 7. In stark contrast, 77 percent of survey participants support Android, and 73 percent support Apple iOS. Oh, and don't ask about BlackBerry 10 -- where developer interest has been plummeting, R.W. Baird indicated.

For channel partners, the more important discussion continues to focus on mobile device management (MDM), mobile applications management (MAM), and so-called enterprise app stores that VARs can set up for customers. It seems most MDM discussions in the channel focus purely on Apple iOS and Android. But Microsoft hopes to muscle in on more of the conversation soon -- if customers open their arms to Windows Phone 8.