In a world where to the untrained eye the top two devices in the smartphone sector Android and iPhone are pretty much similar with the columns and rows of icon's and pretty much the same apps. The industry needed a shake up as the two pioneers slowly go from innovative to consumer and that has come with another big hitter Microsoft.
Microsoft's tack record is interesting in the PDA/Smartphone space for years it tussled with Palm in a David and Goliath like battle between innovation at Palm and pure corporate might at Microsoft. Ironically the complacency Apple and Google find themselves unwittingly sliding into is the same malaise which Palm and Microsoft found themselves in when Apple blew a gaping hole in the who marketplace with the iPhone.
Microsoft dipped its toe back in the water with a radical new UI design with Windows Phone 7, and in the process alienated many people when it shipped Windows Phone 8 not as an update but a new revolution of the interface.
That hiccup aside, what Microsoft have done with WP8 is not just show the world "another way" of interacting with a phone, smart tiles, resizeable icons and solid hardware which has taken its share of time to get a hold, they have also shown that the "cottage industry" style of apps. Developers creating apps to interface with the Big Players such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter for example are putting out apps which are actually proving to be better than the apps these vendors themselves put out.
It's hard to convince software companies to invest time in new products at the best of time, more so when its a mobile phone. So Microsoft have had a slow uptake from the big players in the mobile space to create apps for its platform. To the point Google have publicly stated that they don't see the platform as a worthwhile development exercise. This in turn has lead to the perception that the WP8 platform is bereft of applications which is far from the truth.
Microsoft are not new at this, and have activly promoted this homebrew developer solution, having 3rd party developers pick up the slack, and in doing so have some gorgeous apps best shown by the Instagram app 6Tag, which has a huge following, Instagram themselves recently released a "beta" app for the WP8 platform which to be frank was a bit of a "thansk for the cash Microsoft, here, tick this box" and 6Tag has still kept its following.
As a WP8 user I'm happy to use these homebrew apps, and pay for them.. The developers care, they update, respond, fix issues quickly and theres no better app, than an app used by the person who wrote it.
2013 has been a huge year for WP8, and while Microsoft still need to get their house in order with the underlying platform, with better corporate support, encryption, VPN, AD support for mass deployment. If they manage to get this sorted in 2014, and poach the corp space from Blackberry, they could be best placed to take devices like the Nokia 520 into the Federal and corperate business infrastucture..