Microsoft's Windows Phone has racked up 30,000 applications in its Marketplace, despite occupying only a fraction of the smartphone market compared to the rival iPhone and Android devices.

The count comes courtesy of Windows Phone Applist, which keeps an unofficial eye on Windows Phone 7 activity. Microsoft began giving tools to developers in March 2010 and a year later reached an official milestone of 11,500 apps, while the the first batch of Windows Phones launched in October 2010.

Windows Phone 7's app count still trails Apple's App Store, which officially had 425,000 as of June, and Google's Android Market, which hit 250,000 in July. In general, it's rare to see an app reach Windows Phone 7 at the same time as it launches on the iPhone or Android. However, Microsoft has managed to bring some heavy hitters to the Windows Phone Marketplace, including Netflix, Shazam and Angry Birds.

New features could increase Microsoft count
With the upcoming 'Mango' update for Windows Phone, Microsoft hopes to entice developers with new capabilities, such as shortcuts to specific parts of an application from the home screen, access to the camera and the ability to dig up information from third-party apps when using the phone's search button.

These new features could trigger a spike in Windows Phone's app count, but the lack of an in-app purchase mechanism for most applications will continue to be a setback. (Some Xbox Live games will allow in-app purchases in Mango, but other apps will not have this capability.)

The NPD Group, an American market research company, has estimated that Windows Phone accounts for two percent of the US smartphone market, compared with 52% for Android and 29% for the iPhone. The 30,000-app milestone shows that developers believe in Microsoft's platform despite low sales.