As Microsoft approaches its fall Windows Phone 7 launch, its evangelists are working overtime to try to build momentum for the platform.
Microsoft officials are announcing on August 23 that there have been 300,000-plus downloads of the beta of the Windows Phone 7 developer tools to date. They said the final version of the tools will be out September 16, but stressed that those interested in writing games and applications using the XNA Framework and Silverlight don't need to wait for the final.
"Of course, the final tools will have some minor breaking changes from the Beta tools, so developers may have to fix some bugs which arise," acknowledged Brandon Watson, a Director in Microsoft's Mobile Communications Business, in a new post to the Windows Phone Developer blog. "The final tools will also include several highly requested Silverlight controls which will make it even easier for developers to deliver high quality Windows Phone 7 experiences. Also in the September 16th final release, the panorama, pivot and Bing maps controls will all be available to drop into applications," Watson added.
The latest version of the Windows Phone 7 Developer Tools beta, released in July, included test builds of Visual Studio 2010 Express for Windows Phone, Windows Phone Emulator, Silverlight for Windows Phone, Expression Blend for Windows Phone and XNA Game Studio 4.0
Watson, for those who haven't bumped into him at various Microsoft shows and events, is the guy who heads up Windows Phone developer marketing and field and sales readiness for developer engagements. He formerly worked on the technical marketing team for Server and Tools, focusing on developer platforms for Windows Azure and .Net. (He's also founded a company that developed online-safety solutions for kids, and was a principal with Soros Private Equity Partners, in between his stints at Microsoft.)
"There are half a million Silverlight developers out there, and two million C# programmers," Watson told me during a meeting I had with him recently at a Microsoft event. "The message is write once, optimize anywhere."
He stressed that Windows Phone 7 and its ecosystem is "built by developers, for developers."
"We're listening to developers about what they want and are being very open and transparent about what we're delivering" in terms of tools, Marketplace policies and more, Watson said. With Microsoft, "you get discovered, you get rewarded," he quipped.
Another of those who is part of Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 evangelism efforts is Anand Iyer, who has been working as a Microsoft evangelist in the not-usually-Microsoft-friendly Northern California area. Iyer has worked with Microsoft's Emerging Business Team and was a program manager for the Microsoft BizSpark program for startups. Currently, he is a Senior Product Manager focusing on Windows Phone 7's Application Developer experiences, targeting startups, students and hobbyist/indie developers in particular.
Iyer said there's a big focus with Windows Phone 7 on "long-tail developers," not just the big names. "We want to create rockstars," he said, to make sure that there will be some unique applications that are available only on Windows Phone 7.
"The goal is to help developers truly understand what they need to do to be successful," he said. That means finding ways to attract developers who have experience writing for other smartphone platforms, like the iPhone and Android, but also looking for those who are familiar with Microsoft's tools and development models who may not necessarily have mobile-development experience.
Microsoft recently announced 50 gaming titles that will be available on Windows Phone 7 at launch. The company also has been distributing Windows Phone 7 prototype phones to a small, selected pool of developers to help them finalize their offerings for launch. Microsoft execs have been sporting early prototype Windows Phone 7 devices at various conferences. And the team has been encouraging Microsoft employees to try their hand at developing Windows Phone 7 applications.
As many pundits, developers, competitors and potential customers have noted, Microsoft has a long road ahead of it on the smartphone front. Is there anything Microsoft isn't doing -- or should rethink -- that you feel would give Windows Phone 7 a better chance of success?