Can Windows Phone 7 multitask (and other Microsoft mobile questions and answers)

Can Windows Phone 7 multitask (and other Microsoft mobile questions and answers)

Summary: Can Windows Phone 7 devices mutlitask? Will all Windows Phone 7 apps have to be downloaded through the new Windows Phone Marketplace? Here are answers to some commonly asked questions about Microsoft's next-gen platform from the Mix 10 conference.


It's been a day full of Windows Phone 7 content here at the Microsoft Mix 10 conference. I've gone to a couple of sessions, a press conference and a one-on-one meeting with Charlie Kindel, who's spearheading the Windows Phone 7 development charge.

Here are five new things I learned about the platform via these various channels. All of these are questions I keep hearing from potential developers and customers trying to decipher Microsoft's evolving mobile story.

Q: Can Windows Phone 7 devices multitask?

A: Kindel said Microsoft's own "experiences" which are part of the Windows Phone 7 will allow for multitasking (i.e., music playing in the background while you're doing e-mail). But third party applications won't have the same multitasking capabilities, Kindel said.Developers will be able to use things like notifications to create the illusion that applications are always live. In addition, the Live tiles that are part of the new UI will be constantly updated in real time (also through notifications). Over time, as things like battery life, network utilization and application predictability improve for the Windows Phone platform, Microsoft will make more multitasking support available for all applications, Kindel said.

Q: Is the new Windows Phone Marketplace the only way that users will be able to download/purchase Windows Phone 7 applications?

A: The short answer is yes. Applications and content must be purchased through the marketplace, as Microsoft is attempting to streamline the distribution mechanism for mobile content, officials said. However, some developers and enterprises are looking for other distribution mechanisms for enterprise content and internal betas. Microsoft "will more to say about this later this spring," said Todd Brix, Senior Director for Mobile Platform Services Product Management. Q: What development languages are supported on Windows Phone 7?

A: Right now, the only development language supported is C#. Developers are also interested in Visual Basic, C++ and other .Net apps, Kindel acknowledged, and Microsoft may add support for these over time. But Microsoft's development strategy for its new mobile platform is if you're doing XAML programming, use Silverlight. If you're doing an interactive or 3D game, go with XNA. The version of Silverlight supported is a superset of Silverlight 3 (not Silverlight 4, which is going to be released to the Web in final form in April.) The Community Technology Previews of the tools for the Windows Phone 7 platform are available as of March 15 for download.

Q: What about enterprise developers/customers? Is Windows Phone 7 for them?

A: Kindel admitted Microsoft's target for the first generation of Windows Phone 7 devices is consumers more than business users. "We don't expect enterprises to go out there and buy these (Windows Phone 7 devices) en masse for their employees," he said. Microsoft's target is the consumer who wants to do a limited amount of enterprise tasks (pretty much exclusively through the Office hub). Microsoft has no plans to offer any kind of migration tools for enterprise developers to help them move existing Windows Mobile apps to the new platform. Q: How is the Dorado (Zune PC software) going to change to accommodate Windows Phone 7 devices?

A: Dorado becomes the "only software you'll need" to sync your phone, Kindel said. Dorado will replace ActiveSync and will be the conduit for all audio/video content on your phone. Kindel wouldn't talk about whether Dorado also will be the way Microsof will push "over the air" updates of the Windows Phone operating system to users' devices. (He said Microsoft will share more on that later this year.)

Microsoft won't talk about when the final versions of its Windows Phone 7 development tools or the Windows Phone OS 7.0 will hit. (I asked and got the pat "in time for the phones to ship by holiday 2010" answer). Officials also gave a cryptic and non-commital "we'll talk more in the coming months about our music model payment plan" answer when asked about the future of the ZunePass subscription plan.

What other Windows Phone 7 questions do you have? I can try to get more answers at the Mix 10 show this week....

Topics: Mobility, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Software, Windows


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • Bad Answers

    In short, the platform is as closed as the iPhone and you won't be permitted the option to run backgrounded apps of the users choice. Its just like the iPhone without any of the iPhone magic/mojo/juju.

    The only way I'm giving up my iPhone is to move to an open platform that lets me run applications from any source I please and run as many at a time as I like until the unit crashes or my battery burns out.

    The only possible selling point this phone has is it won't require the use of iTunes to sync with. Given the crappiness of iTunes, especially on Windows, this is no small point but not nearly enough.
    • Windows Mobile 7 is a better name

      I still prefer WM7 to WP7.
      • I SO AGREE

        Particularly when they start calling it WP7S
      • RE: Can Windows Phone 7 multitask (and other Microsoft mobile questions and answers)

        And, what are the roadblocks that enterprises may encounter that would prevent them from appreciating the true potential for cloud, while also avoiding the risks?
        raimu koyo asu
    • Yep, multi-tasking made WebOS a run-away success.


      The tech community is the worst group of people to begin to understand
      the needs and wants of the "non-Tech" community.
    • What background apps do you want to run?

      I keep seeing people getting their underwear in a twist over the multi-tasking thing, but, really, what apps do you feel that MUST be left to run in the background?

      Let me posit another scenario: What if the apps that you install on your phone are able to start up lightning-quick so that they appear to have been running all along? And what if your app was to register a push notification handler so that the user can be notified of an event that requires their attention, activating the previously dormant app in a few tenths of a second?

      I still haven't heard one good example of an app that must continue to run in the background, other than email/sms/social/music.
      • A good example

        Listening to Pandora while the GPS app is running. Good for road trips.
        Or perhaps you want to surf the web or read emails while you listen to
        • Already there

          The MS guy already said that reading emails or browsing the web while listening to music wasn't a problem - the question was whether all third party apps would be allowed to continue running full throttle in the background or just use notifications. The music app (presumably Zune) can keep running while another app runs
          • not Pandora

            You're right about the Zune music player, but what about Internet-streaming music apps?

            Also, the idea that an app would load as quickly in a multi-tasking scenario as it does in a single-tasking one is hard to believe. I like my iPhone, but it annoys me every time I click a link in an e-mail how long it takes to load up in the browser. I'm just not sure I see that changing.
          • Too early to tell, but I'll guess that all music services will ...

            ... plug into the handset's music streaming capability which will allow music to stream and play in the background.

            Depending on how the app is built, remember that the WP7S devices run 1GHz CPU's that are VERY powerful - way moreso than today's 620MHz iPhones. That should help most well-written apps load quickly and operate smoothly ... particularly if there aren't 50 apps running in the background.
          • You are not listening

            The Microsoft apps multitask just like you want. Microsoft apps are all you will ever use on the Microsoft device. If, somehow, you get other apps on the Microsoft device, you will somehow be sorry.
        • Back in time?

          Even old good Palm OS enabled music in background as a special case in otherwise single-task environment. So this is no argument.

          Palm OS users will remember that the notification mechanism enabled the illusion of several apps running concurrently.

          So far it appears to me as the step back to the old proven model that possibly disappoints power users, but might be quite adequate for the mainstream majority.
      • I know lots...

        ...of Trojans that would [b]LOVE[/b] to multitask in WP7S and the iPhone. What's the use of malware if you can't run without the user knowing it.

        Seriously: No multitasking is the big [b]BUT[/b] that has halted most mayor iPhone deployments at Enterprises. The idea that the iPhone or WP7S has way to set a "mission critical" services that always run gives the creeps to most IT service departments.

        My take. The reason Microsoft chose the new "Windows Phone" moniker is to allow a future "Windows Mobile 2011/2012" variation geared towards the enterprise using a WPF (rather than Silverlight-based) UI. That way they can both compete with the consumer iPhone and the enterprise BlackBerry. That one surely will multitask in a novel way.
    • Try a Droid

      It can multi-task to your heart's delight.
    • iPhone magic? Riiiiiight...

      After owning an iPhone for about 1 year, all the "magic" is pretty much gone. The latest Zunes have much more magic than does the old iPhone/iPod interfaces. If they make the WP7 as near to the Zune, and like the commercials show, it will have much more magic than the iPhone.

      Definatly the Zune PC software is worlds better than iTunes, and shouldn't cause any problems. I do hope they move toward business use soon too. The iPhone is a great platform, but far too limited. Even though WP7 will be closed, I don't see it as nearly as closed as the iPhone is. Time will tell...
  • Question: Upgrade from Windows 6.5?

    What is the upgrade path, if any, for Windows Mobile 6.5 phones to Windows 7 (specifically the HTC Touch Pro 2)?
    Roger H
    • upgrade path

      Hi. There is no upgrade path. MS has said WM 6.5 apps won't run on Win Phone 7 devices. There will be no migration tools. Devs are expected to rewrite their apps if they feel as though these apps would be a good fit on these devices.

      MS also has said they have no plans to push the Windows Phone OS 7.0 to HTC for the HD2. So it sounds like the HD2 is going to be a WM 6.5 device and won't be upgradable to Win Phone 7... MJ
      Mary Jo Foley
      • Maybe MS should encourage manufacturers ...

        ... to have a handset trade in programs, wherein customers can replace their old Windows phones, with 7 series phones when they arrive, at cost - or for only a small profit to handset manufacturers. That would make some customers happy, and alleviate the risk of Windows phone sales tanking until the 7 series arrives.
        P. Douglas
      • upgrade path

        The upgrade path to WP7 will most likely be controlled by the carriers, not MS. I'm 100% sure it will require new hardware, as this is a completely new OS that will get no benefit from older hardware.
  • Wow... Is this iPhone Envy or what...

    In the you have got to be kidding me department. This is iPhone envy. Though the bigger question is, who is the manager that is fired?

    After all, 3 years later after the iPhone was introduced all the managers can think of is, "lets clone the iPhone." That is pretty sad!!!