Microsoft: Bring on the Windows Phone 7 developers, developers developers

Microsoft: Bring on the Windows Phone 7 developers, developers developers

Summary: On July 19, Microsoft began shipping out thousands of Windows Phone 7 (WP7) test units from LG and Samsung -- running a near-final Technical Preview build of its new mobile operating system -- to developers all over the world.

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On July 19, Microsoft began shipping out thousands of Windows Phone 7 (WP7) test units from LG and Samsung -- running a near-final Technical Preview build of its new mobile operating system -- to developers all over the world.

It's crunch time for the Softies. They have developed a new phone platform from scratch that looks and feels different from what's available from Apple, Android backers and RIM. They've built it, but will developers come? Microsoft is counting on its developer tools, its developer outreach programs and developer guarantees (in the form of payments if WP7 apps don't sell as well as expected) to generate quantity and quality WP7 apps.

It's no coincidence, as Engadget notes, that the packaging for the WP7 test units says "developers, developers, developers" on the box. (Sorry, there's no Monkey Boy toy inside.) WP7 phone hardware and data plans are going to be key to determining how well WP7 will do versus its competition when those phones begin shipping in October in Europe and November in the U.S. But the number and kinds of apps that developers build are going to be make-or-break, as well.

There's an evangelism team that's been working for months to get developers on board with WP7. I've been talking to a number of them for the past few weeks so as to understand their big-picture goals and plans to try to win developers hearts and minds in a world where Windows Mobile is falling out of favor and iOS and Android are grabbing the attention and share.

Charlie Kindel, a 20-year Microsoft veteran who runs the Windows Phone Developer Experience, is one of the main forces behind Microsoft's mobile developer outreach. After hearing about Microsoft's renewed focus on mobile (and some of the big names named to run the development side of the project), Kindel joined the team in February 2009.

"Windows Phone is not an end game. It's more of a means," said Kindel. "Devs don't think about apps being just client code any more. Over the past ten years, it has become the case that the core resides in the cloud, and rich clients 'light it up' for the user. That means it's not so much about porting the same apps to different screens, it's more about creating application components that cross all three screens. As your experience changes, what should an app look like and how do you eanble that? I want to make WP7 one of the screens that is supported."

(The "cloud," in this case, can mean Microsoft cloud services like Azure; cloud services someone else has built like Twitter; or services intrinsic to WP7, like notification, location, Xbox Live, etc., Kindel explained.)

I asked Kindel what has surprised him -- and what he thinks might surprise others -- about WP7. He talked about speaking to 7,000 mobile developers during a recent European tour. Relatively few had ever used Microsoft developer tools. (In one meeting, only about 10 percent had used Microsoft tools of any kind, he said.) When Microsoft showed them Visual Studio and Windows Phone development tools, "the reaction was one of disbelief," he said, because "our tools were so much better."

"Developers want to use the tools they already know, but at the same time, they want to know someone has thought holistically about the end-to-end process," Kindel said. "Even though we are investing in all of these (development) areas, you don't have to use all of our stuff."

Microsoft's message to developers considering WP7 is to use Silverlight or the XNA Framework to write applications and games for the forthcoming phones. And company officials are touting the transparency of the app approval process, as well as the fact that only Microsoft-certified applications will be available via the Windows Phone Marketplace as positives for developers and users.

No matter how good Microsoft's developer story sounds, Kindel knows that it's going to be tough to convince some developers there's enough financial opportunity to make the development of a WP7 app worthwhile.

"The installed market is not very big, so we have to show them how much we're investing to create a phenomenal user experience. We have to show marketing and engineering seriousness," he said.

Microsoft hasn't made any promises as to how many WP7 phone apps there will be out of the gate, or provided many names of developers already committed to the platform. Kindel said to expect a mix of big-name apps and brand-new ones.

"There are a type of apps users just want to exist -- things like a service-enabled world clock or a level, for example," he said. "Then there are apps no one has really thought about yet, with unique capabilities. We want there to be fantastic and beautiful examples of each."

Who else is on Microsoft's WP7 developer outreach team? It's not just members of Microsoft's Communications Business. I've got a "who's who" post coming up, which includes WP7 developer team members from Microsoft's Interactive Entertainment Business, Windows Live and the Developer Division.

In the meantime, any developers (or potential customers) have developer-focused questions for the WP7 team?

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

About

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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  • RE: Microsoft: Bring on the Windows Phone 7 developers, developers developers

    October for Europe and November for US?
    WTF!
    angarita calvo
    • RE: Microsoft: Bring on the Windows Phone 7 developers, developers developers

      @angarita calvo Let them get the initial kinks worked out first!
      rmark@...
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      • RE: Microsoft: Bring on the Windows Phone 7 developers, developers developers

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    • RE: Microsoft: Bring on the Windows Phone 7 developers, developers developers

      @angarita calvo WTF? what's Microsoft really gaining from this stupid deal other than having Comscore reporting a bigger marketshare for Bing? Most people won't ever notice the ultra tiny Bing at the very bottom of the search results. This pact makes no sense at all: economically, logically, or otherwise. Yahoo! sucks more than ever and I have no idea MS is doing with this. Steve Ballmer is making too many mistakes
      Arabalar
  • Please people, buy this phone

    Just like all the utter iDiots who purchased iPhone 1, 2, and 3, giving Apple time to finally make a good phone in the iPhone 4, I really hope that people buy WP7. Then, wake me when WP7.5 comes out. MS, you have a fantastic concept here and I really like what I see. Zune is also so much better than iTunes, you truly did a fantastic job on that software. However, you are just missing too much basic functionality in this first release. Here's hoping you have it sorted out in the next few releases. If you do, I'll be glad to buy one then.

    Go Microsoft! Go Competition!
    NonZealot
    • Zune is also so much better than iTunes...

      @NonZealot

      Thats why Zune outsells Apple... Because Billions and Billions and Billions of people agree with you... Zune IS so much better... Apple should just give up and quit trying... It's getting to be a wee bit embarassing.
      i8thecat
      • RE: Microsoft: Bring on the Windows Phone 7 developers, developers developers

        @i8thecat Just because it does not sell a lot does not make it bad, many good products are not always the most popular. However the Zune looks like a good device to bad there is no Zune software for Linux, I would probably buy one.
        mrlinux
      • Where did I say Apple should give up?

        @i8thecat
        [i]Apple should just give up and quit trying... It's getting to be a wee bit embarassing.[/i]

        No where did I write that. Apple should continue trying to improve and pray and hope and plead and beg that while they are trying to catch up to where Zune was 3 years ago, that MS stops improving. :)
        NonZealot
      • OSX is also so much better than Windows...

        @i8thecat
        That's why OSX outsells Windows... Because Billions and Billions and Billions of people agree with you... OSX IS so much better... Microsoft should just give up and quit trying... It's getting to be a wee bit embarrassing.

        I'll let you pick:
        1) Popularity equates quality and OSX sucks
        2) Popularity has nothing to do quality and Zune very well may be a superior product

        pro tip: Either option leaves you eating crow.
        ericesque
      • @ericesque: He'll start bringing up other metrics

        Suddenly, all that will count is share price growth over the last 10 years.

        or

        Profit per sale of the hardware running the OS.

        or

        Something to do with the Kin.
        NonZealot
      • RE: Microsoft: Bring on the Windows Phone 7 developers, developers developers

        @i8thecat So according to your logic then Windows is a far superior OS than Mac OS-X
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      • ummm

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    • RE: Microsoft: Bring on the Windows Phone 7 developers, developers developers

      @NonZealot : "However, you are just missing too much basic functionality in this first release"???

      Really? Like what, precisely?

      And don't be lazy and just rant on about how essentialy copy & paste or full multi-tasking is because it wasn't important for iPhone 1, 2 or 3.

      So, what features is the OS itself missing and why will they stop you from buying a WinPhone7 device?
      de-void-21165590650301806002836337787023
      • I'll be lazy

        @de-void
        [i]And don't be lazy and just rant on about how essentialy copy & paste or full multi-tasking is because it wasn't important for iPhone 1, 2 or 3.[/i]

        They [b]are[/b] essential which is why I wrote, and I quote:
        [i]Just like all the utter iDiots who purchased iPhone 1, 2, and 3, giving Apple time to finally make a good phone in the iPhone 4[/i]

        People who bought iPhone 1, 2, and 3 are stupid idiots because those phones too were missing very basic functionality.

        PS You forgot lack of native apps.
        NonZealot
      • @Non-Zealot don't wait then. Native apps aren't coming.

        @Non-Zealot
        There will never be native apps on WP7. This isn't one of the features that Microsoft couldn't get around to. For better or worse, part of their experience strategy is no native apps.

        I'm truly curious, what apps need to be native? I'm looking forward to WP7. What kinds of apps will I be missing out on?
        ericesque
      • @ericesque: Skype for one

        [i]I'm truly curious, what apps need to be native? I'm looking forward to WP7. What kinds of apps will I be missing out on?[/i]

        http://wmpoweruser.com/the-curse-on-no-native-development-skype-drops-windows-phone-7-also/comment-page-1/

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windows_Mobile_7#Missing_features
        [i]The networking API does not give access to sockets, preventing Voice over IP applications such as Skype from operating on Windows Phone 7[/i]

        As for there never being native apps on WP7, I don't believe that. However, it isn't even "native" apps that count so I shouldn't focus on the use of that word, my bad. What does "native" mean any way? Everything eventually gets executed by a CPU. However, there are currently some gaping holes in the WP7 API that I believe will eventually get rectified.
        NonZealot
      • RE: Microsoft: Bring on the Windows Phone 7 developers, developers developers

        @NZ: If they were essential, then iPhones 1, 2 and 3 would have sold like dog poop. They didn't - sales of the iPhone took off like a fighter jet strapped to a space rocket. For MOST people, MOST of the time, copy & paste is not a concern. For MOST people MOST of the time, if they can continue to play music and sync email while playing some game or other, then they're happy.

        Just because something doesn't meet your specific needs, does not mean that said something is worthless. I suggest your needs are somewhat atypical.

        And let's face it: both the aforementioned features (copy & paste and multi-tasking) could be provided via a software update.

        MS already have an implementation of copy & paste that they're working on - they just couldn't be certain of delivering it in a rock solid manner at RTM - even MS' teams have finite amounts of resource and time.
        de-void-21165590650301806002836337787023
      • Apple consumers tend to be very stupid. MS consumers more discerning.

        @de-void
        [i]If they were essential, then iPhones 1, 2 and 3 would have sold like dog poop.[/i]

        Apple consumers would buy iDogPoop if Apple sold it so you might want to think of another analogy! :)

        [i]Just because something doesn't meet your specific needs, does not mean that said something is worthless. I suggest your needs are somewhat atypical.[/i]

        I guess we'll see how atypical my needs are. :)

        [i]MS already have an implementation of copy & paste that they're working on[/i]

        Great news! Seriously! I'll be glad to buy a WP7.x phone when MS is finished working on these features and actually releases them. I find that MS generally makes better products than Apple does, I just think that MS has taken a step backwards with WP7.0. I sincerely hope it is one of those cases where you have to take 2 steps back to make 3 steps forward. When (if?) MS makes 3 steps forward, I'll be there to buy one.
        NonZealot
      • Multi-tasking is not a small deal

        @de-void Seriously...multi-tasking CAN be a killer now. Non Zealot is right that alot of iFools bought the iPhones up to 4. Once I saw that I couldn't simply use a third party app and have it do something like upload a file while I go look for something on the web I saw that the device was useless. Now people are beginning to expect in the modern smartphone era a phone that can stream from Pandora while doing other things. Had WP7 come out earlier it would have been ok probably. Now you have Android on a meteoric rise with multi-tasking, WebOS if it ever surfaces again and iOS 4 with its perceived multi-tasking. It quickly makes WP7 look limited in the current landscape. And I actually think WP7 could have a chance to jump out ahead in the gaming race but I don't know how many people are going to want to have their game completely shut down just to answer a txt, IM or call.

        Aside from that I think much of its success will boil down to whether people actually like the interface or not. I believe the home screen as it is will be gone within a few iterations.
        storm14k