Developers can now access a new set of Windows Phone 7 development tools, opening up the doors further for third-party development on the platform, Microsoft has announced.
Monday's beta announcement marks the near-completion of the developers' toolkit, which was given its first Community Technology Preview (CTP) in March 2010. Brandon Watson, director of the Windows Phone 7 project, said that the new development tools will enable easier and quicker development of third-party apps.
"Since the initial CTP release of the tools just this March, the Windows Phone Developer Tool CTP has been widely embraced by the community... It's time to get serious about building the actual apps and games for Windows Phone 7 that consumers will be looking for starting this holiday season," Watson said in the release statement.
The release of the beta developer toolkit adds a number of new features designed to aid developers working on third-party apps and games.
"We've invested heavily to deliver a significant step forward for developers and designers, with a new application platform, world-class tools, and an application store, the Windows Phone Marketplace. This system enables the quick and efficient creation of compelling applications and easy distribution to every Windows Phone 7 user," said Paul Bryan, senior director on the Windows Phone project, in a post on the Windows Team blog.
The development tool includes full integration of Microsoft's main Windows Phone 7 development tool, Expression Blend, among its new features. The tool allows developers to sketch out their apps from concept through to finished product. It also lets them test apps on a desktop-based Windows Phone 7 emulator, as well as Windows Phone 7 developer handsets.
A 'developer registration utility' allows developers to unlock their Windows Phone 7 handsets for development and testing purposes. In relation to this, developers had previously been unable to distribute apps to unlocked Windows Phone 7 handsets, but it is possible through the inclusion of an XAP deployment tool.
The beta release tools also include changes to the Silverlight control templates to bring it in line with other changes made to the Windows Phone 7 OS as a whole. This includes changes to the Windows Phone 7 APIs that consolidate namespaces that were previously distributed over several different dynamic-link libraries. New APIs have also been added for 'launchers and choosers', allowing developers indirect access to useful phone features, such as the contact list, which had previously been restricted.
Watson also confirmed in the statement that the company was planning to start releasing pre-production handsets to developers from 19 July, although he added that the company could not meet all of the demand.
"We are planning to set up, deploy and test labs in major cities to make it a little easier for everyone who wants to have access to a preview phone to have it," he said.
On 7 June, Microsoft released clear guidelines on the application submission and certification procedure, which sets out policy and technical requirements for apps that wish to be included on the Windows Phone Marketplace.