Developers chime in on Windows Phone 7 Series

One of the hurdles Microsoft faces in making a success out of Windows Phone 7 Series is winning over the software developers.

Microsoft may be able to establish consistency with regards to the WP7S hardware but if you don't have functional software to put on the phone, it won't survive for long. To do so, Microsoft needs to garner the support of developers, large and small. Microsoft's willingness to tackle the fragmentation that Windows phones has historically possessed is a step in the right direction but there's still plenty of work needed to be done. 

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I like the goal of having a standardized or core set of specifications with the Windows Phone 7 Series.  It will also be nice for there to be consistency with the software that the WP7S phones will be running.  There is a certain amount of appeal to be able to go from a Samsung WP7S phone to a LG WP7S phone to an HTC WP7S phone and have the same software environment running.  I can see where that consistency will be equally appealing with developers.

Wired.com polled several mobile developers and discovered a mix of reactions to Microsoft's new OS.

Kai Yu, CEO of BeeJive, has long since written off Windows Mobile and doesn't think the challenges for developers will go away with WP7S.  Yu left little to the imagination on how he feels about the Windows Mobile environment.  "I think it’s just royally f**d.  That place is so big: The tools, the people, it’s all so fragmented…. What’s the advantage of having these hubs and cool-looking UI? In the end, I don’t know if that gives you anything.”

Jim Scheinman, COO of Pageonce (personal productivity software) was more positive in his reaction stating, "My speculation is that Microsoft has some incredible platforms they can tie all together with the new mobile platform. If one developer can write across all the other platforms, that would be easier for us and all the developers…. If you want to attract hundreds of thousands of developers, it would behoove Microsoft to try to make that happen. That would be a very, very exciting opportunity for all of us.”

Peter Hoddie, CEO of Kinoma, made no bones about it saying, "They've (Microsoft) been doing such a miserable job for a while now. I would be thrilled if they could turn it all around and tell a story that makes sense, but they have a long way to go." As Wired.com points out, Microsoft understands the importance of developer support with their desktop products but falls short for some reason in the mobile industry. In reading the reactions of the developers it appears the historic fragmentation (software and hardware) of the mobile environment may be the cause.

David Castelnuovo, an independent developer of iPhone Apps stated, "Fragmentation ends up making development more expensive. Microsoft is trying to solve some of that by being a little more hands-on…. They all have multi-touch and the same three buttons, but the problem is I don’t know what kind of other options there are.”

Microsoft will be presenting WP7S's development tools at it's MIX developer's conference (opens in new tab) later this month.  There will be a lot of interest in what Microsoft presents not only with regards to developers information but we are also expecting more light to be cast on the hardware specs of WP7S.  Microsoft will need to at least equal the energy their Mobile World Congress WP7S presentation created to keep the momentum going by gaining developer support.

We're also curious if any more revelations will be announced concerning the future of Windows Mobile 6.5.  The other day, Microsoft's Investor Relations Manager, Bill Koefoed, told Forbes that Microsoft is preparing to invest a billion dollars in Windows Mobile research and development.  Which presents the question, where is Windows Mobile headed?

Can Microsoft win over the developers enough to give WP7S a fighting chance?  Will the commitment Microsoft is making with Windows Mobile 6.5 fragment the developing community or spread the resources to make both systems successful?  One thing is for certain, Microsoft's movements with regards to the Windows Phone has definitely generated a lot of questions.  Questions that hopefully will be answered at MIX10.

George is the Reviews Editor at Windows Central, concentrating on Windows 10 PC and Mobile apps. He's been a supporter of the platform since the days of Windows CE and uses his current Windows 10 Mobile phone daily to keep up with life and enjoy a game during down time.

19 Comments
  • Seems the majority of devs quoted here still hate MS and WM, already writing off WP7S before having had a proper look at the development platform. So I dont see any major changes with application development on WP7S compared to 6.5, we will see a few new programs but the current WM detractors wont be straying from their beloved iphone.
  • The first thing Microsoft needs to do is to stop charging an arm and a leg for Windows Mobile development tools. The free Visual Studio Express edition should be able to create Windows Mobile applications. There's no excuse for making users pay for the Professional edition of VS (not even the Standard edition) to get access to Windows Mobile development. If Microsoft wants to reserve very high-end/low-level OS access for their more expensive VS editions, I guess that's OK to preserve quality and system stability. But remember, almost anyone can make an iPhone app these days. We are flooded with iPhone apps. That should be Microsoft's goal for their mobile OS and they should be making it accessible to developers of various levels, from those who want to develop a simple stopwatch or unit converter, to those making a sophisticated system backup and security app.
  • I think that's what we're going to get. If the chatter out there is true, about silverlight being pushed then they're going to be making it pretty easy to make WP7s apps. And the cost should be lower as well, WPF,Silverlight, XNA for games. I dunno about VS editions and what will support what, but I fully expect some very good developer news out of MiX later this month. I hope they live stream the keynote for MiX and show us some very good demos.
  • The price of visual studio is not even an issue. It is so easy to get visual studio for free. Anyone who is serious about developing a truly valuable application for either platform, desktop or mobile will have a MSDN subscription. Even if you're not part of a large organization that does not have one, then start your own business at home and sign up for bizspark, or dreamspark for students. Yeah, anyone can create an iphone app these days. Thats the exact reason there are so many junk apps in the store. Same story with blackberry. The dev tools are free and anyone with a small knowledge of java can create a crap app like a wallpaper changer and sell it for $3. No, it is good to have a high barrier for entry. It forces people to be serious about investing in high priced tools to create applications that produce high returns. Because it is possible to get VS for free, there will be cases of crap in the marketplace, but I can say for certain, I see far fewer garbage applications proportional to the amount of apps in the marketplace than I do the app store or app world.
  • If microsoft is able to allow for program portability between wm7, windows 7, xbox and zune ... The sky is the limit. It is already amazingly easy to develop for zune, pc games and xbox using XNA. Bring this functionality to every aspect of development (not just gaming)and it will be incredible and they are showing it is possible.
  • The reason developers don't write apps for Windows Mobile is because no one buys them anymore. The only people that purchase Windows Phones now are the die hards like us. Windows Phones just doesn't have the market share to sell apps.
  • yup!! and now that the majority of the market has been wowed by iphone, why would they even look into anything else? especially something as unappealing as WP7s. I really dont care what the die hard microsoft fan boys think about WP7s, if it wasnt microsft, you wouldnt give a damn about it. and thats exactly how the majority will think, "doesnt look as good as iphone? doesnt function as good as iphone(microsoft)? doesnt offer anything revolutionary like iphone did? MEH!!" i cant wait to see it happen so i can finnally just switch to android and get it over with
  • fup - dude - you should jump to android now, and let winphone7 phones interate one cycle before checking back....
  • if they had an hd2 like device with android and on Tmobile, i probably would. i am just hoping that WP7s surprizes me and isnt as iphone as everyone thinks it will be. but by reading on the xda WP7s forum, it looks like people are saying it is a zunephone. so basically its an izunephone except ugly.
  • While Kinoma is FAR and away my favorite WM app, asking their opinion of a platform that natively supports most of their ONLY product's core functionality (i.e., multimedia and social networks) is a bit of a loaded question. Of course they're going to have a negative opinion of it as it potentially undercuts a majority of their business. It would've been like asking Tarvaris Jackson what he thought when he found out the Vikings had signed Brett Favre. Kinoma should've seen the writing on the wall and been putting more resources into Android (and to be fair they have branched off into S60.)
  • It's not a loaded question if your goal is to tease out Kinoma's future direction. Kinoma has been silent on Android support, which is strange considering the dead end that WinMo/Pho development represents for them.
  • If current WM developers want to go to MIX 2010 and hear about how to develop for the new platform, they need to pay $1395 US to register, plus travel fees, etc.. If MS is serious about getting developers for the new WP7S devices, how about not charging us $1400 to hear about how to develop for them?
  • And what free developer shows or just big tech shows in general do you know of? I sure as heck don't know of any. MiX isn't just a show where they talk about and show you some demos and then that's it. It's very hands on with the same groups at MS who are making the tools and apps and code, and you get basically a class in how this stuff works. They take time out of making stuff to have MiX and help devs, that isn't free, and people need to understand that. It's about time people in general get off of this mentality that everything should be free now since the internet showed up.
  • Moreso, the web democratized content. It used to be that the only people who'd know about an event like MIX or GDC would be industry insiders who, wait for it, actually worked in the industry. Before the web, you'd get an industry-related magazine every month or two to get a heads up on what was going on. Now, every Tom, Dick, and Harry gets a heads up on every conference and expects every conference to hold a major consumer announcement relevant to them.
  • I don't think I conveyed my point appropriately. My point is not that we're all entitled to everything for free - my point is, if you're gonna start a new platform and break all the existing apps to date, and (according to Forbes) you are prepared to pump ONE BILLION dollars into this market, maybe you should cut your current developers a little slack on the $1400 price tag you are charging them? Windows Phone 7 devices currently have a market penetration of zero devices, with zero apps available. If MS is going to blow a billion dollars, jump starting development of new apps might be a good place to start.
  • M$, to get developers support, just get these two things done first:
    - free development tools (Yes, free, hobby developers cant afford for the damn expensive VS PRO!)
    - cheaper price (or mayb free) for listing of apps on Marketplace
  • If microsoft doesn't change the way they support developers i don't see a big chance for them. Take a look at the marketplace developer forum. It's a shame to see how this big company treats their developers. And the marketplace itself is very buggy and still lacking of many basic features. In half a year they didn't manage to fix crucial bugs that still exist.
  • What does Alex Kac (Pocket Informant) think? WHether or not he develops for Win 7 is what determines my staying or moving on to Android (hopefully they get their Exchange Server act together) when I am tired of my Tilt 2...which is my fourth WinMob device.
  • Currently I have g1 and although they phone a large fine, unless something comes. I will be switching to wmps7. (I felt like I was mashing the keyboard when I wrote it) and if the phone has the same sound quality and the operator of my head I will be in bliss. Now I just need to get employers, and here in an attempt to make it until the present time so that we may actually get a data plan.