Developers are Key to Success of Windows Phone 7
When Apple launched the iPhone, Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer ridiculed the lack of a keyboard. Little did he know this gadget would become the best selling phone in a league of its own. In an attempt to stay on top of the game, Microsoft released a Windows phone that disappeared just as soon as it had arrived. With the new Windows 7, due out in October, Microsoft is looking forward to redeem itself and reinforce the company’s standing in the technology space.
What gives Windows 7 an edge is its ability to run on a wide range of devices unlike the iPhone. This software took two years to build and if sources are to be trusted it has the potential to become a player in the space again.
A look at Microsoft’s competitors gives us a better understanding of the kind of software Windows 7 is playing out to be. Apple chose the closed approach while Google went the opposite way by adopting an open source platform to encourage innovation and design. Apple's software developers write for a specific OS and this has helped the company go from 0 to 25 percent market share in less than three years, and thereby generating significant income for the developers of the iPhone's 150,000 plus apps.
Google enables customization of the OS, but it still has a set of OS and UI guidelines for Android.
Apple's App Store vetting process has been frowned upon by developers but they hail the company's SDK guidelines that force them to write for a single user interface and hardware specification enabling one to create applications faster. For the Android, the trend of making the UI touch-sensitive adds another layer of complexity.
Microsoft has adopted the iPhone’s policy of a closed hardware by giving out strict hardware and software guidelines to its partners. Since it gives smartphone developers a single OS/UI to work with, it ensures that any phone that has Windows Phone 7 Series installed will work the same, as the application will be designed around a single hardware and software specification.
The Windows Phone 7 requires minimal hardware, namely 4 GB Flash on 256 MB of RAM, WiFi (802.11 b/g), an accelerometer, a compass, multi-touch capacity screen (WVGA resolution (800x480 pixels)), and GPS sensors. It only accepts applications that are built in Silverlight, XNA, and .Net, and applications will be supported only through Microsoft's Marketplace. Testing of the new mobile OS is already underway on devices from Dell, Garmin-Asus, HP, Dell, Samsung, Toshiba, Sony Ericsson, HTC, and LG.
The coding toolkit for RIAs will be served by Silverlight. Microsoft’s alternative to Adobe Flash potentially gives Windows Phone 7 an edge over the iPhone that does not support Flash or Silverlight.
The basic framework of hubs on Windows Phone 7 Series’ start screen: People, Pictures, Games, Music + Video, Marketplace and Office allow developers to inject their apps into Microsoft’s standard hubs and also have a chance to create their own hub. This puts it a foot forward from its counterparts.
For development, Windows Phone 7 Series will employ a set of programming tools called XNA that makes it easier to develop games for multiple Microsoft platforms, including Windows XP, Xbox 360, Windows Vista and Windows 7. Now that Windows Phone 7 Series supports XNA, customers will be able to download and play games sold through Microsoft’s online store, Xbox Live Marketplace, which currently serves about 300 titles.
What We Like
“Our focus is on making the tools friction-free for developers to get in as easily as possible,” Charlie Kindel, manager of Microsoft’s Windows Phone App Platform and Developer Experience program. With the Windows 7 launch, the sleeping giant will be back. It comes loaded with scale, style and apps. The suite of services range from business to entertainment, browsing and searching.
One of the chief benefits found in the Windows Phone 7 platform is its ability to extend to your desktop, contacts, social networks, music collection, games and more. For now, many of the Windows Live benefits can only be realized if you're using the Windows Live Wave 4 services. Most of these services are still in beta, but should all be live by the time Windows Phone 7 ships.
Unlike the sole Apple iPhone 4 and AT&T partnership, the Windows Phone 7 also has partnerships with Sprint, Verizon, Vodafone, T-Mobile USA, SFR, Telecom Italia, Orange, Deutsch Telecom, Telefonica, and Telstra. Microsoft achieves a clear advantage with this element , especially now that AT&T has withdrawn their unlimited data streaming at a low price.
The Wet Spots
The lack of cut, copy and paste seems to be a dampener but Microsoft developers claim that both features have already been planned as upgrades later on, after smoothing out the initial kinks. But people wonder if they will have to move data via text from one app to the next by switching back and forth between the screens and typing it in.
Unfortunately, what the Windows Phone 7 will also not offer is multitasking and the ability to run multiple third-party applications at one time. This may place Microsoft at a disadvantage to the Apple product.
Historically not as appealing as Apple, and not as fast as Google, the Windows 7 phone is the show piece if not the centre piece of the Microsoft empire which they hope will put them back into the race to the top. Despite the gaps in Windows Phone 7, Directions analyst Matt Rosoff said it was important that Microsoft decided to shore up well-known consumer weaknesses in Windows Mobile, as it is end users who drive the vast majority of smartphone purchases.
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