Windows Phone 7

Last week Microsoft launched the gold version of the windows phone 7 OS and developer tools. Some time ago I went to the presentation of the Windows Phone 7 for developers in the Microsoft Portugal office.

Here are my views on this new mobile platform.

Overview:

The Windows Phone 7, will be official launched to end users by Christmas time. It will be available on devices of Samsung, LG, HTC and Asus.

MS developed from a completely new UI, it’s inspired in the Zune, it’s very appealing and with a lots of animation and in my opinion totally different from the other players, but because of this I think users will have some issues adopting  to the new paradigm.

The devices will have a minimum specification imposed by MS:

  • Capacitive Touch Screen, with a minimum support of four simultaneous touches .
  • Screen Resolutions of 800×480 or 480×320
  • Sensors: A-GPS, Accelorometer, Compass, Light, Proximity
  • Camara Resolution: minimum 5Mp
  • Memory : 256 MB RAM and 8 GB flash
  • Graphics: GPU with Direct X 9 implementation

Microsoft will be responsible for OS upgrade. These updates will be made directly to the end users independetly of the brand of the devices.

Application Development:

  • The tools are free and are available at http://developer.windowsphone.com. They work as a plugin for  Visual Studio 2010 and can also be used with the Express versions.
  • It’s easy to convert applications between systems Windows, Xbox and Windows Phone.
  • The development environment is  C# .NET, only managed mode is available and you need to choose one of two “modes” for you application:
  • Silverlight – base on version 3 on the desktop but optimized to use the GPU
  • XNA – based on version 4.0
  • The two modes cannot be mixed, you need to make an option. You cannot have a 3D game using XNA with a UI done in Silverlight
  • Managed APIs are available to access the GPS, Acelorometer and  Compass.
  • The OS doesn’t allow third party apps to work in background ( MS doesn’t learn with other people mistakes)
  • The were will be a notification system managed by Microsoft, like Apple system it will allow to send messages or add tags to the application when they are offline.
  • No direct access to the camara video stream. So it’s not possible to do AR applications…
  • No access to the Media Library on the phone
  • No low level access to network sockets. It’s only possible to communicate trough HTTP.
  • The web browser is based on IE7 and there is a web component to use in third party apps. It doesn’t support Flash but the weird thing it’s the no availablity of Silverlight!! It’s already on the phone for the apps, why no in the browser?? And because it’s IE7 it doesn’t support HTML 5.0.

Distribution:

  • Microsoft will a MarketPlace with global distribution for application, music and video.
  • Anyone can register and sell applications.
  • The register price is 99 euros a year.
  • Microsoft will take 30% in each app sold.
  • Approval policies will be public and testing tools will be available to the public.

Conclusions:

  • It’s a good effort from Microsoft and big leap regarding Windows Mobile 6.5
  • They are play catch regarding the other players in the market, despite the hardware specs being good, in terms of OS feature they are one year later regarding IPhone OS and Android.
  • The global store looks good, but they don’t present any thing new to attract developers and they are way behind in terms of user base.
  • They need to sell a lot of devices to grab and good market share and attract developers.

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