Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Mobile Development Platforms: Windows Phone 7

This blog has a new home:

Windows Phone 7 is the new mobile operating system developed by Microsoft. It completely succeeds the Windows Mobile platform, which most recently included Windows Mobile 6.5 and before that Windows CE, on which Windows Mobile was based.

The main difference that comes with Windows Phone 7 is one of design philosophy: Windows Phone 7 is aimed squarely at the consumer market, rather than the business or corporate sector.

Social networking, personal messaging which includes emails, multimedia and games are the main focus for Windows Phone 7.

Breaking with the usual Microsoft tradition, Windows Phone 7 does not run applications that were developed for the Windows Mobile platform. In other words: there is no backwards compatibility. This is great! The applications that are now obsolete will soon all have Windows Phone 7 replacements. Is is also of immense value to have a new design and structure that is free from the cruft associated with keeping backwards compatibility.

Good job, Microsoft!

The first phones were available from February 2010 in Barcelona, with the rest of the world following in staggered rollouts shortly thereafter. At the moment Windows Phone 7 supports five languages: English, French, Spanish, Italian and German.

There is a Windows Phone Marketplace that sells to different geographic regions. At the time of this writing there are 17 supported countries, including Australia, UK, USA, France and Germany, among others.

Nokia will be a primary partner for Microsoft, rolling out their smart phones with Windows Phone 7 as the operating system. This is an important partnership, because Nokia is a giant in the mobile world, and this assures us healthy competition between Windows Phone 7, Android and iOS devices.

Programming the Windows 7 Phone environment is simplicity itself. Existing XNA and Silverlight specific skills are all that are required to create third party games or applications that can run on Windows Phone 7 devices. There is a Windows Phone 7 specific edition of Silverlight that the programmer will code against, using any Visual Studio 2010 or later edition, including Visual Studio 2010 Express for Windows Phone. The Windows Phone Developer Tools are available free from Microsoft, and this includes an emulator, XNA game studio and Expression Blend 4 for Windows Phone.

The Windows Phone 7 device requirements are completely on par with current consumer expectations:

  • Capacitive touch screen with WVGA (480x800) resolution
  • Dedicated GPU that can render DirectX9
  • 256MB of RAM and 8GB of Flash memory
  • Accelerometer, proximity sensor, ambient light sensor and GPS
  • and others

The programming language of choice for Windows Phone 7 is C#. There is a package called Windows Phone Developer Tools RTW, which allows programming devices using VB.

There is a genuine interest in Windows Phone 7 from consumers, developers, and businesses.

Because of market forces, and the split market share between the “big three” of Android, iOS and Windows Phone 7, there has never been a more interesting time in mobile development.

Other articles in this series: