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Windows Phone 7 Development: Is It Really 'Different'?

Microsoft held its worldwide partner conference last month. Since that time the company has been bullishly talking up the new development experience that programmers (and ultimately users) will enjoy on its latest mobile operating system. But is it really going to be any different and wouldn't Microsoft bullishly talk up anything anyway?

If you hadn't noticed (Microsoft reminds us) business are "mobilizing their workforces", so any opportunity that the company can find to encourage "integration with popular Microsoft offerings" is another cash cow ready for market.

The company says that with Windows Phone 7 it has, "Incorporated software and services into a rich set of experiences called hubs including People, Office, Marketplace, Pictures, Music and Video and Games."

Microsoft built the Windows Phone Marketplace to act as an online store for distribution of apps that it has ratified and approved. But predictably perhaps, developer feedback has suggested that this is nothing more than a limitation and control mechanism for the company to assert its power over the market. Initial non-Microsoft applications on the Windows Phone Marketplace have been somewhat thin, basic and single-purpose.

Microsoft says that developers using Windows Phone 7 have access to a "powerful and familiar arsenal of tools and web services" including Silverlight, the XNA Framework, Visual Studio 2010 and Expression Blend. But is that enough to sway the unconverted and bring them to worship at the Windows Phone 7 altar?

If one thing can be said about Windows Phone 7, Microsoft has delivered it the way they want to with a number of restrictions and limitations. Quite apart from restrictions in the form of no cut-and-paste functionality and Microsoft's very wooly description of multitasking, third-party applications will need to integrate Windows Phone 7's hubs if they are to flourish. Again, it's all about control isn't it?

A good deal of opinion on Windows Phone 7 is centered on Microsoft's attempt to start afresh and leave the old Windows Mobile platform behind for good. But Microsoft needs to remember that those developers that make up the iPhone and Android faithful are a passionate lot -- and they will need a solid platform with real open development opportunities if they are to be swayed.

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