Nick's .NET Travels

Continually looking for the yellow brick road so I can catch me a wizard....

Is Windows Phone 7 series going to be great for developers?

As you’ve no doubt seen Microsoft announced Windows Phone 7 series last week at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. I guess I’ll start off with the mandatory “here’s what it looks like” piece: Here’s a couple of screenshots for you to go “oh-ah” over – if you want more you can head over to Rob’s blog where he’s got some more images, as well as the official Windows Phone 7 Series website.

startscreen web 158x300 Windows Phone 7 Series debuts at Barcelona!officescreen web 300x181 Windows Phone 7 Series debuts at Barcelona!

Now the reason for this post is a way of providing commentary following the Focus, Focus, Focus post by Charlie Kindel. Firstly, I want to say that I love the fact that there appears to be such a high level of “focus” from the Windows Phone team. It would appear that despite severely dropping the ball with Windows Mobile 6.x I think the departure from this platform to Windows Phone 7 series will definitely be a positive move and will position Microsoft in a strong position in the mobile market.

Yes, I know everyone’s (well at least a large proportion of the techie crowd) going on about Android this and Android that but they’re seeing the same issues Microsoft saw 5 years ago with market fragmentation and a UI that is already very dated. Unless Google does something remarkable prior to Windows Phone 7 hitting the stores I suspect we’ll see an un-remarkable end to Android phones being the alternative to buying an iPhone.

Coming back to Charlie’s post – What I found particularly interesting is the priority list regarding the developer audience, which essentially puts us enterprise developers close to the bottom of the heap. Initially you might look at that and say “but enterprise has been Microsoft’s staple when it comes to WM” but you have to remember this is NOT Windows Mobile, it’s Windows Phone 7, it’s a new era of devices and with that comes all the issues you’d expect to see with a v1 product.  Actually as an aside I’m surprised they went with 7 – this is so radically different they could have just gone with Windows Phone and be done with it. Alternatively they could have just picked a single manufacturer and released the Microsoft Phone but that’s a completely different topic altogether.

So, where does that leave us enterprise developers? Well the first thing you should do is realise that Charlie’s list is only a priority list, it doesn’t imply that you can’t do enterprise development. In fact, I’m guessing that in order to support the Pro and non-Pro developer audience in their ability to create awesome applications for consumers, a large proportion of the enterprise capabilities will be there.

So what may be missing for enterprise developers? If you consider enterprise as including line of business applications such as stock management, then it is highly likely that when Windows Phone 7 ships there won’t be hardware out there to support barcode scanning etc. This isn’t actually a new problem as hardware manufacturers for LOB devices typically take 6-12 months (or more in some cases) to update their devices with new operating system versions.

Microsoft also hasn’t talked about what the deployment story will be for applications and the extent of the programming apis that will be available for application developers to interact not only with other services on the device (eg camera or the phone), storage, other applications, PIM data (eg contacts, calendar) and whether there will be developer libraries for connecting to Windows Azure, Live Id and other hosted services. My guess is that like previous versions of Windows Mobile there will be apis for accessing some of these – how this affects enterprise development is really dependent on what apis are there and which are missing. For anyone interested in this story, you should be heading to MIX where they’ll be disclosing the developer story.

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