Microsoft is releasing a build of Windows Phone 7 to developer partners, as the smartphone operating system inches toward release. Microsoft has been testing Windows Phone 7 internally for months.
Microsoft is announcing that Windows Phone 7 has reached its
"technical preview" milestone. Developer partners will now have the chance to
test the upcoming smartphone operating system, due later this year. The
announcement comes a week after Microsoft released its Windows
Phone Developer Tools Beta, which can be used to construct apps and games
for the platform.
"Starting today, thousands of prototype phones from Asus, LG and Samsung are
making their way into the hands of developers," Terry Myerson, corporate vice
president of Windows Phone Engineering, wrote
in a July 18 posting on "The Windows Blog." "So we're almost there-but
there is much work left to do. Together, with our early adopter customers,
developers, OEMs, and mobile operator partners we are in the home stretch."
Myserson added that more than 1,000 Microsoft employees had been testing
Windows Phone 7 over the past few months, specifically for metrics such as
battery life, usability and network connectivity. The Windows Phone 7 interface
aggregates Web content and applications into a series of subject-specific "Hubs"-such
as "Games" or "Office," for example-and it will come paired with Windows Phone
Marketplace loaded with applications from third-party developers.
"The craftsmen [and women] of our team have signed off that our software is
now ready for the hands-on everyday use of a broad set of consumers around the
world," Myerson wrote in his blog posting, "and we're looking forward to their
feedback in the coming weeks, so that we can finish the best Windows Phone
release ever together."
Now that Microsoft has reached this particular milestone, the pressure will
only mount to bring developers into the fold. To that end, the company is
reportedly offering cash and other resources in exchange for mobile
"We are investing heavily in the developer community by offering as many
resources as we can to help them be successful on our platform," a Microsoft
spokesperson wrote to eWEEKon July
14. "Where it makes sense, we do co-fund strategic projects on a limited
That investment appears to fall into two categories: Reports suggest that, in
addition to encouraging developers to build business-centric applications, Microsoft
has been offering cash incentives to creators of popular iPhone games, in hopes
of porting some of them onto Windows Phone 7. But Microsoft also needs to
persuade developers that the OS will prove a popular enough platform for their
apps to make money.
During last week's Worldwide Partner Conference, various Microsoft
executives took to their pulpits to insist that, despite the company's eroding
share of the smartphone market, Windows Phone 7 has a solid chance of
succeeding among both consumers and businesses.
"The phone is going through a massive inflection point," Andy Lees, senior
vice president of Microsoft's Mobile Communications Business, told
the audience during his July 13 keynote address. "There's immense
competition, but, in many respects, things are just beginning."
Lees suggested that Windows Phone 7's interface represented an evolutionary
progression over its competition: "The problem is that smartphones are just app
launchers; they're a grid of icons. We figured there's got to be a better way
than going app by app by app, so two years ago we fundamentally reset our
That strategy, he explained, centered on three tenets: smart design, the
integrated experiences offered by the Hubs, and an optimized ecosystem.
"One of the problems the phones are going through right now is
fragmentation," Lees added, in what seemed to be a backhand swipe at Google
Android, which runs on a seemingly ever-increasing number of devices. "For
developers and ISVs, it makes it very difficult. We're making sure our software
is fully optimized."
The next test, however, will be whether developers buy all
those arguments and that the offerings are enticing enough to devote time and
resources to actually building Windows Phone 7.
Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.