Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 Developer Tools Are Final

Microsoft finalizes its Windows Phone Developer Tools, encouraging developers to build apps for its upcoming Windows Phone 7 platform. Microsoft faces an uphill battle against the iPhone and Google Android.

Microsoft's Windows Phone Developer Tools are final, and released to the Web. Developers hoping to create apps for the company's upcoming smartphone platform will need to download this newest version of the tools.

Twitter, Netflix, OpenTable, Flixster and Travelocity will be some of the higher-profile companies with apps available for Windows Phone 7 upon the platform's release. In order to build an app storefront capable of competing against Apple's App Store and Google's Android Marketplace, though, Microsoft is encouraging third-party developers to begin designing for Windows Phone 7.

"Any application built with a previous version of the tools will fail application certification in the Marketplace," Brandon Watson, Microsoft's director of developer experience for Windows Phone 7, wrote in a Sept. 16 posting on The Windows Phone Developer Blog. "When you do submit your application, you can expect it to take about five days to pass or fail certification, though you can check the status of your app submission at any time at the developer portal."

The developer-tools download includes Visual Studio 2010 Express for Windows Phone, the Windows Phone Emulator, Expression Blend 4 for Windows Phone and XNA Game Studio 4.0. It's only available in English at the moment, although French, Italian, German and Spanish are expected to be available in the next few weeks.

Last year, Microsoft executives publicly announced a target of 600 apps at launch for Windows Mobile 6.5. They missed. This time around, the company remains tight-lipped about the number of apps it expects for Windows Phone 7.

"We're really focused on quality; we have pretty lofty aspirations," Watson told eWEEK in a Sept. 15 interview. "We have to show developers that they can build applications, that they can make money. So we're really focused on the quality of the applications." Microsoft has specific internal targets for the size of its app storefront, he said, but will keep those under wraps.

Watson added, "If you want apps, you need to get the developers excited about the platform."

Controls available with the developer tools include Pivot, which allows for the filtering of massive amounts of data, and Panorama, which extends an application's actionable area into what Watson, in his blog post, termed "a long horizontal canvas that extends beyond the confines of the screen." Pivot and Panoramic elements are already baked into the Windows Phone 7 interface.

Developers can also leverage the Bing Maps control, which Watson described to eWEEK as encapsulating "all our Bing Maps products into a single app." More monetary-minded developers will be interested in the Mobile Advertising SDK, which will pair with a real-time, bid-based mobile ad exchange.

Microsoft hopes that Windows Phone 7 will prove popular enough to reverse the company's market-share slide in the smartphone arena, where it faces substantial competition from the likes of the Apple iPhone, Google Android and RIM's BlackBerry franchise. The first smartphones running Windows Phone 7 are rumored for release in October.

In a possible stumbling block toward the smartphones' adoption, however, Bloomberg is reporting that Verizon will not sell Windows Phone 7 devices in 2010-although a spokesperson is paraphrased as saying the carrier will "probably release" one in 2011.