A Big Day for Windows Phone 7

It’s a big day today for Microsoft with the RTM of the Windows Phone 7 developer tools – potentially the last kick at the can for raising a successful mobile platform, at least amongst the current market competitors.

Update: The tools are not available – get the highlights.  A CodePlex-hosted toolkit of additional controls is also available.

There has been a lot of buzz and packed-out WP7 events, but success will likely – rightly or wrongly -  be measured publically in terms of how many phones are sold, how many applications are published and how many applications are bought; and all against what iPhone has achieved.

Microsoft has a lot of money to spend on this launch, though my sense is that the spend will occur closer to device launch (late Oct/early Nov) and during H1 2011.  The compressed catch-up timescale has created the sense of a developer-device shortage. 

Microsoft’s OS development track has been very short, and there would not normally be an abundance of devices at this stage.  The problem is that the absolute timing is very close to the festive season and Microsoft has been rallying developers since February this year, creating an expectation of device access.  Also, one cannot discount the ‘have-to-hold-one’ feeling that people have, though my experience having one in hand to show people is that they are not that quick to have a go. 

The WP7 emulator (available for some time!) is an amazing thing (more adept than Virtual PC in some ways) and is likely sufficient for 90% of Silverlight applications and some XNA games (single-touch).  The emulator’s usefulness wanes when developing applications with multi-touch input unless the developer has a multi-touch display.  Also, anything with high performance animation or intense XNA games requires a real device to get a true sense of real-world performance. 

I’ll sum up device timing issues by saying, that if you are willing to invest in a application development track at the same speed that Microsoft is going (which is a new standard for Microsoft), then they’ll likely work with you to get you what you need to publish on time.

If you haven’t been involved with the WP7 euphoria yet, then you may easily fall into it.  The way I see it, most people out there are well on their way to being 100% WP7 developers and I now tend to break it down like this:

  • 25% if you are a .NET developer already
  • 25% if you are a Silverlight/WPF developer
  • 25% if you develop web services
  • 25% left over that is unique to the phone

There’s quite a lot in that last 25% and you’ll need to get up to speed on two major pieces to really work well on the platform:

  • Application Life Cycle – your application will fail miserably in the user’s eyes if you don’t support the necessary events
  • Push Notification Services – to keep data updated and get events from elsewhere you need to understand the mechanisms

Of course, having already training dozen of developers in the first professional WP7 boot camp across North America, I’m available for children’s birthday parties private training (which are the same thing once you’ve seen super hero training at a birthday party Smile) – see the about page – if your company needs to get up to speed quickly.

The developer tools are FREE – go and get them when they are released later today at http://developer.windowsphone.com.