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Network World - Microsoft next week promises to finally reveal full details of the Windows Phone 7 operating system, at its MIX conference, traditionally a venue for Microsoft's Web developer community. There's a lot riding on these details.
The unveiling of the mobile UI in February at Mobile World Congress created a lot of excitement and argument. But the latest Comscore report shows that the existing Windows Mobile market share continues its dramatic shrinkage.
Of the 42.7 million U.S. smartphone users, the percentage using Windows Mobile devices dropped 4 points, from 19.7% in October 2009 to 15.7% in January 2010. Research in Motion remains the leading smartphone operating system provider in the United States with 43% for its BlackBerry software, growing 1.7% during that period; Apple holds the No. 2 spot, at 25.1% for the iPhone, but a much slower growth rate for that period, just 0.3%.
Given those numbers, it's imperative that Microsoft demonstrate it can recast its mobile development environment as completely as it has the user interface in Windows Phone 7. Based on the MIX Windows Phone sessions, here's where the priorities and challenges lie. (A full list of the sessions can be found here)
1. The Windows Phone 7 platform
At least four sessions are devoted to unpacking the technical details of Windows Phone 7, which is actually the user interface layer atop the underlying Windows Embedded CE 6.0 R3 kernel, released to manufacturing in September
Despite the radical new phone UI, software developers will rely on familiar Microsoft tools and technologies for writing the applications that exploit it, including .NET, Silverlight (see below) and Microsoft Expression Blend 3, and the gaming development environment XNA Game Studio. Windows Phone 7 incorporates a new application model, new input models (including multi-touch), APIs to access phone features and applications, and new Web services.
Microsoft recently announced the renaming of "Windows Mobile" to "Windows Phone Classic" and has confirmed that existing mobile applications can't be ported to Windows Phone 7. For some developers, that's bad news. "By dropping backward compatibility you have basically just killed Windows Mobile, and since your new platform will be very unfriendly to enterprise and is years behind developer and consumer adoption, you have basically killed Microsoft's mobility ambitions," one developer, surur, commented on a Microsoft blog post.
But others are ready to embrace that radical break with Windows Mobile. "If you honestly won't look into a new technology because it might not support something you wrote seven years ago, you're in the wrong field," commented Ian Muir, in the same thread.
Given the emphasis on Microsoft tools and technologies, one other issue is to what degree the Windows Phone 7 platform will be open to outside tools and technologies.