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Apple created a development environment for iPhone after the fact, in response to demand. Does Microsoft have an edge here?
Microsoft has been second to none in my opinion in building development tools. The fact that I can use [Microsoft] Visual Studio to build these WP7 apps is great. And Microsoft's simulator for the phone [a PC application that mimics the look and feel of a physical WP7 device] has more functionality in it than Apple's iPhone simulator.
Apple's push notification service to send data in messages: this does not work in the iPhone simulator. I can't play video in Apple's simulator. Also there's no hardware acceleration in it, so I can't use OpenGL [a standard for high performance graphics] in it.
But I can test my games in the Microsoft simulator. All of this, plus other stuff from Microsoft, make the overall experience much smoother.
What else is a plus for WP7?
With an iPhone application, you can make great-looking app, in short amount of time, but that's something which takes quite a bit of skill. The entire process [including publishing and distribution] is incredibly frustrating: there are speed bumps and roadblocks and all kinds of things that will slow you down, especially in large development teams.
But from what I can tell [at this early stage], Microsoft's experience of getting your app into their pipeline is significantly easier. They had a MIX10 session on the pipeline for publishing a product. Assuming they deliver on that, there's a drastic number of steps that have been removed from what you see in today's iPhone life cycle.
How does WP7 "feel?"
When I first saw the videos [demonstrating the UI], I wasn't sure whether I liked it. But when you poke around with it and see how it all works together, what [actually] shocks people is the lack of UI. Microsoft has been big on wrapping information and apps with shiny things and bells and whistles. In WP7, they strip away all that and make the information itself as beautiful as possible. Their philosophy is that the app and the information is the design -- these are the UI.
The codename for the UI was "Metro." Their inspiration was "signs in a city." A sign gives you the information as quickly as possible, with as little crap as possible in between, so you get to where you want to go as fast as you can.
Follow John Cox on Twitter: http://twitter.com/johnwcoxnww
Read more about software in Network World's Software section.