Microsoft TechEd: Expect Windows Phone News, Azure Details

Mobile Wish List

Meanwhile, back on the mobile front, experienced Windows application developers have had high praise for the radically redesigned user interface in Windows Phone 7, which was first unveiled in February. But without actual handsets, they've had to rely on the PC-based Windows Phone emulator to experiment with the look and feel of their mobile applications.

In addition to real Windows Phone 7 handsets and beta versions of the operating system, developers are hoping TechEd yields more details about the online Windows Phone 7 Marketplace and the process of submitting and approving applications. They'd also like more information about enterprise-specific features, functions and APIs, and to learn specific target dates for new HTC and LG handsets running Windows Phone 7.

The more of these expectations that Microsoft can meet, the more it can prove that it has a mobile strategy that's being executed effectively. A growing number of experienced Windows developers are committing to the Windows Phone platform, provided Microsoft delivers on its initial promises.

So far, Kevin Hoffman has been impressed with the ease of developing sophisticated mobile apps.

"As I've been spending more time writing iPhone apps for clients and Windows Phone apps for my own education, the gap between how much easier it is to get something done on Windows Phone vs iPhone is widening," says Hoffman, who is chief systems architect with Oak Leaf Waste Management in East Hartford, Conn., and a Windows and iPhone development blogger and author.

Building a stock iPhone app is very easy, Hoffman says. But to customize it is a laborious process. Silverlight makes complex customization in Windows Phone 7 a snap.

It's an eye-opener for developers who struggled in the past with Windows Mobile development, where creating the user interface could be "incredibly tedious," says Doug Boling, principal of Boling Consulting, Saratogo, Calif. "It's incredibly liberating for developers not to have to do this," he says. "With Silverlight, it's vastly easier to program for Windows Phone than it is to program for the iPhone."

Although developers are impressed with the quality of the code, there's some uncertainty due to its relative immaturity. The OS currently is what Microsoft calls a Community Developer Preview, not even beta code.

"The biggest weakness from a developer standpoint is it doesn't seem like things have settled down yet," Hoffman says. "This is because it's not even a 1.0 product yet. So, as developers, we run the risk of having some areas that may change dramatically or may not even exist in the 1.0 version. Or that Microsoft is adding stuff and we don't get to play with it until 1.0 is released."

Expectations are also high for Microsoft's not-yet-announced online Windows Phone application marketplace.

Apple's wildly successful App Store shows what's possible and what's necessary for an online marketplace. The iPhone users now expect to be able to find, buy, download and easily install mobile applications, and for the entire process to be simple and seamless.

"What Microsoft has to do is make their marketplace as easy to use, or easier, than Apple's for both consumers and developers," Hoffman says. "I think that's crucial. And I think Microsoft knows how crucial it is."

Read more about wireless & mobile in Network World's Wireless & Mobile section.

For comprehensive coverage of the Android ecosystem, visit Greenbot.com.

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