Phones

Microsoft Windows Phone 7 Flies Under Radar at TechEd

The Online Apps Catalog

Windows Phone Marketplace is intended to bring in many more software developers than the older Windows Phone platform. It will be open for business "later this summer," says Todd Biggs, Marketplace's director of product management. At TechEd, Microsoft released a set of documents on various Marketplace policies and guidelines, covering application and content policies, the application certification process, and how Microsoft will handle refunds.

The new mobile OS runs only what are called managed code applications, which require the runtime environment of either the Microsoft Silverlight framework, for most applications, or Microsoft XNA Studio, for games. Both frameworks and their attendant toolsets have been widely adopted, and Microsoft is betting that developers with expertise in either will jump at the opportunity to develop for Windows Phone. Applications can also be built using Microsoft's full-featured integrated development environment, Visual Studio 2010, and the just-released Expression Blend 4, which is an application design toolset.

Windows Phone 7 includes a Marketplace "hub" – a dedicated area that's tightly integrated with the online site. Users flick through the handset's touchscreen to reach the hub, and can see the newest apps, a featured app, search based on various criteria, and pay for and download apps directly with their phone. No additional software is needed.

Applications submitted to Marketplace will go through a testing and certification process. According to Biggs, Microsoft will load the app on an actual Windows Phone handset and then run a series of technical tests to ensure the app is well-behaved, such as using memory effectively, not interfering with the phone's functions, and has no malicious code.

There will be a review of the application's content. "We check that there's not offensive content," says Biggs, based on criteria set out in the content guidelines.

Any problems, questions, or issues are flagged and Microsoft Marketplace support staff will contact the submitting developer to review, work through and correct the code. "We don't just auto-reject an app," Biggs says. "We tell the developer what in particular is the issue so they can address it. We got a lot of feedback that this is important to developers."

Biggs declined to say how much Microsoft has invested in this kind Marketplace support, or how large the support staff is.

As in the past, developers will pay a $99 annual registration fee, though bona fide students can now register free. Microsoft has dropped the fee for paid applications: developers can submit as many paid apps as they want at no charge. Developers can submit up to five free apps at no additional charge, with each annual registration, but pay $20 for each one thereafter.

(Student developers that register with Microsoft DreamSpark, which is a site designed to give students free access to Microsoft tools and other resources, can enroll for free at Marketplace, entitled to the same unlimited paid and five free apps as regular developers.)

Other new features in Marketplace:- the Trial API, which lets developers easily offer customers a trial run of their app, before buying it.- a "worldwide distribution" option, which lets you submit an app once and then have it distributed in any foreign market where Marketplace itself is offered.- a wider choice of business models: free apps, free with ads, one-time purchase, and "premium," which starts with a trial that can be converted into a purchase.

The revenue sharing formula, with developers keeping 70% of each sale, remains unchanged.

John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World.Twitter: http://twitter.com/johnwcoxnww Blog RSS feed.

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