After only six months the final Windows Phone 7 tools are almost ready and the whole project looks set to roll. Can Microsoft pull off the biggest turn around in its history and go from a non-starter to an eventual winner?
It all seems to depend on the developers it has attempted to attract.
Although it was only six months ago that Windows Phone 7 was introduced to the developer world Microsoft has announced that the final version of the developer tools will be released on September 16th. The breakneck pace is emphasised by the instructions supplied in the official Windows Phone 7 blog:
Finish you application or game using the Beta tools
Download the final Windows Phone Developer Tools when they are released on September 16th
Recompile your app or game using the final tools
Have your XAP ready for ingestion into the marketplace in early October when it opens
You almost get breathless just reading it and Microsoft clearly wants you to hit the ground running. After wasting so much time in the mobile market it finally seems to have a direction and a pace. The blog also contains some obvious warnings and some advice on new controls:
"The final tools will likely have some minor breaking changes from the Beta tools, so developers may have to fix some bugs that arise.
The final tools will also include several highly requested Silverlight controls which will make it even easier for developers to deliver high quality Windows Phone 7 experiences. Also in the September 16th final release, the panorama, pivot and Bing maps controls will all be available to drop into applications."
I'm not entirely sure what is supposed to fill the hole in the app until the Bing maps control finally appears but at least you can rough out that part in a full Silverlight app.
XNA developers haven't been ignored either. A new set of "getting started" tutorials are now available in the XNA Creator Club.
About the only thing Microsoft could do better is to stop presenting XNA as if it was a development system solely targeting teenagers - XNA Creator Club sounds like an after school event and the website is similarly juvenile. This approach to Windows Phone 7 needs a rebranding to enable serious developers to take it seriously.
Microsoft also claims to be working hard to make its app store easy to use and transparent - it really does want your apps. An updated set of Windows Phone Marketplace policies. has also been issued and a beta of the entire submission process is promised soon.
It is claimed that over 300,000 developer tools have been downloaded and while this doesn't equate to 300,000 developers actually working on projects - and it certainly doesn't mean 300,000 apps at the launch - it's not bad for a phone that hasn't been launched yet.
Despite the lack of hardware Microsoft has been showing demos of games on soon to be released production models and the web is flooded with pictures of sightings.
At the end of the day you have to conclude that, despite being so late into the market, Windows Phone 7 really does have a chance. With iPhone in hardware trouble, Android in patent difficulties, Nokia changing to Meego and Blackberry trying to catch up with touch the market looks more open than it did six months ago when the Windows Phone 7 project started.
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