As expected Microsoft launched Windows Phone 7 yesterday, 11 October 2010, and lots of other news channels are covering the event in details so let's concentrate on what is important to programmers.
WP7 represents a big opportunity this much is obvious - but for it all to work out well it has to be a success. The nine models of phone on show at the launch all look convincing, but none of them is a killer style. The phone presents a different look to the ever-popular iPhone and Android. The real questions are, "does it look good enough?" and "will users understand what the difference is without having to have it explained to them?" The key idea is the configurable "tiles" that are connected to live updates from services such as email and social networking sites, and this might not be obvious from a first look.
Once you dig below the surface what you find is integration with other Microsoft apps - Zune, Xbox, Office and Exchange. All great as long as you use these services. In the Microsoft publicity push games and gaming seems to be top of the pile - this might be a mistake. Instead, emphasising the integration with existing systems might allow potential users to justify their choice of new phone - after all users have a way of finding their way to games without too much help.
This said the number of games actually on show wasn't over whelming and that Angry Birds, a number one best seller on the iPhone, was missing is also a telling sign. Microsoft accidentally posted the Angry Birds icon on its web site, which suggested that the game would be available. The originating company responded with the message that this was a mistake and they weren't committed to creating a WP7 version of the game. Like many other medium-size game companies they are probably waiting to see if the platform will be a success before devoting resources to porting the code.
Of course porting existing code from the iPhone or Android isn't going to be easy as the Silverlight/XNA environment provided by WP7 is markedly different in sophistication and approach. The cost of re-educating Java and Objective C programmers to the complex and multi-layered world of .NET is not insignificant. On the other hand there are many existing Silverlight programmers who have perhaps never considered the mobile phone to be an environment they wanted to tackle who are now able to do just that.
In other words by not jumping in with both feet and taking on what to them is an alien environment, the existing games developers are leaving the field open to the better-equipped but less mobile-oriented existing Silverlight developers.
So you could make your, or your company's fortune by filling the gap left by the non-appearance of "Angry Birds".
But, to return to the beginning, it all depends on WP7 being a success with the end users.
Windows Phone 7 to launch on October 11
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