Developers who are under siege to deliver new applications for Android based phones are set to shun the new Windows Phone 7 OS which will go on sales on Tuesday with only 2,000 applications Vs over 240,000 that are available for the iPhone and over 80,000 for the Google Android platform.
The lack of interest is a body blow for Microsoft after Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer recently said that software developers make or break a mobile phone platform.
The UK Financial Times reports that beyond the most dedicated Microsoft circles, there is little sign of pent-up demand for Windows Phone 7 despite Microsoft offering developers cash incentives to develop for their platform.
In an attempt to bolster their application offering, Microsoft was at the weekend caught out lying, when they said that one of the most popular applications on the Android and iPhone platforms would be available on their new Windows Phone 7 platform.
Rovio Mobile, developer of the wildly popular Angry Birds game, said that it’s presently ‘not committed’ to bring the game to Windows Phone, and that claims currently being made by Microsoft on a Company web site are false.
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In a Twitter exchange executives from the Company said that their logo is being used in Microsoft marketing completely without their permission.
They said “We have nothing to do with the platform”.
In a recent press release Mark Mason, chief executive of mobile application developer Mubaloo, said “Apple iOS and Google’s Android are currently the only two platforms that clients ask Mubaloo to design applications for, apart from the occasional BlackBerry app.”
At a recent developer event in the UK less than 100 developers turned up to the Microsoft funded event.
Andy Wigley, from Microsoft mobile specialists APPA Mundi, said that Windows Mobile 6.5 remains Microsoft’s business smartphone platform. Windows Phone 7 is aimed at consumers.
Information syndicated to developers reveal that third party applications must be built in one of two .NET platforms, Silverlight or XNA which means additional development costs for a lot of small developers who are currently developing for other platforms.
Silverlight for Windows Phone is a superset of Silverlight 3.0 and is for general apps, while XNA wraps DirectX for hardware-accelerated games.
The Financial Times claims that the tools are Visual Studio 2010, including a free Express version, supplemented for Silverlight by the Expression Blend design tool, are available in a free edition. However developers have to buy a subscription for the Windows Phone marketplace if they wish to deploy applications, which have to be approved by Microsoft for conformance to published guidelines.
Third party apps cannot run in the background, and are killed, or “tombstoned”, whenever the user switches to a different task. Well-behaved applications must give the illusion of continuous running, which means saving state on exit and restoring it when reactivated. Even this rule has an exception. Microsoft states that apps launched from the Start menu must open as if newly started, so developers have to deal with different kinds of reactivation.
An app may be killed even when the app itself launches another task, such as selecting a contact or opening the web browser. The reason, we were told, is to maintain performance. It is intriguing that Microsoft has u-turned on this. A common complaint about early Windows CE devices was that apps lived too long; now they are killed constantly.
There are other limitations in the first release of Windows Phone 7. Curiously, Microsoft has not included the SQL Server Compact Edition database, which means developers have to roll their own database management or use a third-party native Silverlight solution such as Perst. Another frustration is that XNA and Silverlight cannot be combined in a single application.
One benefit is that Adobe has released a special pass to develop Flash for Windows Phone 7 in native code.
The Spotify music service has been announced for Windows Phone 7 however it will not be available in Australia ,but it is hard to believe that the music will stop whenever the user switches task. One attendee told me that the Windows Phone 7 native code framework is called Iris, is based on what was used for the Zune music player, and is used by Microsoft as well as by Spotify. He added that major games developers will also be allowed to use native code.