Microsoft lines up developers for Windows Phone 7

The Windows Phone Developer Tools have been downloaded more than 300,000 times, Microsoft said, as the company prepares to offer a new application store and mobile operating system.

Microsoft is finalizing the timeline for the launch of its new phone platform, Windows Phone 7. It plans to release the final version of the Windows Phone Developer Tools on Sept. 16, wrote Brandon Watson, who heads the developer experience for Windows Phone 7, in a blog post on Monday.

In the meantime, developers should finish their applications using the beta version of the tools, Watson said. They will have time after the final release of the tools to update their applications before products can be uploaded to the store in early October.

The company has said that it expects the first phones to become available in October.

With 300,000 downloads of the developer tools, Microsoft could have a relatively strong application store at launch. When Microsoft launched its first app marketplace with Windows Mobile 6.5, its current operating system, it had a couple hundred applications in the store. Apple continues to hold a wide lead in terms of number of applications, with more than 225,000 in the iPhone App Store. Research In Motion's App World has around 9,500 apps.

Microsoft will also be testing the process for uploading applications to the store. "Ask any mobile developers about their biggest headaches and you are likely to hear about an opaque or nonexistent app store ingestion process," Watson wrote. Microsoft plans to conduct a limited test of its app submission certification process "in the coming weeks," he said.

Microsoft has been working with a variety of companies "to ensure that Windows Phone 7 customers have the applications they expect," he said. Those companies include eBay, LeFigaro, Open Table, Photobucket, Realtor.com, Seesmic and the Associated Press.

Last week, Microsoft announced that about 60 game titles from studios including Gameloft, Namco Bandai, PopCap and THQ would be available for the phones, which will be integrated with Xbox Live.

Gartner recently reported that Windows Mobile had 5% market share, slipping from 9.3% last year. The platform has stagnated as new entrants like Apple and Google impress mobile users with slick user interfaces and strong application stores.

Nancy Gohring covers mobile phones and cloud computing for The IDG News Service. Follow Nancy on Twitter at @idgnancy. Nancy's e-mail address is Nancy_Gohring@idg.com

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