Will Microsoft sustain Windows Phone momentum?

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It's an eye-opener for developers who struggled in the past with Windows Mobile development, where creating the UI could be "incredibly tedious," says Doug Boling, principal of Boling Consulting, Saratogo, Calif., and author of Programing Microsoft Windows CE.

"It's incredibly liberating for developers not to have to do this," he says. "With Silverlight, it's vastly easier to program for Windows Phone than it is to program for the iPhone."

2. Windows Phone 7 early stage immaturity.

The OS currently is what Microsoft calls a Community Developer Preview, not even beta code. Although developers are impressed with the quality of the code, there's some uncertainty due its relative immaturity.

"The biggest weakness from a developer standpoint is it doesn't seem like things have settled down yet," Hoffman says. "This is because it's not even a 1.0 product yet. So, as developers, we run the risk of having some areas that may change dramatically or may not even exist in the 1.0 version. Or that Microsoft is adding stuff and we don't get to play with it until 1.0 is released."

At the same time, Hoffman and others are impressed with the quality of code so far released. "I was impressed with how mature the first tools were," Wigley says. "The [Windows Phone] emulators are a great environment, and the overall development experience is positive."

3. A fragmented developer help system.

Boling is irritated by the new vogue of having help documents only on the Web, and by having these documents scattered across a diverse set of topics and sites: Silverlight, Windows Phone, Expression Blend and others. "It would be nice if they gathered up the help in one place," he says.

4. Some capabilities have gone missing in action.

Some developers are somewhat frustrated by not having access to some features they've had in the past, specifically multi-tasking and the underlying SQL Server Compact Edition database. For now, Microsoft is not allowing access to these.

"Enterprise customers have a specific requirement -- expose corporate data to their workers or customers in the field," Wigley says. Replicating data from servers to client device, for example, and then programming against the locally stored data was routine for Windows Mobile. "You can do this kind of thing in Windows Phone 7, but it's harder," Wigley says.

"I'm frustrated by the lack of access to PIM data -- contacts, calendar and mail, which can be so useful for building a truly integrated application," Boling says. "I hope applications will be able to access this data in future releases. We need more local access capabilities."

5. Microsoft's not-yet-announced online Windows Phone application marketplace.

Apple's wildly successful App Store shows what's possible and what's necessary for an online marketplace. The iPhone users now expect to be able to find, buy, download and easily install mobile applications, and for the entire process to be simple and seamless.

"What Microsoft has to do is make their marketplace as easy to use, or easier, than Apple's for both consumers and developers," Hoffman says. "I think that's crucial. And I think Microsoft knows how crucial it is."

All three developers caution that desktop experience with Silverlight or XNA won't translate into superior mobile applications without some careful thinking. "It's true that the PC and device development environments are quite similar across the two platforms, but the platforms themselves are not," Boling says. "One thing you don't have to worry about on a PC, for example, is performance. And the UI for an app when you're walking around is fundamentally different from when you're sitting on your butt."

"Windows Phone is powerful," Wigley says. "But it runs on a battery. Compared to a PC, it's effectively a slow computer. And the user interaction, with a smaller screen and touch-driven, is something you want to concentrate on."

Follow John Cox on Twitter: http://twitter.com/johnwcoxnww

Read more about software in Network World's Software section.

This story, "Will Microsoft sustain Windows Phone momentum?" was originally published by Network World.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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