Windows Phone Gets Serious

[This is the UK MSDN Flash feature article for 14th July 2010, in case the “voice” seems out of place]

If you’re a regular reader of the Flash, you’ll no doubt be aware of Windows Phone 7 (WP7), a different kind of phone with a developer experience second-to-none. The Windows Phone platform allows you to build applications in Silverlight (or the XNA framework if that better suits your needs) using familiar tools. You can rely on access to an impressive set of device capabilities (including 4 point multi-touch, GPS, accelerometer, DirectX9 capable GPU), integrate easily with cloud services and publish applications to a single Marketplace to ensure they’re easily discoverable.

Until now, WP7 may have sounded a little “on the horizon”. Not anymore. If you’ve hesitated, worried the world would change around you as the platform matured, let me assure you; Windows Phone has grown up. APIs and tools are close to baked. You can write apps today safe in the knowledge that little will change between now and launch. Anything you create should be just about ready for Marketplace at launch. The time has come to sit up and pay attention to Windows Phone 7.

On Monday, at the Worldwide Partner Conference, Microsoft announced that Windows Phone 7 had reached the Technical Preview milestone. We’ve released the Windows Phone Developer Tools (WPDT) Beta and announced the imminent availability of a limited number of preview developer devices.

The WPDT Beta includes all the components required for building and debugging Windows Phone applications. Whether you want to use Silverlight or XNA, WPDT enables familiar tools such as Visual Studio to create, deploy and debug. It also includes a device emulator; very handy given real devices are currently in short supply. It even has a copy of Visual Studio 2010 Express and Microsoft Expression Blend for Windows Phone so you can get started for free!

If you’re already building WP7 apps, you’ll know the last public release of WPDT was in April. A lot has changed since then. The good news? Don’t expect much more change from here on in. We’re in the final phase. We’re close to done. The flip-side; there are breaking-changes between that April Refresh and the Beta. Some compensation; those breaking changes are well documented on MSDN.

On the subject of MSDN, we’ve been busy updating the MSDN documentation with more code samples, more how-to articles and, a more user-friendly “Getting Started” section. There’s additional info on application lifecycle, launchers and choosers, isolated storage, photos, media, themes etc

On a broader note, we followed Monday’s announcements with details of initial language support (English, French, German, Italian, Spanish), Marketplace availability in 17 countries and new web services such as “Windows Phone Live” and “Find my Phone”. Windows Phone Live is a central place to connect your phone and the web – view published photos, Live calendar and contacts and share information with 25GB of SkyDrive storage. Find my Phone allows you to find and manage a missing phone (ring / lock / erase) from your PC.

So if you’ve been standing on the sidelines, watching things develop, now is the time to get serious about developing for Windows Phone 7 and seize the opportunity to be one of the first-to-market. To get a jump-start, watch the keynote from the Worldwide Partner Conference (skip to 52:30), take a look at the Getting Started documentation on MSDN and download the Windows Phone Developer Tools Beta. And make sure you sign up for the official Jump Start training on 20th/22nd July.