August marks the six-month anniversary of the public unveiling of our next-generation mobile phone, Windows Phone 7. Six months is an interesting bit of time; it can fly by, or it can feel like it’s dragging on forever. The gating factor tends to be how much fun you are having. For us on the Windows Phone team, it feels like just yesterday that we first introduced Windows Phone 7 to the world. Now, just a blink of the eye and phones will be on shelves.
All of the work of the last six months is certainly paying off, as just about every conversation we have with developers focuses on their strategy for generating more business with Windows Phone 7. It’s amazing to see so many inspired developers looking to create experiences for Windows Phone 7. In fact, to date there have been north of 300,000 downloads of the Windows Phone Developer Tools.
These first six months have affirmed that a rich application platform based on the well understood Silverlight and XNA technologies, combined with great free tools based on Visual Studio 2010 and Expression Blend is the right approach for enabling developers and designers of all skill levels who are looking to capitalize on the opportunities presented by Windows Phone 7. Throughout the process, the developer community has continued to astound us with their creative ideas. Their use of the unique Windows Phone 7 features – like our design system, Live tiles, and location and notifications services – demonstrate that the experiences a developer can build on Windows Phone 7 match their imaginations.
While our developer community has been busy stretching the capabilities of the application platform and developer tools, we have been working very closely with some amazing application and game developers to ensure that Windows Phone 7 customers have the applications they expect, across a wide swath of the categories they value. Here’s a just small sample of the variety of companies with whom we have been working:
Adenclassifieds, Allociné (including sister brands: Screenrush, Filmstarts, Sensacine), APPA Mundi Ltd, Artificial Life, Inc., ebay, Inc., Esurance Insurance Services, Inc, Flixster, Intelligent Touch Solutions Ltd., Jobsite UK (Worldwide), Limited, Kelley Blue Book Co., Inc., Le Figaro group, My Interactive Limited, Open Table, Inc., Pageonce, Inc., Panoramic Software, Inc., photobucket inc., REALTOR.COM® Real Estate Search (Move, Inc.), Red Badger Consulting Limited, rising systems networks GmbH, Seesmic, Sequence Collective Ltd, TBS Field Mobility Solutions, The Associated Press, Touchnote, Trip Mate, Inc., Tx3 Solutions, vente-privée.com, Viadeo S.A
Of course, it’s not just the big names in development who are going to bring great titles to Windows Phone 7 customers. There are many multiples more of lesser known developers who are looking to be in the Windows Phone Marketplace. Large or small, all developers will have equal opportunity to capitalize on the first mover advantage of having their apps or games ready at launch. In order to do that, there are a few things developers will need to do:
Register at the marketplace today
Finish you application or game using the Beta
Download the final Windows Phone Developer Tools when they are released on September 16th
Recompile your app or game using the final tools
Have your XAP ready for ingestion into the marketplace in early October when it opens
The final tools will likely have some minor breaking changes from the Beta tools, so developers may have to fix some bugs that arise. The final tools will also include several highly requested Silverlight controls which will make it even easier for developers to deliver high quality Windows Phone 7 experiences. Also in the September 16th final release, the panorama, pivot and Bing maps controls will all be available to drop into applications.
The developer tools, controls and application platform are great, but we also recognize the need for smart training. Just last week we released a course called the Windows Phone 7 Jump Start, delivered by two of our MVPs, Andy Wigley and Rob Miles. It includes 12 hours of classroom training and supporting exercises. We have also recently updated the Windows Phone 7 Developer Training Kit. We will be releasing many more hours of training in the coming weeks and months. For the XNA developers, the XNA Creator Club announced today a new set of educational materials.
We’re also taking additional steps to make sure that the developer experience with Windows Phone Marketplace is even more friendly and intuitive. Ask any mobile developers about their biggest headaches and you are likely to hear about an opaque or non-existent app store ingestion process. We’ve shown how we are making the process of building apps and games easier for developers, but that is only part of the journey. The next step is getting apps and games in front of customers. The Windows Phone Marketplace continues our commitment to having a clear and open process for certifying apps and games. To reinforce that, today we have posted an updated set of Windows Phone Marketplace policies. Further, in the coming weeks we will be conducting a limited Beta test cycle of our app submission and certification process. We’re also working on significant changes to our developer portal that reflects feedback from the community. In those changes, you’ll see enhancements meant to simplify and streamline the path for developers to get the information they need.
So what does this all mean? We’ve demonstrated that you can build a phone that doesn’t just allow developers to build apps, but rather one that enhances apps with unique features like Live tiles and a design system not available anywhere else. We’ve shown that a phone isn’t there to just run apps, but rather to understand the full context of what customers are trying to do; integrating functions like maps and search and saving the state of apps so that customers can move between them without losing content or negatively impacting battery life. Lastly, we aren’t just building a marketplace to deliver apps and games, but rather testing and certifying every one for quality and performance – all the while maintaining a fully open and transparent process to support the developer and their Marketplace success. Our rich developer ecosystem is creating a variety of quality apps and games that take advantage of the phone’s unique features and design.
How will you spend the next couple of weeks? For the developers telling us how much fun they are having with our productive set of tools and APIs, launch day will be here before they know it. Developers now know when they will receive the final Windows Phone Developer Tools (September 16th!) and when they should have their XAPs ready for Marketplace ingestion. 300,000 tools downloads means quite a bit of imagination is going to be pouring into the apps and games that customers see on Windows Phone 7 this holiday season. The clock is ticking. Will you be ready?