Developers Get Goody Basket Full of Mangos

Over the course of the past six months, the Windows Phone team has been working very hard to ensure that there is a great experience for all of our customers with the upcoming Mango release of the Windows Phone OS. That means educating consumers, empowering developers, and working closely with our hardware and carrier partners to bring it all together with great devices.

Just last week, the first reviews of Mango started landing in press and blogs and the early sentiment is very encouraging. People get that Mango is a big step that dramatically enhances the core experiences that we all rely on our phones for every day; messaging and communication, use of any of our more than 20,000 great apps and games, and great use of the Web. AllThingsD wrote that the OS “is a mix of elegance and whimsy that’s a treat to use.” Gizmodo went so far as to say that Mango feels “complete.” However, it was The Daily that offered some bigger picture perspective in noting that, “it took Android nearly two years before hitting critical mass and three years to begin carving out a significant chunk of the smartphone market.” We’ve got a great product in Windows Phone and we feel we’re right on track, in fact we’ve already seen reports showing that in only a few months we’ve surpassed the more established RIM marketplace in the number of real apps available to customers.

Since beginning this journey with the new Windows Phone developer platform, we have aspired to be transparent, easy to build for, and easy to partner with.

We know that one of the most impactful things we can do for developers is to help them get their hands on the actual product. For Mango, that starts today with an early access program for developers. We’re still working out some final kinks in the distribution and support infrastructure for delivering Mango to all of our registered developers around the world, but are inviting the most eager developers to come get Mango today, for their retail devices, as part of our early access program! We expect the full distribution infrastructure to be fully operational in the next couple of weeks. For now, consider yourself a beta tester for the distribution process. Registered developers will get invites to the Microsoft Connect site, which will give them access to Mango. This build of Mango should also be viewed as beta quality, so there are still consumer features missing, but you can now start building apps and testing them against retail devices. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Download the Windows Phone Developer Tools Beta 2 – You will need to update your developer tools to update your phone and to deploy your apps, so run…get them now.
  • Read the instructions before updating – These are very important steps which you need to follow to the letter. We’re committed to supporting our developer community with such an early access program, so if you have questions, start with the forums, which we are monitoring.

This is especially well timed for the tens of thousands of student developers who have registered through DreamSpark or related programs. Just as our Spring Cleaning program encouraged developers to finish up their projects over the past few months, delivering thousands of new apps, summer break is the perfect time for student developers to relax and have some fun with Mango. With the free Windows Phone Developer Tools Beta 2 and free access to Mango, now is the perfect time to see what you can do with Windows Phone. To make it even more interesting for students looking for a great summer project, we’ve set aside 50 Mango phones for those students who are building the next big thing on Windows Phone. Want one? Here’s what to do:

  1. Make sure you’re registered for DreamSpark
  2. Download and install Expression Studio Ultimate and the new Mango Windows Phone Developer Tools (available free as a member of DreamSpark)
  3. Get the free Sketchflow Template for Windows Phone and create a Sketchflow mock-up of your app
  4. Post the Sketchflow mock-up somewhere online and tweet out the link using the hash tag #WPAppItUp
  5. We will review all prototypes and will contact the developers who submit the best ones and send them a special Mango developer device

There’s lots to like in Beta2 of the developer tools, and some new goodies as well. You can find the release notes here, but I also wanted to talk about the new Advertising SDK June 2011 Update that was released for Windows Phone 7 earlier this week. The June update makes it even easier for developers to earn money and build ad-enabled mobile apps with streamlined Ad Control APIs and other new features.

Lastly, we got a lot of questions in email and on twitter as to why reviewers got Mango first. In short, it was to allow us to get you Mango today. Bringing a product to market requires a healthy balance between marketing features and empowering the ecosystem. Striking that balance is all about sequence. Microsoft believes in developers like no other company, but not even we want developer tear downs serving as the foundation for how consumers ultimately understand Mango. To get Mango to you today, we had to first set some context so that the market would have a good understanding of the product and not define us only by those features that developers uncovered. Think of it this way: if you could choose which path to go down, would you rather have a tightly selected group of influential people write your first reviews of your amazing app, or leave it to the customers with the fastest fingers?

So what now? First, go get the tools. Second, update your retail phones to Mango. Third, go rub it in your friends’ faces that you have Mango and they don’t. Fourth, start building your Mango apps using some of the cool new functionality like fast app resume, updated Live Tiles, Motion Sensor, Live Agents, sockets, background audio or raw camera access. There will be a tools update in the coming months which will have the go-live license you need to publish Mango apps to the Marketplace, but don’t wait. With the tools and the ability to test on Mango enabled phones, you should all be in really good shape when Mango is released later this year.

For the early access program, here are the countries which are explicitly supported – meaning that should your device become unusable as a result of updating, we will be able to process it for fixing once the full distribution infrastructure is fully operational in the next couple of weeks:

Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United States