Thursday, April 14, 2011

Windows Phone Tools Aimed at Richer Mobile Apps

Developer tools for the next version of Windows Phone were previewed at Microsoft's MIX11 conference. Microsoft promised more hardware capabilities and expanded opportunities with the Windows Phone update expected later this year. The new Windows Phone tools will allow multitasking, Live Tiles access, and hardware access.

Microsoft Relevant Products/Services is doing a lot of teasing these days -- teasing about the next iterations of some of its products, that is. Besides offering a sneak peak at Internet Explorer 10, Microsoft on Wednesday also offered a glimpse of the next version of the Windows Phone operating system at its MIX11 conference Relevant Products/Services in Las Vegas.

Microsoft will roll out a new version of Windows Phone 7 later this year. With it, Microsoft promised developers more hardware capabilities, better browsing and improved tooling, and expanded opportunities and Windows Phone Marketplace options. The goal is to create a richer application environment that expands mobile usage scenarios.

Joe Belfiore, vice president of Windows phone program management Relevant Products/Services, called the next release of Windows Phone an evolution of Microsoft's strategy to make sure developers are at the forefront of what's next. He explained, "We will soon deliver a new set of Windows Phone developer tools that will enable developers to create a new generation of apps that are even faster, more capable, and better integrated with Windows Phone."

Leveraging Live Tiles

Some of the improvements to Windows Phone developer tools include a performance profiler and sensor simulation. That upgrade will make way for developers to build more integrated applications.

For example, the new tools make possible application multitasking for background processing, audio and file transfers, and fast application switching. It also lets developers integrate apps with the platform more deeply so the apps can take better advantage of Live Tiles. Live Tiles are dynamically updated to show real-time content. This differs from traditional static icons that offer stepping stones to an application.

Finally, Windows Phone tools allow access Relevant Products/Services to the camera and motion-sensor library so developers can build apps that incorporate device Relevant Products/Services hardware and build augmented reality experiences. This could be especially significant for mobile gaming.

Microsoft also offered a glimpse of app concepts for the next version of Windows Phone, including new looks at Skype, Spotify, Layar, Qantas, Amazon Shopping, and Kik Messenger. The free developer tools will be available in May.

Will Microsoft Meet the Deadline?

So what does the next Windows Phone need to look like to draw new developers and handset makers? A lot like what Microsoft showed at MIX, according to Michael Gartenberg, an analyst at Gartner.

He said it's unlikely that Nokia will build devices based on the existing Windows Phone platform. The handset maker is more likely to roll out its first devices with the new Mango platform showcased at MIX on Wednesday. It's important for Microsoft to meet the development deadline, he said, so Nokia can ship a flagship device with the new release this calendar year.

"What Microsoft showed certainly covers a multitude of issues that both users and developers had in the first release," Gartenberg said. "The key for Microsoft is going to be getting this out the door and getting it onto existing and new devices. This next update is super-important for existing customer satisfaction and to help drive the platform forward for the holidays and into 2012."

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