Microsoft is slowly (slooooowly) making its way back into the mobile phone arena with the impending Windows Phone 7 initiative. It’s seriously like the guy who waits until 10:59:59 to check out of a hotel. Apple, Google, and even Palm are halfway to Albuquerque and Microsoft hasn’t even showered yet.
But Microsoft’s got a relatively fast car as far as application development goes, so it may be able to close the gap a little bit with the new SDK it released today at the MIX10 conference in Las Vegas.
Realizing that a phone’s only as good as its applications nowadays, Microsoft is trying to woo developers into whipping up software for Windows Phone 7 “by combining Silverlight features for rich application development and the XNA Framework for games.” However, the company’s charging $99 per year for inclusion in the program, $99 per application submitted (even if it’s a free app), and $99 to resubmit apps that don’t get accepted the first time around. That’s going to leave a bad taste in plenty of people’s mouths.
Devs will be able to leverage a phone’s accelerometer, location-based services, push notifications, hardware-accelerated video and digital rights management, multitouch, and camera/microphone support. So nothing really groundbreaking compared to competing platforms but it’s a good start.
The software development kit will include trial versions of Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 Express for Windows Phone, Windows Phone 7 Series add-in for Visual Studio 2010, XNA Game Studio 4.0, a Windows Phone 7 Series emulator, and Expression Blend for Windows Phone Community Technology Preview.
Microsoft is thinking beyond just the mobile phone for this application platform, promising that it’s “designed to support the three screens and the cloud world that consumers live in.” Fancy talk for storing the apps in the cloud and making them accessible on your computer, your mobile devices (phone and Zune) and on Xbox Live.
Applications will be saved to users’ Live.com accounts and, therefore, can be re-downloaded in the case of data loss. Apps will only be available through Windows Marketplace, which in the long run is probably a good idea since it’ll keep everything in one place and make it easy to find.
Here’s where it gets a bit weird, though. Aside from the $99 per year fee that developers will have to pay just to participate in the program, each application that’s submitted for inclusion to Windows Marketplace will cost the developer $99 as well.
That applies to both for-pay and free applications, so the incentive for developers to provide free apps is going to be just about non-existent. Microsoft’s angle is likely to provide high-quality applications, but don’t expect to have a super broad selection from smaller individual developers if they’re going to have to pony up $99 every time they want to submit something. And don’t expect a whole lot of free apps from anyone unless those apps are heavily supported by ads.
Furthermore, applications can only be submitted to one category at a time and developers of rejected apps don’t get the $99 submission fee refunded. Developers have the option of fixing whatever’s wrong with rejected apps and resubmitting them, but they’ll have to pay another $99 submission fee.
So if you’re a developer and you’re reading this, does this provide you with much incentive to create apps for this platform? Probably not, unless you have deep pockets. We’ll likely end up seeing polished apps from big development houses, but don’t expect to see too many apps from smaller developers like you’d have access to on the iPhone or Android platforms.
Here are a couple quick demo videos from Gizmodo.