The Pundits

Today I got the latest edition of Redmond Magazine and as I like to do these days I scoured it for mention of Windows Phone 7, and scored!  Yes, Mary Jo Foley had something to say in her column on the last page of the mag.  “Interesting title,” I thought.

Windows Phone 7: A Good Bet?

A good bet — with a question mark?  Oh, come on.  I read it through and found myself a little taken aback.  Ms Foley seemed to be looking at things from a decidedly odd place.  She wrote of the risks Microsoft was taking, in bringing WP7 forth at this time in their history, and admitted that they “had little choice” because “Windows Mobile has steadily lost significant market share to the point where it’s no longer a major player in the overall market for smartphones.”  Microsoft’s market share has drastically contracted, and they’re taking risks in doing something radical about it? It seems to me that the greatest risk would have been to do precisely what they have been doing for years with Windows Mobile 5 and 6.

I don’t know when she wrote her column, but her talk of Microsoft “trickling information about Windows Phone 7” covers what, exactly.  Microsoft has been doing exactly what poor Palm did not do with WebOS last year, and that is provide massive amounts of information on WP7 development, releasing all of it just as soon as they announced the platform.  Palm was very parsimonious on who got to look at and use their development tools, and as a result there were only 30 or so applications ready when the Palm Pre launched.  That has got to be one of the top reasons why Palm tanked.  Microsoft isn’t making that mistake.

I didn’t want to make this entry “All about Mary” Jo, but I just could not leave her alone on this.

Among other things, she states that making the platform more consumer than business-oriented is a risk.  Hmmm.  Last I checked, there were a lot more consumers than business people.  And even business people like consumer-oriented apps — it’s not as if there are no business people traipsing around with iPhones.  She raises the old complaint about lack of cut-and-paste, something which doesn’t seems to have impeded the adoption of the iPhone (and it’s a phone, fer cryin’ out loud, one might as well complain about the lack of a DVD player).  And is it really a risk to require all app downloads to go through a central marketplace?  Apple seems to have proven that risk groundless, too.

The risk that really makes me wonder is the fifth one on her list.

“Selecting Silverlight and XNA as the development environments for Windows Phone 7, meaning programmers will have to create applications using managed code and using only the C# programming language.”

Speaking as a developer, I have to say that on this she really completely misses the boat.  She must have paid some attention in years past to the old debate over VB vs C#, but imagining that managed code and “only” C# as a handicap evidences a complete lack of insight into present development.  I suppose there are some dyed in the wool VB programmers who are dismayed at WP7 for its C# exclusivity, but I’d be surprised if that exclusivity lasted very long.  And most VB developers whom I am aware of can work in C# and vice-versa (even if they’re not quite as happy in it).  And what kind of risk can it been to incorporate the already-proven Metro UI, and Silverlight and XNA, into WP7? 

I don’t see that there’s much of a gamble here at all, myself.

Another pundit, Lawrence Latiff of The Inquirer, wrote a bit about Skype dropping support from WP7, and in a curiously similar echo of Ms. Foley, wrote about how developers were avoiding Windows Phone 7:

When Skype makes its mind up, we’ll be the first to let you know. But in the meantime, all this isn’t making Microsoft’s upcoming Windows Phone 7 OS look any more enticing, especially when compared to its rivals.

Developers are flocking to both Apple’s Iphone OS and Google’s Android operating system, whereas it seems that others won’t touch the Vole’s Windows Phone 7 with a bargepole.

 Well.  Maybe I don’t understand, but it seems to me that he’s saying that developers are staying away from WP7.  I don’t know where he gets this idea.  Both the iPhone and Android app markets contains thousands and thousands of apps, and are already so full of duplicated functionality that virtually no-one can present with an app that doesn’t already have several competitors already.  Windows Phone 7, on the other hand, is new.  The Windows Phone/Mobile app store has no WP7 apps, because there’s no devices to port them to, and as a result there is a wide open field of opportunity here.  On top of that, there is a large contingent of .NET developers who are going to find it far easier to jump to WP7 than they would find it to jump to iPhone or even Android.  The development tools Microsoft has provided are in fact far better and easier to use than anything Apple or Google has provided.  The most recent Thirsty Developer podcast discussed a recent WP7 training session in which two iPhone developers, amazed at how easy the Microsoft tools were to use, managed to recreate their iPhone app, which had taken them a solid month to build, in a mere 5 hours for Windows Phone 7.  The podcast hosts themselves were practically bubbling over with enthusiasm for the new platform, which echoes the reaction of a lot of developers I am familiar with. 

Far from running away from it, I am afraid (for the sake of my ambitions with respect to building a popular WP7 app) that there will be altogether too many developers running towards it.

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One Response to The Pundits

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