Microsoft held their developer-focused MIX10 conference this week and revealed more details about the new platform. On Monday, Microsoft made their beta tools available for developers looking to build apps for Windows Phone 7 Series. Microsoft knows that platforms are all about third-party developers and wants to get them started early for the launch later this year.
Microsoft also took wraps off of Windows Phone Marketplace, their application distribution service. Marketplace has support for try-before-you-buy trial periods — developers choose what kind of trial period they want to offer. I’ve been hoping for an implementation of trial periods in the App Store for quite some time. Although, the ability to do in-app purchases within free applications has helped ease a little bit of the need for trial periods.
The Windows Phone Marketplace will have the familiar 70-30 split between developers and Microsoft. The Marketplace will have technical and content guidelines and each application will have to be approved by Microsoft to be listed. It will also be the only official way for most customers to get applications on their device. Enterprise customers will be able to deploy their own apps to employees without having to go through the Marketplace.
Just like with Apple’s App Store, users can re-download applications to their device at no cost. The purchases are tied to your Live account, not the device. Microsoft has also taken a page out of Apple’s book when it comes to desktop clients. Users will be able to browse and buy apps through the Zune desktop client and presumably manage which applications get installed on their device when they sync it.
Microsoft also demoed their version of push notification for the platform, named Microsoft Notification Service. The notifications come in through a bar across the top of the display, tapping the notification opens the app. Just like the iPhone’s notifications, they are available whether the application is running or not. Microsoft hasn’t come out and said that they won’t allow background tasks but since they’ve been following Apple’s model to a T, I have a feeling background apps won’t be coming any time soon.
Unfortunately, just like Apple’s launch of the iPhone, there won’t be copy and paste at launch, I’m bet they’re at least testing it but they haven’t shown much interest in actually releasing it. Engadget’s Nilay Patel talked with Microsoft’s Todd Brix about copy and paste. Brix said that users don’t use copy and paste very often. Instead of implementing copy and paste Microsoft decided to use a system-wide data detection service that recognizes phone numbers, email addresses, URLs, etc. Tapping on them opens the corresponding application. Apple had the luxury of being able to wait 2 years before releasing copy and paste because they were ahead of the game. But, Microsoft is going to be 3 years behind Apple when handsets start hitting the market later this year. If Microsoft wants to be taken seriously, they better be working on copy and paste.
Microsoft demoed several applications on stage at MIX10, including the Associated Press, Foursquare, Shazam, Major League Soccer, Seesmic, among others. Engadget’s Nilay Patel wrote a great piece detailing many of these applications, including some video demos.
A Netflix streaming application was also demoed on stage. They went out of their way to call it a prototype but Netflix has clearly laid the groundwork for them to release a full fledged application when they decide to do so.
Microsoft also demoed the ability for applications to plug into native components of the software. For example, a photo editing application could identify itself as such and would allow you to launch it from within the photo viewer. In essence, if you want to deal with photos no matter how, the photo viewer will give you all of your options.
Microsoft is doing everything right with the launch of this platform, I can honestly say that it’s impressive. I won’t be switching anytime soon, but I’m glad to see another viable platform coming to market.
I’d like to give a tip of the hat to Engadget for their fantastic coverage of the conference. They were the source for nearly everything written in this piece. Rarely does any one weblog cover such an event so thoroughly.