Microsoft launches Windows Phone 7 developer tools

In a move the company hopes will put them back on the map with mobile app developers, Microsoft Corp. unveiled on Monday a set of development tools for its upcoming Windows Phone 7 Series OS.


Speaking in front of the developer community at its MIX10 conference in Las Vegas, the company hyped its Silverlight media streaming app and its XNA Framework game development tool. Both technologies, it said, would be crucial components  allowing developers to build mobile games and productivity apps.


Scott Guthrie, corporate vice-president of the .NET developer platform, opened up his keynote speech by launching the company’s Silverlight 4 “release candidate,” adding that the final version would be available next month.


On stage, Guthrie demoed a new built-in emulator, which will allow mobile developers to run a virtual Windows Phone 7 device directly on their PC while they make code changes. He added that Silverlight developers can use the technology to create standard or custom Windows Phone user interfaces and test their work in real-time.


“This isn’t Silverlight lite. This isn’t Silverlight different. This is Silverlight,” Guthrie said. “You can use what you already know to build.”


Guthrie said Silverlight adoption has grown at such a rapid pace that about 60 per cent of all global “Internet devices” are running the technology.


In addition to all the Silverlight talk, Microsoft also announced the free availability of Expression Blend 4 for Windows Phone, a preview version of Visual Studio 2010 Express for Windows Phone, and XNA Game Studio 4.0 for Windows Phone. The three tools are part of the company’s mobile development platform and work together with Silverlight.


Rounding out its set of announcements for MIX10 day one, Microsoft said its Windows Phone 7 app marketplace would allow users to try mobile apps before buying them.


Ryan Henry, engineering technical lead with Ottawa-based Magmic Games Inc., followed the MIX10 Web cast, and was excited by Microsoft’s commitment to supporting development tools such as Expression Blend, Visual Studio, and XNA Game Studio. And while the company has not yet used Silverlight to create games, he was particularly impressed with the speed of the technology and the integration of the built-in Windows Phone emulator.


“What Microsoft has done with Silverlight, Expression, and with XNA and Visual Studio integration is going to make development very easy,” Henry said.


He added that Microsoft’s new mobile OS and its strategy to reach developers has been a definite improvement over its previous efforts.


“Windows Mobile has been around for a long time, so what Microsoft did by going back to the drawing board and recreating tools from scratch has been the right move.”


Aside from the developer-focused announcements, the company also decided to give the MIX10 audience another look at the Windows Phone OS itself.


Joe Belfiore, corporate vice-president of Windows Phone program management, showed off a Silverlight-powered Associated Press news reader app, which took advantage of the Windows Phone 7’s panoramic interface. Users can move the screen to the left or right to view additional content, similar to the functionality found on Apple Inc.’s popular smart phone device.


Belfiore also unveiled a new “I’ll be late” button, which allows business users to inform a meeting organizer and its participants that they will be late for their appointment.

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