Developers tepid on Windows Phone 7 mobile app beta kit

Making a critical move in mobile application development, Microsoft on Monday shipped a beta version of its Windows Phone 7 Developer Tools, but early reaction from some developers was tepid.

The beta release is “a big milestone for everyone involved in Windows Phone 7 — inside and outside of Microsoft — and we hope you share in our excitement,” the Windows Phone Developer Blog said. “With the beta release of the tools, developers can build apps with a ‘ship it’ mentality.” Windows Phone 7 was introduced in February, with the first phones using it due by this holiday season. Beta tools are available at the Windows Phone developer site.

But a couple of developers questioned about Windows Phone 7 have been unimpressed so far.

“Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the beta release, however after attending [the Mix 10 conference in March ] and hearing the Windows Phone 7 messaging to developers, there simply wasn’t anything said, nor said since, to convince me to get back on the bandwagon after my many wasted years as a Windows Mobile ISV and MVP,” said one developer who asked not to be named in this article.

Another stressed a wait-and-see approach.

“Like many people (my clients), I am ignoring WP7 for now. Let’s see if gets any uptake when it ships,” said freelance mobile developer Simon Judge.

An analyst cited Microsoft as a latecomer to the smartphone space.

“Well, Microsoft is working as fast as it can to get this phone program rolling but it almost can’t work fast enough, and the phones can’t hit the market fast enough because [Microsoft] is already a couple of generations of smartphones behind,” said analyst Al Hilwa, of IDC. “They need to pull all the stops to get developers excited because in a few months at launch they need to amass a critical mass of applications to be seen as a major player.”

“One challenge though is that much of the developer excitement in the Apple world has shifted to the iPad, creating a problem for Microsoft where their smartphone apps have no sister tablet to run on,” Hilwa.

Included in the beta kit is Visual Studio 2010 Express for Windows Phone, which is a free edition of Visual Studio 2010, said Scott Guthrie, corporate vice president of the Microsoft Developer Division, in a blog post. Other parts of the beta include Microsoft Expression Blend for Windows Phone, which is a free version of the Expression Blend design tool for Windows Phone 7 development; Silverlight rich Internet technology for Windows 7; and XNA Game Studio for Windows Phone 7, Microsoft bloggers said.

A phone emulator is included in the kit for developing and testing Windows Phone 7 applications on a laptop or desktop machine without the need for a phone. “It is hardware-accelerated, supports multi-touch events on multi-touch capable monitors, and provides a really easy way to debug and try out your phone applications,” Guthrie said.

Also this month, Microsoft is shipping pre-release phones to developers.

“Starting next Monday (July 19th), we start shipping the devices more broadly. Sadly, we will not be able to meet all of that demand. We are planning to set up deploy and test labs in major cities to make it a little easier for everyone who wants to have access to a preview phone to have it,” Microsoft said.

The Windows Phone 7 API is getting close to being done, according to the Windows Phone Developer blog.

Microsoft in March shipped a Community Technology Preview of the tools.

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