will windows phone 7 cut it?

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A few weeks ago I was in the lion’s den at Schiphol watching a presentation of the new to come Microsoft Windows Phone 7. It was supposed to be Windows Phone development thing, but it turned out to be more of a marketing rant than a geeky app development preview. Bummer.

But hey, since we where there, we might as well get a glance of that sexy (or so they want us to believe) new phone the MS guys came up with right? Well, apparently the phone’s hardware is going to be almost completely fixed. No matter what brand you’re getting the GPU, CPU, amount of RAM, OLED display (including resolution) and Windows buttons (like the Android buttons) are fixed. If it doesn’t that the specs set my MS, it’s not going to be a WinPhone. Manufactures do get to play with the design, a potential hardware keyboard and the on board camera which has to be at least 5 mega pixels. Apparently that’s what the manufacturers want. When it comes to competing it’ll be all about making a pretty phone then I guess.

That the hardware is fixed also makes it easier to to maintain the OS and the device drivers. Both of these will be in the hands of the Redmond lads which is interesting. Microsoft will be the one to blame when the phone doesn’t work as expected and not Motorola, HTC, Samsung or whoever built the damn thing. This could be a good thing for quality and could avoid issues like on Android phones where one brand of phone gets it’s OS updates a lot faster than the other.

When it comes to the OS features it’s what you expect and know of the competing phones. It has a native IE, searches using Bing and integrates as expected with a bunch of online Microsoft services like Live/Hotmail, XBox Live (if available in your country) and the Zune for music (if available in your country). This sort of makes me think about iTunes lock-in on the iPhone. It was to be expected MS wasn’t going to shy away from some vendor lock-in mechanism’s here and there right. This phone is going to integrate nicely with your Windows Media Player and your Windows 7 or Vista OS of course. Oh yeah and they support Flash. They made sure that was clear.

So what about apps? Well, they are mainly taking the iPhone route there. There’s going to be an app-store and they are going to approve every app published on it. All under the guise of quality assurance they are training a bunch of developers in India to routinely approve each submitted app before it gets unleashed on their phones. In fact, they are going to sign each app with a Microsoft certificate after it’s approved. This means that as an app developer you have to submit your source code as well. Creepy. Releasing apps through the Marketplace¬† isn’t going to be cheap either. 99$ a year. You then get 5 apps “free” and for each additional app you have to pay an extra 20$. So watch out how you version those apps I’d say. 99$ is the same cost as for access to the the iPhone app store. Google’s Android store is cheaper with only a 25$ to pay.

Developing the apps is done with Visual Studio. You can use the freely downloadable (but crippled) Visual Studio Express editions to develop a WP7 (WordPress 7? No! Windows Phone 7!) app using C# (or any other .NET language I suppose) and a WPF-like XAML for the user interface. For developers working in .NET this will make app development a breeze using their trusty and known toolkit. Integration with a bunch of online Microsoft services to make your apps location aware, do searches using Bing and use apps in the Azure cloud are also available. Interesting to see if these idea’s are going to give this phone the edge it’ll need to drag people away from their Android devices and iPhones.

Personally I’m hooked on Android. Both WP7 and iPhone reek of vendor lock-in to me which is enough to not even consider them. DRM’d Zune downloads and iTunes requirements annoy me, but since not everyone cares about these issues I’m sure there will be adopters for this as well.

If hipsters go for Apple phones and geeks go for Android phones, will mom and pop go for the Windows phones?

Photo by bitzcelt, cc-licensed.

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