No Backwards-Compatibility For Windows Phone 7

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Microsoft claims its Windows Phone 7 Series was developed under time pressure, curtailing its compatibility with Windows Mobile 6.x apps

Microsoft re-emphasised at the MIX 2010 conference in Las Vegas that its upcoming Windows Phone 7 Series devices would not be backwards-compatible with current Windows Mobile applications, a situation attributed by one executive to the company needing to deliver the new smartphone operating system on an accelerated timetable.

“We do recognise that there are a lot of folks who have been writing apps for Windows Mobile for some time,” Larry Lieberman, senior product manager for Microsoft’s Mobile Developer Experience, told eWEEK in an interview on 15 March. “But we recognise that the landscape has changed, and as we’ve been looking at stuff, we had to drastically change our game, and really the only way to do that was to look at what we were offering and what we could do to address this in a competitive accelerated manner.”

Lieberman said that the new paradigm for Windows Phone 7 Series could provide the tools for resurrecting Mobile applications in updated form: “The development platform gives people a lot of opportunities, and they may be able to recreate a lot of their previous work in a very accelerated manner.”

Part of the reason behind a lack of upgrade path for applications, Lieberman added, was the timing required to push Windows Phone 7 Series to market. “This product was delivered in an incredibly accelerated timeframe,” he said. “If we’d had more time and resources, we may have been able to do something in terms of backward compatibility.”

Nonetheless, Lieberman reiterated, Microsoft remains committed to Windows Mobile 6.x and the devices, still slated for release, running that operating system. While previous versions of their operating system were specifically designed with the needs of the enterprise and courting OEMs in mind, however, Windows Phone 7 Series re-orients that focus to the end-user experience.

“We recognise that enterprise users are consumers as well, and there’s a consumerisation of IT process that’s taking place,” he said. “So we were thinking that we needed a clean slate, and needed to focus, and we needed to offer a great end-user experience.”

During a keynote at MIX 10, Microsoft detailed how Windows Phone 7 Series would leverage Silverlight and XNA to allow developers to build rich content and 3-D games.

“As the browser, server, web and devices evolve, a focus on delivering consistently great user experiences has become paramount,” Scott Guthrie, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of the .NET Developer Platform, wrote in a March 15 statement tied to that keynote. “By extending our familiar platform technologies and tools to phones, Microsoft is delivering the premier application development experience across a variety of devices and form factors.”

Features accessible to developers will include a Microsoft Location Service, for acquiring location information via a single point of reference; Microsoft Notification Service for pushing information to the device; hardware-accelerated video with digital rights management; and Internet Information Services Smooth Streaming for high-quality media viewing; multi-touch capability; an accelerometer; and support for cameras and microphones.

Tools available to developers for the new platform include Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 Express for Windows Phone, Windows Phone 7 Series add-in for use with Visual Studio 2010 RC, XNA Game Studio 4.0, Windows Phone 7 Series Emulator for testing and simulation, and Expression Blend for Windows Phone Community Technology Preview.

The new Windows Phone Marketplace will allow developers to leverage their creations for profit, offering features such as one-time credit card purchases, mobile operator billing and advertising-funded applications.

Originally unveiled on 15 February during a Barcelona press conference, Windows Phone 7 Series is a departure from other bestselling smartphones insofar as it de-emphasises the importance of individual mobile applications in favour of subject-specific “hubs” that aggregate both application and web content. These hubs include “People,” “Pictures,” “Office,” and “Games.” The operating system itself has a slick consumer sheen heavily reminiscent of the Zune HD, Microsoft’s portable media player. Microsoft intends to limit the variety of the devices running the operating system, requesting that its hardware partners conform to a form-factor with three buttons and a large multi-touch screen.

Microsoft executives have indicated that the launch of Windows Phone 7 Series devices, scheduled for the end of 2010, will be accompanied by a massive push designed to make them stand out in the market.

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