Windows Phone 7 Reaches Technical Preview Stage

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Microsoft is releasing a build of Windows Phone 7 to developer partners

Microsoft is announcing that Windows Phone 7 has reached its “technical preview” milestone. Developer partners will now have the chance to test the upcoming smartphone operating-system, due later in 2010.

The announcement comes a week after Microsoft released its Windows Phone Developer Tools Beta, which can be used to construct apps and games for the platform.

“Starting today, thousands of prototype phones from Asus, LG and Samsung are making their way into the hands of developers over the next few weeks,” Terry Myerson, corporate vice president of Windows Phone Engineering, wrote in a 18 July posting on The Windows Blog. “So we’re almost there—but there is much work left to do. Together, with our early adopter customers, developers, OEM, and mobile operator partners we are in the home stretch.”

Specific Hubs

Myserson added that more than 1,000 Microsoft employees had been testing Windows Phone 7 over the past few months, specifically for metrics such as battery life, usability and network connectivity. The Windows Phone 7 interface aggregates Web content and applications into a series of subject-specific “Hubs,” such as “Games” or “Office,” and will come paired with a Windows Phone Marketplace loaded with applications from third-party developers.

“The craftsmen (and women) of our team have signed off that our software is now ready for the hands-on everyday use of a broad set of consumers around the world,” Myerson wrote in his blog posting, “and we’re looking forward to their feedback in the coming weeks, so that we can finish the best Windows Phone release ever together.”

Now that Microsoft’s reached this particular milestone, the pressure will only mount to bring developers into the fold. To that end, the company is reportedly offering cash and other resources in exchange for mobile applications.

“We are investing heavily in the developer community by offering as many resources as we can to help them be successful on our platform,” a Microsoft spokesperson wrote to eWEEK 14 July. “Where it makes sense we do co-fund strategic projects on a limited basis.”

That investment falls into two categories: in addition to encouraging developers to build business-centric applications, reports suggest, Microsoft has also been offering cash incentives to creators of popular iPhone games, in hopes of porting the latter onto Windows Phone 7. But Microsoft also needs to persuade developers that Windows Phone 7 will prove a popular enough platform for their apps to make money.

During last week’s Worldwide Partner Conference, various Microsoft executives took to their pulpits to insist that, despite the company’s eroding share of the smartphone market, Windows Phone 7 has a solid chance of succeeding among both consumers and businesses.

“The phone is going through a massive inflection point,” Andy Lees, senior vice president of Microsoft’s Mobile Communications Business, told the audience during his 13 July keynote address. “There’s immense competition but in many respects, things are just beginning.”

Evolutionary Progression

Lees suggested that Windows Phone 7’s interface represented an evolutionary progression over its competition: “The problem is that smartphones are just app launchers; they’re a grid of icons. We figured there’s got to be a better way than going app by app by app, so two years ago we fundamentally reset our strategy.”

He said that strategy centered on three tenets: smart design, the integrated experiences offered by the Hubs, and an optimised ecosystem.

“One of the problems the phones are going through right now is fragmentation,” Lees added, in what seemed to be a backhand swipe at Google Android, which runs on a seemingly ever-increasing number of devices. “For developers and ISVs, it makes it very difficult. We’re making sure our software is fully optimised.”

The ultimate test, however, will be whether developers decide all those arguments and offerings are enticing enough to devote their time and resources to actually building Windows Phone 7.

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