Mobile Apps

Microsoft Tells WinPho7 Devs to Build, CDMA Carriers to Wait

Microsoft released the Windows Phone 7 software development kit (SDK) on the Web Thursday, just over two weeks after the WinPho7 platform had been released to manufacturing.

This release is in English only, but versions in French, Italian, German and Spanish will be available in “the next couple of weeks,” Brandon Watson wrote on the Windows Phone Developer Blog.

The WinPho7 platform will have game apps as well as apps for Twitter, Netflix and other services.

The SDK will have several new controls as well as Bing Maps, and Microsoft also released its Mobile Advertising SDK on Thursday.

However, persistent questions about whether WinPho7 will succeed in a market where Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android are strong were given fresh life by a Wall Street Journal report stating Microsoft’s offering will initially run only on GSM networks.

Is Redmond being foolish to ignore carriers like Verizon? Are recent reports that Verizon refused to carry WinPho7 devices true? Or is Microsoft cagier than it appears to be?

What’s in the WinPho7 SDK

“Some of the biggest names in apps and games are working to bring the right mix of high quality content to Windows Phone 7,” Microsoft’s Watson wrote. Further, Microsoft demonstrated “near final apps” for Twitter, Netflix, Open Table, Flixster and Travelocity “for the first time anywhere,” he wrote.

Demos of several apps for WinPho7 can be seen on YouTube.They include the Flickr app demo, a trailer for the “BulletAsylum” game, a WinPho7 RSS reader and the app for WinPho7.

The SDK includes Visual Studio 2010 Express for Windows Phone; the Windows Phone Emulator; Expression Blend 4 for Windows Phone; and XNA Game Studio 4.0. The installer will download only what app devs need, and the tools will work with users’ existing Virtual Studio 2010 and Expression Blend 4 installations, Watson wrote.

In addition, the SDK includes the Panorama, Pivot and Bing Maps controls. Panorama-based apps let users view controls, data and services in a panoramic view that extends beyond their screens’ borders and provides touch and animation features. Pivot lets users visualize data and filter from one view of the data to another, Watson wrote.

The Bing Maps control lets app devs build map experiences incorporating various functions, including search, directions, scroll, zoom and aerial and street views. This control comes with a free commercial license for WinPho7 apps.

Further, Microsoft unveiled its Mobile Advertising SDK on Thursday. It also released the first real-time, bid-based mobile ad exchange. Various third-party mobile ad networks, including Millenial Media, InMobi and MobClix, are working closely with Redmond, Microsoft Advertising’s Raj Kapoor wrote.

Other Need-to-Know Stuff

Microsoft is releasing the Silverlight for Windows Phone Toolkit separately under the MS-PL license. This has six controls. It can be downloaded here.

Developers who want to put their apps into Microsoft’s mobile app marketplace, which is scheduled to open in early October, must download the WinPho7 SDK released on Thursday.

“Any application built with a previous version of the tool will fail application certification in the Marketplace,” Watson wrote.

What, No CDMA?

Microsoft and Verizon have reportedly been kicking each other in the shins of late. Verizon apparently refused to carry WinPho7 devices, to which Microsoft’s retort was it didn’t want to go on Verizon anyway.

Gossip over the issue was fueled further when The Wall Street Journal reported that WinPho7 will initially work only with GSM networks. The article quoted Greg Sullivan, a senior product manager at Microsoft, as saying that Redmond decided to focus on GSM because it’s placing high-quality customer experiences above all else.

That story sparked interest because AT&T and T-Mobile are the only U.S. carriers using GSM. For years, AT&T has been under fire from iPhone users who claim they get spotty reception, and T-Mobile is the smallest of the major U.S. carriers, lagging well behind Verizon and AT&T.

What could have led Microsoft to kick off WinPho7 on GSM but not CDMA, which is used by Verizon and Sprint? Device vendors may have had a say in the matter.

“Microsoft didn’t publish requirements around GSM or CDMA, only requirements for processor speed, screen size and resolution, memory, the FM radio tuner and at least a 5 MP camera,” Chris Hazelton, a research director at the 451 Group, told TechNewsWorld.

“It’s the device vendors that make the ultimate decision as to which standard to use,” he explained.

Microsoft did not respond to requests for comment by press time.

The World Is Not Enough

Perhaps Microsoft’s Sullivan was indicating that device manufacturers would initially target GSM.

That would make sense for several reasons.

First, GSM is far and away the most widely used wireless technology worldwide.

“GSM is used in several large markets in Europe and Asia as well as in the United States,” Hazelton pointed out. “Microsoft is likely in agreement with its device vendor partners that GSM should be targeted first.”

Smartphone manufacturers usually launch their devices first on GSM unless CDMA carriers agree to pay for exclusivity on a device, Hazelton said.

A CDMA version should be available within six months of WinPho7 devices being available on GSM carriers, Hazelton predicted. Microsoft aims to bring WinPho7 devices to market in the U.S. before the holiday season this year, he added.

Ultimately, Microsoft will have to support a CDMA version of WinPho7.

“In 2011, Verizon will launch LTE service,” Ramon Llamas, a senior research analyst at IDC, told TechNewsWorld. “That will offer higher speeds, which will enable better use of apps on smartphones, including Windows Phone 7 devices. I think Verizon will have Windows Phone 7 devices eventually, probably in 2011.”

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