Quick Take on Windows Phone at MIX11

I’m not going to try to do a deep dive here, just a few comments on what I’ve seen so far in reading about and watching talks as compared to what I’d predicted.

My biggest miss was in predicting Silverlight 5 (or a hybrid) hitting Windows Phone.  It was wishful thinking on my part.  A couple of years back it certainly did look like Windows Phone would stay about a version behind the PC for the forseeable future, but I hoped that would change.  Maybe it will eventually, but not this round.  BTW, I think the biggest issue here comes up if they put Silverlight support in the browser.  That’s where the version consistency and Silverlight’s historic update strategy really come in (so that a website doesn’t have to do downlevel version support).

There was very little explicitly discussed about Enterprise-oriented features, but then most of these aren’t developer issues.  Whole drive encryption and more complete support for the management capabilities of Exchange Activesync (EAS), or indeed EAS-provided end-user features, as well as VPN capabilities, are not developer oriented.  So they may yet be in Mango, this just wasn’t the place to discuss them.  On the other hand, some of the lower level features that Enterprises might require were.  For example, I’m guessing that the lack of Socket access was one of the things keeping a Lync client away.  With Mango that is solved, though it appears you’d still have to keep the Lync client in the foreground during a call/conference.  And of course the inclusion of SQL Server CE makes the creation of more enterprise-oriented apps (e.g., CRM clients) far easier.

Full exposure of the platform is one I think I nailed pretty well given the exposure of 1500 new APIs.  This one is key for many apps that currently either can’t run on Windows Phone 7 or are clumsy.  For example, the great bar-code reading apps on the iPhone have no good equivalents on Windows Phone 7.  The ones that do exist require you to take a picture with the camera and then they try to analyze the picture after the fact.  This rarely works because you never get the barcode aligned properly.  With Mango an app can directly access the camera and let you align the bar code inside guides (as is done with iPhone apps).

Interestingly there was very little on a next-generation chassis.  Well, they did say three important things.  They added a gyroscope to the chassis spec.  They added support for another processor (really another entire SoC).  And they dropped the idea of an 480×320 (HVGA) screen resolution so they are back to just having 800×480 (which all existing devices had implemented).  And although they said the chassis spec was more flexible, the only example they are currently willing to talk about is that the gyroscope is optional.  Now the interesting thing here is that they dropped HVGA.  I believe this was originally done to allow for two things, a lower-cost device (since the WVGA screen is expensive in both screen costs, memory usage, and CPU usage) and to make a Blackberry-style physical keyboard slab phone possible.  Conceptually this seemed important a couple of years ago, but a lot has changed over those couple of years.  When the Windows Phone 7 project started you had only a single successful consumer smartphone, iPhone 3/3G.  Android had just shipped on the T-Mobile G1 and had essentially zero market share.  These devices were expensive compared to things like the old Samsung Blackjack, Motorola Q9, various Symbian devices, and of course RIM was at its peak with the Blackberry.  So OEMs would have wanted an alternative to just being able to build what was then considered an extremely high-end smartphone.  However, over the last two years the iPhone has continued to grow rapidly with Android not only becoming successful but actually eclipsing the iPhone’s market share.  In addition, specs that looked too high-end two years ago, or even a year ago, are now mid-range.   A lower cost slab with fixed keyboard would appear to be a niche product, so perhaps the OEMs didn’t care if Microsoft simplified things by dropping the notion of supporting HVGA.  Certainly developers should be happy about this.  Now the only questions are, will there be another Nokia-inspired screen resolution added in the future or has Nokia agreed to go with WVGA?  And what additional details about its “flexible chassis” will Microsoft reveal in the future?

Microsoft did allow XNA and Silverlight in the same app, which is great.  And they didn’t talk about native apps, which is not a surprise.

On the platform completion front obviously I’ll just point out a couple of developer-related things.  For example, the Generational Garbage Collector was part of the original design for the Windows Phone 7 .NET Compact Framework but was a risky thing to squeeze into that schedule.  Nice that they were able to finish it up for Mango.  And I’m pretty sure Agents were always in the App Model that Istvan’s team had developed for Windows Phone 7, they just couldn’t make the release last October.  They are a huge addition for Mango.

That’s about it for now.  The release looks great so far, and there are no doubt a number of great surprises yet to be revealed.

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One Response to Quick Take on Windows Phone at MIX11

  1. halberenson says:

    I just noticed that Mango also includes Private Markets in the Marketplace, giving enterprises a means of making apps available to only their employees (contractors, etc.).

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