How Does Windows Phone 7 Measure Up?
In the previous section, I suggested that there were two main problems that prevented people from using legacy Windows Mobile devices as an application platformpoor marketing and inferior hardware. With that in mind, I want to take a look at how Microsoft has addressed these issues in Windows Phone 7.
So first, I want to talk about how Microsoft's marketing efforts have changed. For starters, Microsoft has been running a ton of commercials for Windows Phone 7. Of course, while commercials may drive some consumers to purchase the devices, the commercials alone do little to drive the use of third-party applications on the device.
That isn't to say that Microsoft has ignored Windows Phone 7 applications. On the contrary. In May 2010, Microsoft released a Community Technical Preview of Windows Phone 7, which included a series of tools that were intended to help developers write Windows Phone 7 applications. Microsoft continued refreshing the available tools as Windows Phone 7 approached its release date.
Today, Microsoft offers numerous developer tools for Windows Phone 7. In fact, Microsoft even hosts a dedicated Web site called the App Hub, in which developers can download a special version of Visual Studio that is geared toward Windows Phone 7 development.
The site also offers other tools including XNA Game Studio, Microsoft Expression Blend for Windows Phone, the Windows Phone emulator, and more. You can access the App Hub at http://create.msdn.com/en-us/home/getting_started.
Okay, so Microsoft has definitely been encouraging developers to write apps for Windows Phone 7, but what about getting those apps into consumer's hands?
If you look at Figure A, you will notice that the phone's Start screen contains a smart tile called Marketplace. The Marketplace Hub is the Windows Phone 7 app store.
Figure A The Marketplace Hub is the app store.
Microsoft has done a few different things to encourage consumers to use the Marketplace Hub. First, the Marketplace Hub isn't just about apps. It can also be used to download music and Xbox Live games (which are technically apps). Being that the phone's Zune and Xbox Live capabilities are so prominently displayed on the phone's Start screen, consumers are bound to find themselves in the Marketplace Hub in one way or another.
Another thing that Microsoft has done to drive the adoption of apps is to work toward taking the risks out of purchasing apps. One of the big problems with iPhone apps is that sometimes you don't really know what you are getting until after you have purchased the app.
Microsoft is trying to prevent buyer's remorse (and drive app adoption) by allowing consumers to try out various apps for free before purchasing them. Additionally, the Marketplace Hub provides a description of each application as well as screen captures and consumer reviews.
Additionally, Microsoft has taken steps to ensure that only quality applications are featured in the Marketplace Hub. Even though anyone can develop a Windows Phone 7 application, applications are not automatically featured in the Marketplace Hub.
If a developer wants to make their app available through the Marketplace Hub, they must submit those apps to Microsoft for review. Microsoft has a number of different compatibility tests that they use to ensure that the app is stable and that it performs well.
Another thing that I like about the way that Microsoft has implemented app support on Windows Phone 7 is that the apps do not necessarily have to be downloaded through the phone. Instead, the download can be performed over a Wi-Fi connection or by a PC using a pass-through feature found in the Zune software. This eliminates the wait time associated with downloading apps over the air.
Okay, I know that download wait times probably aren't that bad if you have 4G coveragebut that's a big if. I live in a rural area and can't even get 3G download speeds. Mobile downloads take forever to complete, so having the ability to download apps through a PC or through a Wi-Fi connection is a very welcome feature.