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2/28/2010
01:18 PM
Dave Methvin
Dave Methvin
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Windows Phone 7: Hail Mary

If the story at Ars Technica is to be believed, Microsoft really is starting with a clean slate with its Windows Phone 7 platform. That seems like a good idea, because the old slate wasn't tearing up the market. However, Microsoft's new platform seems like it's betting on a slate of proprietary technologies that haven't yet been proven in the mobile world.

If the story at Ars Technica is to be believed, Microsoft really is starting with a clean slate with its Windows Phone 7 platform. That seems like a good idea, because the old slate wasn't tearing up the market. However, Microsoft's new platform seems like it's betting on a slate of proprietary technologies that haven't yet been proven in the mobile world.The good news from these leaks is that Microsoft is thinking ahead about security issues. Windows Phone 7 uses a development environment where most applications will be built on managed code. The scary news is that it is "described as somewhere between Silverlight 3 and 4" and requires Visual Studio 2010, a development environment that has not yet shipped. So not only has this environment not yet been proven, it has not yet been finished.

If the leaked documents are right, developers are "expected to leverage Microsoft's growing stable of cloud services," which means they will rely on the newly-born Azure services which again haven't had much road testing time. I also wonder how much of that expectation is baked into the development environment. If the developer decides to use other web-based services instead of Azure, do things get significantly harder?

If there is any disappointment in what's been revealed so far, it is that Microsoft seems to be ignoring standards and instead building its own proprietary world. I am a big supporter of web standards; much of what Silverlight does could be accomplished instead with existing standards like HTML5, AJAX, and JSON. That would have allowed developers to take advantage of their existing knowledge and even existing code -- but it requires a browser that supports standards. With all the other work to be done for Windows Mobile 7, will Mobile Internet Explorer be ignored in favor of the new proprietary native environment, snubbing web developers who prefer cross-platform standards? If so, it's a loss for both users and developers.

This additional information shows that Microsoft is planning an incredibly ambitious set of changes with Windows Phone 7. Perhaps this is a Hail Mary pass with a low chance of success, but it's actually encouraging that the company can still work up the courage to take major risks to recover a leadership position in the market. Microsoft will need to deliver a massive amount of technology to make it happen, then motivate developers to finish applications so that the product can launch this fall with more than just a promise of things to come.

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