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3/24/2010
01:05 AM
Ed Hansberry
Ed Hansberry
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Application Choices On Windows Phone 7

Microsoft's new Windows Phone 7 Series application distribution model is very similar to what Apple does for the iPhone, much to the chagrin of developers and some users. You will only be able to install applications from the marketplace. You cannot keep copies of the installer on the device and there is no side-loading, which means if it isn't in the marketplace, it isn't on your phone. Microsoft, however, doesn't appear to be headed down the path of blocking apps that compete with built in app

Microsoft's new Windows Phone 7 Series application distribution model is very similar to what Apple does for the iPhone, much to the chagrin of developers and some users. You will only be able to install applications from the marketplace. You cannot keep copies of the installer on the device and there is no side-loading, which means if it isn't in the marketplace, it isn't on your phone. Microsoft, however, doesn't appear to be headed down the path of blocking apps that compete with built in apps. That's good news.Apple is very proud of the apps on the iPhone. So much so that they tend to block apps that emulate core functionality. As a result, there has been a dearth of new email, browser and PIM replacements for the device. It isn't impossible of course. On Tuesday Opera announced Opera Mini would be submitted to the App Store. If the powers that be in the App Store see it as a substantial enough enhancement and not a mere emulation of Mobile Safari, it may be approved.




Windows Phone 7 start screen
(click for image gallery)

Microsoft doesn't seem to have any such restrictions though. I didn't hear anything out of Mix10 stating that they would and their current guidelines for the Windows Marketplace for Mobile, which right now only includes Windows Mobile 6.0, 6.1 and 6.5 doesn't indicate any particular type of app will be rejected. It does have the requirements you'd assume would be there, things like install and uninstalls should perform flawlessly, it cannot interfere with the operation of the phone, application files reside in specific folders, no ROM files are to be touched during the install, no malicious software, etc.

That isn't the only thing limited apps though. Developers aren't allowed to use native code when developing for Windows Phone 7. This is a radical change from WinMo 6.x and earlier where almost anything goes. Mozilla would like to put Firefox on WinPho7, but they claim the managed code only restriction prohibits that possibility. Yeah, I know the iPhone is in largely the same boat. In fact, Mozilla wants to put Firefox on the iPhone too, but without the Gecko rendering engine, they don't want to even try. It may be that the Gecko engine "emulates" what the Webkit engine that Safari uses, or it may need code that directly access some necessary APIs that Apple won't allow.

Whatever the case, Microsoft has put WinPho7 in the same boat. The real difference here is Windows Mobile was the platform that only limited developers by their imagination. We are sure to see, at least in the short term, a slow port of existing WinMo apps on the new platform. Some will be due to coding time necessary. Other delays will just be to see how well the platform does. The last thing anyone wants to do is spend precious resources on a new OS that goes nowhere. Some of the delays or outright blockages though will be the development restrictions Microsoft has put in place. If the platform is popular, developers will inevitably find ways to get their apps to work in the managed code environment

It may be too that Microsoft relaxes the current restrictions in subsequent OS releases. When the Pocket PC was launched in 2000, Microsoft was very adamant about the number of buttons a device had and restricted the OEM user interface tweaks? Sounds familiar? By the time WinMo 5 came out though, it was a free for all. I doubt Microsoft will let it go that far, but somehow i think they will relax things just a bit in versions 8, 9, etc. Whether allowing native code in some instances though remains to be seen.

Mix10 produced a lot of backlash from existing hardcore developers. Let's see how their thinking changes in the coming months leading up to the current platform's release.

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