Microsoft releasing Windows Phone 7 to developers

Microsoft's Windows Phone engineering team announced yesterday that Windows Phone 7 (WP7) Series has reached the technical preview stage.

Achieving that milestone means that developers will start receiving WP7 prototypes from Microsoft's hardware partners in the "next few weeks," according to Terry Myerson, CVP for Microsoft's Windows Phone engineering team, in a blog post. He said that Microsoft now is on a path to "create a different take on mobile phone software, an experience we think many people will find fun and refreshing …."

Microsoft has released a beta of Windows Phone developer tools and described some of the changes coming with the beta. New developer tool features include the integration of Expression Blend 4, new APIs, framework consolidation and updated Silverlight control templates. It takes more than an hour to install the toolkit, according to a Microsoft blog.

During this technical preview stage, Microsoft has been managing the distribution of the WP7 devices to developers. Brandon Watson, who has been on the WP7 team for three months, explained how Microsoft prioritizes distribution. Partners get top priority, followed by independent software vendors and companies using Windows Mobile 6.x apps, according to Watson. Last on the list are other WP7 developer groups.

"Finally, we are prioritizing for those committed developers who are building apps for Windows Phone 7 and sharing their knowledge about Silverlight, XNA and Windows Phone 7," Watson explained in a blog post concerning this latter category of developer. The blog provides tips on how these developers can get Microsoft's attention and possibly receive a WP7 device.

A few product reviews by media outlets have emerged. Microsoft has not actually disclosed when WP7 products will appear on the market but Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer hinted at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference last week that it could happen in the "next several months," at least for Windows 7-based slate devices.

An early review in InfoWorld panned the device. Galen Gruman and others at InfoWorld described WP7 as a "disaster" and "a platform that no carrier, device maker, developer, or user should bother with."

Microsoft lately has been making sharp changes regarding its mobile businesses. In May, the company announced the exit of two long-time senior executives in the Entertainment and Devices Division. By July, Microsoft had killed its Kin phone, which was loosely said to be part of the WP7 Series effort, although based on technology from Microsoft's Danger acquisition.

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