Windows Phone 7: Challenge Accepted!

Hands holding Win 7 Phone that reads "You'll find out at MIX10! (Mar 15)"

"Counting Down to Seven" badge Over at Wired’s Gadget Lab blog, there’s an article titled Microsoft’s Challenge with Windows Phone 7 is Wooing Developers. They saved the most important line for last, and in case you missed it, I’ll repeat it here:

The company plans to preview its development tools at its MIX developers conference next month.

If you can wait three weeks, you’ll get a fuller story. If you attend MIX (Monday, March 15th through Wednesday March 17th at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas), you’ll even get development tools and support!

I agree with the title of the article. Complete changes of direction and the circumstances that dictate them are never easy (but then again, that’s why I signed on with Microsoft: for the challenge). We will have to work hard to gain mobile developers’ interest and trust, and it’s quite clear that we’ll have to reach out to the same sort of independent developer coding away at a kitchen table, cafe or converted warehouse office – the kind who made the apps that made the iPhone what it is today. From what I’ve seen of the developer outreach plans for Windows Phone 7, I think it’s doable.

I’d take the quotes from the people interviewed in the article with a big grain of salt. The writer took the “cover all bases given your deadline” approach and quoted a whopping three people whose collective opinions cover the full spectrum of reactions: one positive, one negative, and one (mostly) neutral. None of their titles suggests “developer”: two are CEOs and one is a COO. The negative guy completely misses the point in his remark about hubs and a cool-looking UI, and the neutral guy seems to be drinking deeply of the anti-RIA kool-aid, dismissing technologies like Flash and Silverlight as made for desktops and not for mobile, while forgetting that other technology now considered to be mobile – like browsers and operating systems — have the same supposed limitations. They were, after all, originally made for the desktop.

I accept the challenge of wooing developers. I know what it’s like, speaking as someone who left Microsoft development in the wake of the dot-com bubble burst for other tools and technologies. But what brought me back were signs of a sea change at Microsoft, from the Xbox to SDL to its initiatives to better “get” the web to dynamic languages and much more, and I think that Windows Phone 7 is part of it.

In the end, the developer whose opinion matters most is you. To that end, I plan to use every resource at my disposal to get the toolkits, tutorials and techniques necessary for Windows Phone 7 development into your hands. I’m going to support your development beyond just the “download this, and here’s the code for Hello, World!” – expect stuff on how to build great mobile experiences, what people are looking for and how to sell your mobile apps. (And hey, if you have any ideas or suggestions, I’m open to them – drop me an email, a tweet or a comment).

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.