Microsoft Interview Explains Development Process, Applications, and Updates

There's no doubt that with the launch of Windows Phone 7 Series, that things are changing for Microsoft in the mobile market. They've decided to revamp everything, and that means the development process is getting a major face-lift as well. While they're hoping that the main stay of developers from previous version of Windows Mobile will stick around, they also want to make it perfectly clear that new developers can take full advantage of the new Silverlight development process. In the interview we conducted, we learned that Microsoft agrees with everyone else, in that the development process is just as important as the hardware and software, to the survival and success of Windows Phone 7 Series. We also learned how applications will be distributed, upgraded, and everything else in between. Oh, and we find out that some dreams are certainly going to be dashed.

We'll just start off with the "bad" news first, just to make sure we get it out of the way. As much as everyone is still holding out hope that the HTC HD2 is going to be upgraded from its current Windows Mobile 6.5 existence, we can now completely confirm that the HD2 is not getting updated. Furthermore, despite the rumors that OEMs would be able to determine whether or not their current generation models would be able to get updated to the new mobile Operating System, that rumor can now officially be squashed. It's not happening. Microsoft is making a clean break from the previous iterations of their software, and doing so with no strings attached.

Microsoft is doing everything they can to remove a lot of the barriers and other blockades that was preventing previous developers out there from creating applications for their Windows Phone 7 Series platform. New tools will be introduced with the already set-in-stone tools available to developers, making it completely possible that new devs can just jump right in and start making the highest class products, right out of the gate. And as we mentioned in earlier posts throughout the day, these applications can be developed in record time, and have the same high quality that consumers have come to expect.

The Windows Phone Marketplace is going to be a vibrant digital store front, with the applications being the most important part. As you make your way through the Marketplace, you'll download what you want, and watch as the applications of that same nature are shown to you on the go. Are you fond of a particular style of game? The Marketplace is going to show you the other titles in that particular style, just to make sure that you enjoy your experience. And speaking of games, where trial periods are a well known feature, the developers are able to determine just how long a particular trial period will last. Whether that means you get to play the first level for free, or continue on until you've accomplished a particular goal, is completely up to the developer. Furthermore, while some applications may become static and forgotten on other systems, an application or game title in the Windows Phone 7 Series platform will always be able to be found easily, and be promoted by the developer with push notifications. Have an update for a game you've forgotten about? The developer can let you know with a simple push notification.

Ads are still going to be be prevalent within the application marketplace for Windows Phone 7 Series. Developers can utilize their own advertisement network, so that they can promote something that they wish to promote. Anyone can bring their own model for advertisement, if they wish. Microsoft, though, has created their own advertisement model, which promotes other applications within the Windows Phone Marketplace, and showcases other paid apps. Basically, to keep the pay ecosystem going strong. The Windows Phone Marketplace is currency-based, as well, which should be good news for people who have been fed-up with Microsoft's Xbox LIVE points system. Consumers can tie their Windows Live account (which means you can use Xbox LIVE, Hotmail, or any other Microsoft-based service) with a credit card, and pay for applications directly in that fashion. A Live account is required, though. And, thankfully, the credit card and applications are tied to the account, and not the phone.

Updates for applications are pushed to the device, meaning you'll never miss an update. Additionally, if the application is part of the core element of the Windows Phone 7 Series, like an Xbox LIVE arcade game, then that push notification would be displayed on the Game Hub. Updates to third-party applications happen in two ways: the toaster method, which means that you get a pop-up notification that an application can be updated; or users can be notified of an available update when they enter into an application. These are determined by the developer, and will be different for each application.

The full policies of application development and all the extra information will be available in May, when Microsoft releases that information officially.

Finally, the Windows Phone Marketplace will be the majority rule for downloading applications to your Windows Phone 7 Series device. Meaning, you can't side-load a lot of the applications. Except that, you'll be able to do some "big screen" shopping from your desktop client, such as the Zune Software that syncs your device with your PC. You will be able to buy them from the PC, and then they will syncronize with your device when you connect it.

With rumors coming out that Microsoft is hard at work on the next version of the Zune HD, we wanted to know if Microsoft has any plans to make an optimized version of Windows Phone 7 Series available for any other "mobile" platform. They ceremoniously said that they haven't announced any future version of the Zune HD, but they did add that the Windows Phone 7 Series User Interface is obviously pulling a lot of design elements from the Zune HD. So, take that for what it's worth.

The big difference between the Windows Phone Marketplace and the Apple App Store is going to be the transparent screening process. While the rules for the development process for the App Store may not be so clearly defined, Microsoft is going to make sure that everyone who wants to develop for the Windows Phone 7 Series platform knows exacty what they need to do to get published. If they follow those rules, and don't stray far from the scope, then they'll get approved. As of right now, there won't be any mature-rated material found in the Windows Phone Marketplace, but that's because they don't have any parental controls in place. As soon as that changes, then the Marketplace may begin to reflect those changes.

As we mentioned previously, developers get 70% of revenue when their application is bought within the Windows Phone Marketplace. When asked about returns, Microsoft made it clear that they do allow refunds for Windows Mobile 6.x, and that that is going to stick around for Windows Phone 7 Series. As for returns that do occur, the developer gets only 70% of the return price, and Microsoft would keep the difference. Developers will not be charged for updating their software, and developers are only charged the $99 a year for the ability to release applications. The development software is free, and will always be free. Additionally, developers are able to release 5 applications, before they are charged $99 for any additional applications they want to release. Obviously, not many developers go over that 5 application threshold. Developers can release one of their apps they've already released as many times as they want in the Marketplace, and have the ability to update their application an unlimited amount of times.

MIX10 is still going strong, and there's still a lot of information to sift through. Hopefully this in-depth interview has brought answers to a lot of the questions you may have, but if you have more, feel free to let us know in the comments. And, if you're a developer that plans to bring applications to the Windows Phone Marketplace, we want to hear from you in the comments. Are you excited about what Microsoft is doing? What are some of the applications you can't wait to see, or are going to build yourself?

And lastly, if you want to join the discussion about Windows Phone 7 Series, sign-up over at Windows Phone Forums!