It is an interesting time for any .NET developer wanting to develop software for mobile phones. We’ve always taken it for granted that there would be a good .NET platform for mobile phones. The first anxiety was the delay and feature-drop in Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7, Microsoft’s reply to the dominant iPhone and Android platforms. Then Microsoft’s KIN (aka Danger, or ‘Project Pink’) phone survived its June launch by only forty-eight days. This was billed at launch as a close cousin to the forthcoming Windows Mobile 7. Although Microsoft said that ‘Both KIN and Windows Phone 7 share common OS components, software and services’ , The late Kin phone was based on Silverlight and Windows CE, due to delays with Windows Mobile 7. Nonetheless, the news isn’t encouraging for .Net Developers. At one time, there was hope that Microsoft C# developers could use a Mono-based platform to develop apps for the iPhone by using MonoTouch. (Unlike Mono applications MonoTouch “Apps” are compiled down to machine code targeted specifically at the Apple iPhone). Since April, this is in doubt, since Apple introduced a new license term for iPhone developers that apparently prohibits them from developing in languages other than C, C++ and Objective-C, and the use of a middle layer between the iPhone OS platform and iPhone applications. So, no escape-route there then.
Windows Mobile’s share of the mobile phone market has been in decline for some time and already ranks behind Symbian, Blackberry, Android and iPhone. It still does better in the SmartPhone category, but the SmartPhones are becoming rather a niche market. Windows Mobile 7 is due for release in October, but has been dogged by delays. There have also been alarming rumors that Multitasking, Cut and Paste, and even Silverlight in the browser are out.
Without doubt, if Microsoft can only steady its nerves, and rescue the project, the Windows Mobile 7 platform will be an exciting one for .NET developers. It has Silverlight, XNA, and the .NET Compact Framework. Devs can use tools that they’re already familiar with such as Microsoft’s Visual Studio 2010 and Expression Blend. Scott Guthrie’s writing about the platform is very persuasive. Surely Microsoft aren’t going to fumble the key component, Windows Phone 7, after getting the development tools so right. Let’s hope not.
(A reader, Tim Plas, has since pointed out to us this article of 15th July here, “Windows Phone 7: Don’t Bother with this Disaster”)