Unless you live under a rock, you’ve probably heard of the announcement from Microsoft about Windows Mobile Series 7. It’s already getting rave reviews from the tech-journalists and I think the warm reception that both the Zune interface and Xbox UI have gotten have more or less proven that this is going to be successful. It’s not like this is really new, but more of a maturation of seeds that were planted a while ago.
As a follower of most things tech and as a .NET developer, I can’t say that I’m really surprised. For all the haters out there and all the people that love their iPods, iPads, and iLife, and to the open source town criers the negative nancies and googlebators out there, you’ve missed something. While you were all mouthing away at forums and making your sarcastic comments, slobbering over the latest google lab and overwhelmed with the delicious android pastry excitement, all the while announcing the death of the old blue machine. Something happened.
Yes while you were away, sometime between when you left Win XP and laughed at Vista. Microsoft actually turned itself around one step at a time. You could see it in Xbox live, you could develop it with WPF and Linq, you touched it with Surface. There was Zune and Windows 7, Silverlight, Bing and Azure, there was also unprecedented openness in blogs and actual open source hosting on codeplex, which hosts Microsoft and community source. Slowly release after release, like a mature fighter delivering body blows, they had turned around and were on the right path and things were snowballing in their favor.
Now don’t get me wrong, unlike a lot of people, I like apple, google, microsoft, and linux all at the same time. It’s simple, I just like technology. To me, each has it’s strengths, apple has revolutionized simple UI, google redefined the web, linux is the backbone of science and so many other industries, and microsoft well they walk the road between them all. It’s the competition and the ideologies of them all the make up a really healthy competitive environment. Unlike our government, most issues are more than 2 sided and these entities each bring to the table their own ideas and feed off each other to continually evolve the ecosystem.
So, no I’m not surprised about them not giving up on mobile and actually showing up to the party with their own twist on things. What I think people will underestimate, and what is Microsoft’s greatest strength, is it’s access to developers and its ability to make first class developer tools and environments. Trust me, if Apple cared as much about developers as Microsoft did then it would be different. You can’t honestly tell me that objective-c is a modern language compared to C# or Java. I know it’s lower level, but it’s an absolute pain, and their tools don’t make it any better. I think if you really sat down a obj C developer in front of Visual Studio or Eclipse they might crap their pants at how much more advanced these tools and languages are.
All this being said, when there’s a will there’s a way, and when a platform is popular like the iPhone is. Developers will make it happen. Tools and languages aside, it doesn’t really matter, but when you take a first class development experience along with a revolutionary platform than I say watch out. Yes there will be fart apps a plenty, but businesses will show up en mass. That is the difference. iPhone and to a lesser extent android is missing the ease of creating biz apps and that is where Microsoft will shine.
If you follow .NET development at you can see the perfect storm brewing. Look at what is coming out, .NET 4.0, Azure, Silverlight 4.0, and XNA. I think these will all play a roll in Windows Mobile 7 development. I’m not sure whether or not Silverlight or WPF will be the main delivery mechanism or not for app development, but it’s possible. I do know that there are a lot of existing Zune and other Xbox Live XNA games that will probably be easily ported. We’ll see how it all is fleshed out at mix in a couple of weeks. My prediction is that developers will finally get a first class mobile development experience and that is what will tip the scale if the platform and hardware meet expectations.