Underdog

This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend Mobile March in Minneapolis. During the conference, I attended a four hour Microsoft Windows Phone training session. My reason for attending this session was to learn more about a platform I have little experience in. Up until now, my mobile prowess has leaned heavily towards Android and iOS, as these are currently the more popular options in today’s mobile space.

The training was not my first time working with a Windows Mobile platform, just the first with Windows Phone 7. Back before the iPhone or any Android phone existed, the only smart phone option for the aspiring techie was a Windows Mobile phone. Since I was an aspiring techie, I owned quite a few different Windows Mobile phones and was always happy with their performance and features. I even wrote a couple of simple apps for the platform before the term app was coined. The mobile space has changed drastically since then and I was interested to see what Windows has done with its platform.

The four hour training session was just enough time to get my feet wet. I have always liked Visual Studios as an IDE and working with it for the Windows Phone platform was no different. I was also impressed with how easy it was to use the WYSIWYG tools to quickly create complex UI elements and animations. For anyone familiar with C#, WPF, and XAML, creating a beautiful Windows Phone application will be painless and have a fast turnaround.

Being able to create great applications is pretty useless when the platform you are writing them for has very few users. Where is the ROI? Such is the case with the current state of the Windows Phone platform. This is the main reason why I feel there isn’t the same developer/company interest as with iOS or Android.

What is Microsoft doing to gain more interest in its platform? I have heard that currently Microsoft does not pay out bonuses or commissions to cell phone providers for selling its products the same way that Android manufacturers and Apple do. This is suppose to be changing in the near future. Probably the biggest hope that Microsoft has is its popularity with its desktop OS, Windows 7. Microsoft says that currently it has more than 500 million Windows 7 users. Our instructor compared this number to that of the number of Android and iOS devices. Depending on who you ask, Android currently has around 200 million users and iOS is at 150 million users. How does comparing the number of Windows 7 users with that of mobile users amount to anything? This is important because there is talk that when Microsoft releases Windows 8, it will run both Windows 8 and Windows Phone 7 applications natively. Windows 7 users upgrading to Windows 8 could potentially give Microsoft the needed users to really get development of its applications rolling. This also implies that Windows Phone 7 will be replaced with a version of Windows 8. Whether this happens or not remains to be seen.

My prediction is that Microsoft will continue to have slow adoption of its platform, which really is too bad as it is somewhat fun to develop for. I think Microsoft will gain ground, but Android and iOS will continue to grow as well. Is there room for three big players in the mobile space? I think so.

I’d like to hear what you think. What are your experiences with Windows Phone 7 and how do you see this playing out?

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