WP7 might be bringing up the rear when it comes to sales and download metrics, but its dev tools are the best, says a local developer.
Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 (WP7) platform may not have the sheer numbers of its smartphone OS competitors – in terms of apps or devices sold – but its development tools are miles ahead, says Nick Randolph. And he should know: through his venture Built To Roam
, the long-time Windows and Windows Mobile programmer became one of the first Australian WP7 developers to publish an app.
That app – Melbourne Coffee Review
– complements existing web and iPhone platforms to broaden the range of consumers capable of accessing the coffee portal's detailed café ratings.
The choice of WP7 as the venture's second smartphone platform bucks the trend towards supporting Android in the second instance, but the app proves slick to use and was easy to design, says Randolph.
"Windows Phone has definitely taken the next step forward, and in terms of real usability on the device I think it outstrips most of its competitors," Randolph says. "There are a few features that people are requesting, but Microsoft will come back and address those; it's a v1 platform that has delivered beyond expectations."
Working in the Visual Studio IDE, Randolph was able to write the underlying application logic and tie it into a smooth, Silverlight-based front-end built using Microsoft's Expression Blend design application. And even though Microsoft's WP7 tools are relatively immature, their roots in the company's broadly-used development tools meant that it wasn't a huge jump to the new platform: in-depth documentation, coding templates, a full-featured WP7 emulation app, and other developer resources smoothed the transition.
The app's iPhone-originated code had been adapted, ported and even augmented after about a week's development time, says Randolph, who has built other WP7 apps for the likes of Domain.com.au and ninemsn, and has "dabbled" in other smartphone platforms as well.
"The fact that you’ve got a design tool where a designer can build your UI, and you can wire it all together with a little bit of code, is a major step forward," he says. "Even in the apps I've worked on by myself, I end up flipping between the design and development modes. Even developers that haven't done anything using either Silverlight or Windows Mobile, but who have a good understanding of C#, can get a rapid understanding of it."