Microsoft Unveils Marketplace for Windows Phone 7

Continuing down its path of reinvigorating its smartphone strategy, Microsoft Corp. has officially unveiled its mobile applications marketplace and strategy for leveraging third-party apps developers for its new Windows Phone 7-series devices.

Microsoft will bring applications and games to market with a new Windows Phone Marketplace. The Marketplace has a panoramic design and active merchandising to increase the discoverability of games and applications, and supports one-time credit card purchases, mobile operator billing and advertising-funded applications. The Marketplace will also enable customers to try applications before buying them and allow developers to cross-promote their applications through deep linking.

To fill the Marketplace, Microsoft will offer developers access to free tools and the ability to leverage advanced Windows Phone 7 features like location services and the hardware specs, such as the accelerometer and camera.

The Windows Phone gambit is Microsoft’s last-ditch effort to carve out a piece of the mobile smartphone pie for itself. Previous iterations of its mobile OS failed to spark much traction for its smart handsets, despite a range of carrier and phone-maker partners. The software giant has essentially watched archrival Apple Inc. and Blackberry ride the thirst for mobile data applications to stratospheric success, from the sidelines.

It aims to change all of that with Windows Phone 7, a new OS revealed at Mobile World Congress in February. The strategy combines Zune, Xbox 360 and phone functionality — a combination Microsoft hopes will catch fire with consumers. Devices based on the OS are due in time for the holiday season.

“As the browser, server, Web and devices evolve, a focus on delivering consistently great user experiences has become paramount,” said Scott Guthrie, corporate vice president, .NET Developer Platform. “By extending our familiar platform technologies and tools to phones, Microsoft is delivering the premier application development experience across a variety of devices and form factors.”

During a keynote at the MIX10 conference in Las Vegas, Microsoft provided the first deep dive into Windows Phone 7 Series application development. By combining Silverlight features for rich application development and the XNA Framework for games, developers will be able to take advantage of the accelerometer, a Microsoft Location Service to provide developers with a single point of reference to acquire location information, Microsoft Notification Service for pushing information to the phone, regardless of whether or not an application is running, hardware-accelerated video with digital rights management, Internet Information Services Smooth Streaming for content viewing, multitouch, camera and microphone support.

“Windows Phone 7 Series brings together a rich application environment, powerful hardware, a fresh approach to software and a smart new design,” said Belfiore, corporate vice president, Windows Phone Program Management. “It was designed to generate incredible opportunities for developers and designers to quickly and easily deliver compelling applications and games. With the best developer tools, an established ecosystem and marketplace, and a path for developers to use their Silverlight and XNA Framework skill sets, we are delivering an application platform that is simple, powerful and inspiring.”

Free tools for developers include:

  • Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 Express for Windows Phone
  • Windows Phone 7 Series add-in to use with Visual Studio 2010 RC
  • XNA Game Studio 4.0
  • Windows Phone 7 Series Emulator for application testing
  • Expression Blend for Windows Phone Community Technology Preview (available as a separate download)

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