Windows Phone 7 Apps: Everything You Need To Know

Windows Phone 7 Series: It's a thing! And it looks pretty great, so far. Last month's announcement, though, left a lot of questions. Questions which will be answered here, in Gizmodo's live coverage of Microsoft MIX 2010 keynote. Constantly updating.

How exactly will multitasking work? What about those incredible cross platform game demos? Whither WinMo 6.x, and its devs? (And what's with this "Classic" and "Starter Edition" business?) What happens to the Zune? Will we see more hardware? What about the mysterious Chassis 3? Why are developers already worried? We've got at least an hour here, folks, so expect answers. Lots of answers.

New Features

When we met Windows Phone 7 Series, it was all about taking a first look. But we really didn't get a great idea as to how the operating system works, underneath the Zune-like skin. Here's are the new OS features Microsoft has announced today.

A Push Notification Service: Called the "Microsoft Notification Service", this sounds an awful lot like Apple's push notification system, which lends credence to the interpretation of Microsoft's talk about multitasking as meaning that it doesn't really exist or that it's at least heavily managed. As you can see above, they pop up in a small tray at the top of the screen, rather than the obnoxious pop-up system that the iPhone uses.

A Microsoft Location Service: This is like a clearing house for location data, or "single point of reference to acquire location information". This is more of a developer tool than anything else, I think, but it suggest location service's being totally and easily accessible, and not just in terms of raw data.

Silverlight, Silverlight, Silverlight: Windows Phone 7 apps are largely developed in Silverlight, which you probably only know as that plugin you had to install that one time to watch the Olympics. It can also create apps that are significantly more complicated than video players.

Dev Tools Will Be Free: Windows Phone 7 development tools for Visual Studio and Microsoft Expression Blend (a UI dev tool) will be free to download.

App Developers Can Start Today: The free tools are available at developer.windowsphone.com, as of right now. While developers won't have phones for a while, they'll have the PC emulator, which even allows for touchscreen input. (If you have a touchscreen PC, of course.)

No Mac Dev Support: And yeah, of course, there's no development on Mac.

The Marketplace

We didn't even get to to see the new Windows Phone Marketplace in action in February, but now Microsoft's started to pull the curtain back.

It's Panoramic: It's going to look like the rest of Windows Phone 7, which is to say, it's going to be swipey and zoomy and all those things that made Windows Phone 7 interesting looking.

Buying options: It'll handle one-time credit card purchases, operator billing, and ad-supported apps.

App trials: Microsoft is going to require developers to allow buyers to trial apps before buying them. Good for us, potentially scary for devs. UPDATE: It may not actually be a requirement; just an option.

The First Apps

The first round of app partners is solid, for sure:

AWS Convergence Technologies ? WeatherBug, Citrix Systems Inc., Clarity Consulting Inc., Cypress Consulting, EA Mobile, Fandango Inc., Foursquare Labs Inc., frog design inc., Glu Mobile Inc., Graphic.ly, Hudson Entertainment Inc., IdentityMine Inc., IMDb.com Inc., Larva Labs, Match.com LLC, Matchbox Mobile Ltd., Microsoft Game Studios, Namco Networks America Inc., Oberon Media Inc., Pageonce Inc., Pandora Media Inc., Photobucket Inc., PopCap Games Inc., Seesmic, Shazam Entertainment Ltd., Sling Media, SPB Software Inc., stimulant, TeleCommunications Systems Inc., Touchality LLC and Vertigo Software Inc

We also got our first glimpse at the apps, which maintain the Windows Phone 7 aesthetic surprisingly well.

AP worked with Microsoft on a rich news-reading experience to serve as a launching point for AP Mobile on Windows Phone 7 Series this year. A panoramic user experience incorporates news, social networks and photos as a way for people to select the newsmakers that interest them.

"Battle Punks" is a proof of concept based on a game in private beta on Facebook. It demos a social experience that will be possible on Windows Phone 7 Series. It has 3D customisable characters and social turn-based gameplay, and was developed by Gravity Bear and Mythos Labs.

With simple finger flicks, people can create photo effects like this using the Windows Phone 7 Series Colorizer application. They can then upload the new image with one click to photo-sharing sites such as Windows Live and Facebook.

Using the Deep Zoom capability in Silverlight, Graphic.ly offers an immersive comic book reading experience on Windows Phone 7 Series that incorporates social interaction, with access to the subtleties of artwork and inking. Graphic.ly is a Microsoft BizSpark One startup partner.

[imghttp://cache-08.gawkerassets.com/assets/images/4/2010/03/500x_four_square.jpg" size="legacy" align="center"] Microsoft demonstrated an application that highlighted the location and mapping capabilities of Windows Phone 7 Series using the Foursquare Labs social network game service.

Microsoft originally created "Goo Splat" for Zune HD with XNA Game Studio and ported it to Windows Phone 7 Series in under an hour. "Goo Splat" is a casual game that challenges the player to keep the goo from falling to the bottom and prevent the screen from filling up.

Microsoft's game heritage is on full 3D display in "The Harvest", a proof-of-concept game that shows Xbox LIVE Achievements, destructible terrain and a 3D interactive environment. It was developed by Luma Arcade using XNA Game Studio 4.0 in about three weeks of development time.

With graphics that evoke an old diary with password-protected lock and key, Hush Hush uses Silverlight on Windows Phone 7 Series to enable mixed-media diaries of text, audio, photos and video. Entries appear in a timeline view that pulls in Wikipedia "this day in history" facts and images.

Major League Soccer's application for Windows Phone 7 Series lets fans track their favourite teams in real time, with notifications of game events, game stats and the ability to watch highlight clips via Silverlight and Internet Information Services Smooth Streaming.

Marionette is a fun application built by Archetype International that demonstrates the Accelerometer and audio processing power of Windows Phone 7 Series. Here Microsoft executive Scott Guthrie appears as a talking puppet.

Microsoft partner Seesmic shows the cross-platform capabilities of Silverlight by demonstrating the Seesmic social networking platform on Windows Phone 7 Series, Mac and Nokia. Seesmic is a BizSpark One startup company.

The first batch gives a preview of what Windows Phone 7 apps will be - that is to say, deeply integrated. Another instant reaction? A lot of these developers write for the iPhone and Android, which is a good sign and a bad one: A good one, because Microsoft needs these guys to reach anything resembling app parity with other platforms; and a bad one, because it drives home just how much catching up Microsoft is going to have to do come WinPho 7's release. None of the other platforms, for what it's worth, have paps as pretty as some of these - a point that's really driven home when you see their 3D transforms and animations in motion:

With others, like Hush Hush, you can see that Microsoft is open to modal interfaces as well, which is to say, interfaces that look nothing like Zune or Windows Phone 7.

Since Windows Phone 7 apps are developed largely in Silverlight, you can download and incorporate Silverlight libraries that already exist. In other words, some of the interface elements, animations and icons that you've gotten used to seeing in Silverlight app interfaces might turn up in Windows Phone 7 apps later on. We'll also see some services that have depended on Silverlight before easily ported to the phone. Like what? Ho ho, like motherf—king Netflix (which, while shown off here, won't necessarily get a real release):

Games, as we've seen a bit of before, have the potential to be great, not just because of the platform's minimum requirements (which make the iPhone's hardware seem downright clunky) but because of the deep Xbox Live integration. Joe Belfiore showed us a quick demo, in which he actually earned Xbox Live achievement points, er, live.

The takeaway at the end of the app demos - which made up a tremendous chunk of this keynote - is that Microsoft knows how important apps are for Windows Phone 7, or more importantly, how instrumental the lack of decent apps was in the decline of Windows Mobile 6.x. They're going all out, claiming that devs can create apps in a matter of minutes, and (so far) coddling them as much as possible. The one thing they can't control, though, is how fast customers pick up on Windows Phone 7 Series. Without an audience, developers won't bother to write apps; without apps, buyers won't bother buying Windows Phone 7 Series phones. Microsoft's new mobile strategy may be impressive, but it could find itself stuck in a Catch-22 come release time.

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