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Microsoft One-Ups Apple in Mobile Development

Like many other media outlets, we reported yesterday that Microsoft is now accepting and certifying "Mango" apps ("Mango", if you came into the movie after the opening credits, is Microsoft's first major update to Windows Phone 7 platform).

One bit of news that's flown under the radar in the Mango mania is the release, within the Windows Phone SDK 7.1, of the Marketplace Test Kit. I think that's unfortunate because it's way, way cool, and further demonstrates how serious Microsoft is about taking on Apple and Google in the smartphone wars.

The Kit is essentially Microsoft's WP7 certification environment for your local machine. The idea is that you build your app, then submit it to a battery of tests from the Kit. The Kit is well integrated with Visual Studio; in Solution Explorer, simply pick the app you want to test, then choose Open Marketplace Test Kit from the Project menu. There are manual and automated tests, depending on the functionality being examined.

The Kit's feedback will tell you things like whether your graphics pass muster, the Back button functions properly, memory management is correct, how fast the app starts and whether it shuts down correctly. When the tests are finished, you'll know if your app will pass or be sent to the back of the class.

I don't know about you, but knowing that my app will pass before submission would give me great peace of mind as a developer. Unlike, say, iOS developers. It's not hard to find stories about companies that have spent months developing an iPhone app that was rejected by Apple for reasons that were, at best, murky, and at worst, blatantly political or commercial. It's well known, for example, that you don't develop iOS apps that might compete with iTunes, unless you enjoy rejection. Others have been rejected for reasons the developers are still trying to figure out.

Microsoft, on the other hand, is making it easier for developers to get their apps to market. This is a good thing. Yeah, I know -- the so-far iffy adoption of WP7 means that Microsoft has to do these sorts of things. But so what? The point is that Redmond is doing it.

This is a good fight for Microsoft to pick. The success of Android shows that iPhone can have viable competitors, something we haven't seen yet with iPad tablet competitors. I believe competition is good, and it's forcing Microsoft to create a mobile platform that at least meets, and in some cases exceeds, the leader -- in this case, Apple. The Marketplace Test Kit is another example of Microsoft's different thinking in the mobile space. If it can lure developers away from Apple and Google and create another serious player, we all benefit.

(BTW, it's worth noting that I have no dog in this fight. I own an iPhone 4 and iPad 2, and love them both.)

Posted by Keith Ward on 08/24/2011 at 1:15 PM


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Reader Comments:

Wed, Aug 31, 2011 Keith Ward

Kevin (great last name, BTW!) -- I don't work for Microsoft. I work for 1105 Media. And my point would be valid even if I were a Microsoft evangelist, which I'm not. I love Apple products. I also think this is a great move on MS' part.

Tue, Aug 30, 2011 TexasJetter Houston

@Paul - You can get started with any windows development for free using the "Express" editions of Visual Studio. From the Windows Phone 7 Developer Guide "Visual Studio Express ..is included with the Windows Phone Developer Tools." For other editions just search on "Visual Studio Express download". There are about 6 versions to choose from.

Mon, Aug 29, 2011 Paul Colorado

I like competition too - I'm sure Microsoft has better products because of it. However, as a (Java) developer who has yet to go mobile, the free development platform for iOS, and the fact that I own an iPod Touch, make it pretty compelling to try out iOS development first. I don't have a Windows Phone or Visual Studio, so it would take a significant investment on my part just to write a "Hello world" for the Windows Phone 7. (I already have Windows 7, OS X and Linux computers, so that's not part of the cost).

Fri, Aug 26, 2011 Kevin Ward Colorado

you have a dog - Editor in Chief, Visual Studio Magazine, but i'm sure there is no bias there.

Thu, Aug 25, 2011 Ed S Colorado

A very useful tool, but it doesn't change the marketplace dynamics.

Thu, Aug 25, 2011 Pete

Sounds great! Would be great if the magical Test Kit could also detect the political or commercial reasons for possible rejection...ha!

Thu, Aug 25, 2011 Stephen

thank you for the article.it's really cool.In my opinion web service snappii can help you create apps without coding skills

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