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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


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