Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Windows Mobile 7? No thanks, I am a developer

As you might remember, I have been quite positive on Windows Mobile 7, from the user perspective. It looks like a well designed UI. I haven't had the opportunity to actually play with a device for an extended period of time, but it looks good - at least from the outside.

Clearly, Windows Mobile 7 is a big gamble for Microsoft. They had an enterprise-ready operating system and they trashed it, in favor of a consumer one. While doing it, they also trashed all Windows Mobile 6 applications, which are not compatible to Windows Mobile 7. That forced developers to start from scratch while waiting for the new OS to appear.

The vacuum has been filled by Android, which has attracted the largest share of developers for the enterprise. The rest are building for iPhone.

Now that Windows Mobile 7 is actually available, what are developers doing? Will they build consumer apps for it? What about the enterprise ones?

My first checks are not positive. At all.

The Funambol Community Manager posted in his blog yesterday and summarized what he does not like about Windows Mobile 7:
  1. No support for open source licenses
  2. Only C# supported
  3. Missing APIs
He concluded:
developers will sit and wait, not considering Windows Mobile 7 a serious OSs until a new release is out
I can't agree more. He is a developer. He knows what he is talking about.

Lack of OSS licenses limits development, but you can go around it. Forcing people to develop in C# is a huge requirement, which will trim down the amount of developers (although Apple was able to convince a lot of people to code Obejctive-C, so you never know).

The last one, though, is the killer. Just take Funambol and our community as an example. We are ready to go and we would love to build a sync client to bring Windows Mobile 7 in the family. However, we simply cannot do it. There is no PIM API in Windows Mobile 7. There is no way a developer can access contacts or calendar data.

If you recall, I bitched about Apple not providing APIs. Eventually they did. I bitched about Apple initially providing only contacts, and not calendar. Eventually they did (at version 4 of the OS...). I believe that was a mistake, but they could go away with it, because they were early.

Microsoft is late. They cannot get away with it. An operating system without developers is dead. If you cannot get the developers to build on it, you are doomed. They have lost the enterprise developers and they are not doing nearly enough to get the consumer developers.

Very risky move for a latecomer.