Windows Phone 7 OS can't run native code

All apps must run via the Silverlight or XNA environments, Microsoft says; Adobe says it's porting Flash to the new mobile OS

Microsoft confirmed Monday at the company's Mix 10 developers event that native applications will not be allowed on Windows Phone 7 devices. Only applications running in the Silverlight runtime environment, or games in the XNA Game Studio runtime, will be allowed.

That was the answer by Todd Brix, senior director for Mobile Platform Services Product Management, to a question from U.K.-based technology journalist Tim Anderson.

[ See why InfoWorld's Galen Gruman says Windows Phone 7 is surprisingly compelling -- so far. ]

Brix confirmed that Windows Phone 7, the user interface overlay atop the Windows Embedded CE 6.0 Release 3 kernel, runs only interpreted or managed code through the two runtime environments provided by Silverlight and XNA.

[Also see: Visual tour of Windows Phone 7]

Adobe, but not Microsoft, has announced it’s working on a version of its Flash multimedia environment for Windows Phone 7 smartphones. Microsoft has said, and Brix repeated today, that though the company has no objection to Flash, seen in part as a rival to Silverlight, the initial general release of Windows Phone 7 will not support it later this year. Questioned by Anderson, Brix declined to comment on how Adobe may be implementing Flash on the mobile OS if native code is not supported.

According to Anderson, the CE kernel has the necessary APIs, so the question becomes who will be allowed to access them and under what conditions.

Microsoft on Monday also announced the immediate free availability of its advanced development tools -- Silverlight 4, Expression Blend 4 beta, Visual Studio 2010, and XNA -- for Windows Phone developers to begin designing, writing and testing mobile applications.

The move is clearly intended to spark widespread interest in porting existing applications, and writing new ones, for the redesigned mobile OS. Microsoft has been heavily focused on managed code development.

During a post-keynote briefing with reporters, Brian Goldfarb, lead product manager of the Web Platform and Tools at Microsoft, said that as a result of today's announcement, "Overnight, over 500,000 Silverlight developers became Windows Phone developers."

Microsoft officials cited external and internal studies that show Silverlight currently is present on 60 percent of all Internet-connected devices.

The new UI for Windows Phone, coupled with a minimum hardware platform that's mandated for the wave of devices expected starting in fall 2010, create a far more consistent mobile development platform for Microsoft coders. The new hardware specification, mandates just two screen resolutions, a common applications process, separate graphics processing unit, flash and memory minimum requirements. Handset makers can add to these, said Brix, but they cannot subtract from them or change them.

"No testing will be needed for running Windows Phone 7 applications on multiple devices," he said. "That will ensure a consistent user experience."

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This story, "Windows Phone 7 OS can't run native code" was originally published by NetworkWorld.

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