Developers take a wait and see attitude about Windows Phone 7

Some developers won't work on Microsoft's new mobile platform until they're sure it can compete with giants like Android and the iPhone

Some wireless application developers are hesitant about next week's launch of Windows Phone 7 devices, preferring to wait and see how the phones sell before investing big in the platform.

"The jury's out," said Paul Reddick, CEO of Handmark, a mobile application developer. "Coming out of this economy, developers don't randomly build stuff. We really focus on 'is there going to be a meaningful addressable market?'" He spoke on the sidelines at the CTIA conference in San Francisco this week.

[ Microsoft says Windows Phone 7 will make it a mobile contender. | InfoWorld columnist Galen Gruman recently gave Windows Phone 7 a big thumbs-down. | Keep up on key mobile developments and insights with the Mobile Edge blog and Mobilize newsletter. ]

For Handmark, Android and Apple are on top of the list of mobile platforms it builds to. "Android and iPhone are on rapid growth and you can't miss," he said. BlackBerry has such a large installed base that it's important to build for as well, he said. Beyond those, Handmark has "made bets" on Symbian and Bada, Samsung's development platform.

The company is building applications for Windows Phone 7 but is taking a "measured approach" to it, he said.

Handmark isn't alone.

"The larger play for us fundamentally as a consumer-driven Web services play is that we want to be where the users are," said Michael Shim, vice president of mobile business development and partnerships for Yahoo. "Candidly, the question is going to be how much adoption is WinPhone going to have," he said.

Because Yahoo has a strategic partnership with Microsoft, however, it will develop applications for the platform, he said. Microsoft has a good shot at attracting a lot of users, he noted. A number of handset makers, including HTC and Samsung, say they're committed to the platform, and such carriers as AT&T and T-Mobile are expected to sell the phones. Plus, the operating system is quite good, he said.

Seregon, a company with a platform called DragonRad, designed to make it easier for enterprise app developers to port their applications across the varied mobile platforms, said it expects to add Windows Phone 7 to the list of platforms customers can port to, but it's not sure when. Many of its customers are showing "some sense of interest," said Colin Best, marketing coordinator for Seregon, but they aren't sure if they'll port their applications to Windows Phone 7. He expects that over time the phones will become popular in the enterprise and most apps will support the platform.

Verizon, which is said to have a strained relationship with Microsoft following the botched launch of the Kin phone, said that its enterprise customers aren't really talking about Windows Phone 7. "It's really fallen off the radar for enterprise customers," said Michael Tighe, executive director for Verizon Wireless' business solutions group.

Also, he has the sense that the initial implementations of Windows Phone 7 will be very consumer-based. "Companies don't know what to think about it," he said.

Microsoft has a press event planned Monday in New York City during which it is expected to unveil the first phones that will run Windows Phone 7. The totally rebuilt mobile operating system is Microsoft's response to new entrants Apple and Google, which have cornered a growing share of the smartphone market while Microsoft's position has shrunk.

Nancy Gohring covers mobile phones and cloud computing for The IDG News Service. Follow Nancy on Twitter at @idgnancy. Nancy's email address is Nancy_Gohring@idg.com

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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