Microsoft's mobile limbo

Microsoft bleeds mobile developers and market share every day it lets Silverlight Mobile slip

Spurred on by the stellar success of iPhone's App Store, developers working with other mobile platforms are pressuring vendors to pave their way to become millionaires, $2.99 (BUY NOW BEFORE PRICE GOES UP!) at a time. It's odd to see the leader in desktop client software, Microsoft, lagging the rest of the industry in the mobile app revolution, but that's where it's stuck.

Windows Mobile doesn't lend itself to seat-of-the-pants development of user-facing apps the way that iPhone, HTML 5, and Flash Lite do. With iPhone, Android, webOS, and Flash Lite, developers can park themselves in front of an integrated development environment with nothing but a good (by someone's standards) idea and let things grow from there. What starts out as a UI prototype can end up evolving, through short steps, into a rich, finished application. Where that spark of inspiration flourishes best and most readily manifests as working code, the greatest number and diversity of mobile apps is found.

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So what makes the spark catch fire, and why is Windows Mobile seemingly damper ground than elsewhere? It's generally accepted that a developer is most productive and creative in the toolset that he or she knows best, whether that's Eclipse, Xcode, Dashcode, Komodo, or Creative Suite 4, but mobile skews that equation a bit. No toolset boasts as many expert users as Visual Studio. Microsoft must be mystified at the failure of crossover advantage playing a major role. Windows app developers, Microsoft MVPs, eschewing Windows Mobile in favor of iPhone and Android?

The trouble with Windows Mobile

The fact is, Visual Studio developers would learn to code in Martian to get their apps to iPhone (rumors that Objective-C is rooted in this dialect are unfounded), and Java coders happily racked up new skills to come to Android. In mobile, it's not all about the tools. It's about the user experience, and that includes the feeling a developer gets the first time their new app uploads to an actual device and runs successfully. Either they get goosebumps, call everyone they know, and shoot a YouTube video of their new baby, or they say "thank God" and start doing the code-behind for the buttons. Mobile development should be exhilarating. When it is, you get tons of apps.

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