Windows Phone 7 Series, which is Microsoft's revamped smartphone operating system, and Silverlight, the company's rich Internet application platform, might seem geared primarily too glitzy, for-fun applications. But Microsoft observers see an enterprise business application case for these two budding technologies. (Silverlight is being paired with the XNA gaming app dev platform to serve as the application development platform for Windows Phone 7 Series.)
During the recent Mix10 conference in Las Vegas, late last month, Microsoft showed Windows Phone 7 Series used for entertainment applications, such as photo storage and an electronic diary. Windows Phone 7 Series handsets will also serve as a Zune video and music player. As for Silverlight, Microsoft cited Silverlight's prominence in entertainment, including streaming coverage of the Olympics and a Victoria's Secret fashion show.
The infrastructure for real business software development When Microsoft Windows mobile developers get beyond games and other "fun" applications, infrastructure is there to support more serious applications leveraging databases and Microsoft's SharePoint collaboration platform, Zuck says. With Silverlight and other tools, Microsoft is trying to create a single experience across multiple platforms ranging from the phone to the TV and computer, he notes
Ethan Nagel, president of software development shop Nagel Technologies, says Silverlight could be used to quickly develop Web applications, such as a spreadsheet or an interface to a financial application, or perhaps an order entry system. "You use Silverlight instead of building standard Windows forms," he notes.
"For me as a business developer, you're always in a situation where you're trying to figure out what's the quickest way I can get this application out to my users, how can I make it easy to use," Nagel says. Silverlight can help developers avoid dealing with a Web framework that could be cumbersome, he adds: "I just think Silverlight is a way that you can develop these applications much more quickly and easily."
Early adopters are generally positive Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska, meanwhile, has not found any great use for Silverlight, notes Adam Brehm, a software developer at the company. But Brehm says he can see business application opportunities for the Pivot data visualization technology in Silverlight, and he's worked on a Silverlight-based, video-oriented coaching application geared to high school sports.
At BI Software, the company already is working on a business application for an insurer that will run on Windows Phone 7, says company president Darek Danielewski. He lauds Microsoft's new mobile phone software: "The fact that Microsoft decided to give a complete overhaul for the Windows phone, that gives me hope because the Windows Mobile platform was lagging for some time in terms of performance," Danielewski said. Developing for Windows Mobile was difficult, he added. "There were myriad platforms, myriad screen resolutions -- and it was always a challenge," Danielewski said.
Some Windows Mobile apps can be easily adjusted to run on Windows Phone 7 Series , while others will need ground-up rewrites. But that's not necessarily a bad thing, as it doesn't tie developers down. "I just think it's a vast improvement," says Colin Sparrow, a Web developer at Camosun College, in Victoria, British Columbia.