If you don’t know about Microsoft’s Photosynth, it’s effectively a 3D photo stitcher that has cloud access to share your photos and it’s pretty remarkable in action. And as you’ve probably read they’ve make it available for the iPhone. That’s great for the project and great for iOS users. What’s not so great is their rationale for not bringing it to their own platform:

I’m sure over the coming days and weeks we’ll be answering, over and over, the “why didn’t this ship first on Microsoft’s own phone” question. Our approach to the design of the Photosynth app hopefully provides some evidence that we very much think of Windows Phone 7 as brethren and inspiration, not to mention proof that Microsoft can make beautiful things. (Such a joy and a relief, after the previous generation of Windows phones!) If we could have shipped first on these devices, we would have. But the level of camera and low-level algorithmic hacking needed to make Photosynth work meant that, if we wanted to get this out as quickly as possible— and we surely did— we needed to do so on a platform that provided the necessary low-level device access. Windows Phone 7 doesn’t yet allow this for apps. It will soon. It’s worth keeping in mind that the first several generations of iPhone device and OS wouldn’t have allowed us to build this app either. For now, iPhone’s platform maturity— and of course the large number of people with iPhones out there— meant that it made sense for us to go for it.

At Bing we’re always interested in reaching as many people as possible, which means we’ll always develop for multiple platforms. But over time, we’ll be doing more and more of our early innovation on the Windows Phone.

Let’s state with this claim “But the level of camera and low-level algorithmic hacking needed to make Photosynth work meant that, if we wanted to get this out as quickly as possible— and we surely did— we needed to do so on a platform that provided the necessary low-level device access.” Very true that there’s no third party low level access and that won’t occur until Mango is released. However, there’s always been a different set of rules for native apps, whether those come from Microsoft or manufacturers. Take the LG apps for example that provide for things like Look n Type (the leaves the camera enabled while overlaying your email or text) and Metro Scanner (that has both camera and digital compass access). This low level access is something that Microsoft could grant itself if it wanted to. Claiming that they lack that access either shows that Microsoft can’t internally get their shit together or shows that it’s a bogus answer. So let’s move on to their second rationale “For now, iPhone’s platform maturity— and of course the large number of people with iPhones out there— meant that it made sense for us to go for it.” That’s the reason. They wanted to bring it to a platform that has millions of users and not a new platform like their own. In fact, what they’ve done is remind developers that on balance, bringing a new app to Windows Phone in lieu of the iPhone is something that doesn’t make sense if you want a lot of users and a mature platform. So aside from mocking their prior OS, they’ve also made the case against developing for their current OS.

Guys, if you want to keep going down this road and really cut off your arm, you may want to state why the Android version is your next release and how much of a larger user base with more access you have there…


  1. Well it sounds like one department just got themselves removed from another’s Christmas card list.

    That’s got to sting but are the Bing guys their “brethren’s” keeper? You wouldn’t have made the same call?

  2. Every developer is using the same SDK for apps, except for the Windows Phone OS team and the OEMs. Even the official Microsoft apps in the marketplace are coded with the official SDK (see: awful scrolling performance in Facebook). If the official SDK doesn’t provide any native access to sensors or other things, they simply can’t port it over.

  3. Any reason they give is bogus, given that ztitch was available almost immediately at launch for WP7 and is only a step or two away from the functionality of this app. The only difference is that ztitch makes you manually align each photo for image assembly. There’s no way an internal MS group couldn’t have gotten the needed access to take it the extra mile.
    I’ll be sure to remember every one of these actions when deciding my next phone purchase. Whoever is king of the moment gets the best support from everyone. Except for Google who seems to recognize the importance of blending your services for your customers first, before anyone else… Hmmm, who woulda thunk?

  4. I wrote a long post here defending their iPad Bing app but this is too much. The bing app represents a business that MS needs to grow so it needs to be everywhere. Photosynth is not a business but instead essentially a really cool tech demo. It is a telling reminder that MS is a disordinate set of fiefdoms that the Bing people could not go to wp7 guys or vice versa and figure out how to get photosynth on wp7 as part of the camera app. Or that someone above both them didn’t demand that it happen. The return they would get if this was, at least for a little while, part of “only on wp7” commercial would be much greater than having this on another platform which will return pretty much nothing to MS other than the bad will generated by wp7 users who, again feel the sting of the short shift.

  5. @Doug Simmons: I’ve got to agree with everything Simmons said. If they want to be “first”, go with the lesser of two evils and go with Apple. Good exposure and doesn’t prop up Android any further.

    My problem is that response doesn’t help the entire company. Everyone is quick to point out WP7 is immature and trash it for that. Now a MS division has basically “Et tu, Brute”d the WP7 team. If I was in the WP7 team, there would be some hate emails flowing right about now.

  6. A smart company is going to leverage its assets for the benifit of a company as a whole. This is a bonehead move. What it really is, is an open letter:

    Dear Developers & Consumers,

    Please keep buying and developing for WP7. Ignore the fact that we think it is a better business model to pump up the competition. That only applies to us. Please spend time and money supporting for WP7 and we might just do the same in the future.


    The bottom line is that MS can not grow WP7 if MICROSOFT itself won’t develop for the platform…no matter the excuse. Ballmer needs to smack whoever is in charge of Bing in the head. They gave us an uninspired Bing app with no real GPS capabilities even though I had them on WM6. Now they pull this crap all while stating publicly and on the record that WP7 has developer limitations (even though we know Bing has access to overcome) and that the userbase numbers of a competitor are more enticing than pumping up thier own company’s product.

    Nice teamwork, Bing.

  7. By waiting for the low level API to be available it allows the application to work on a wider variety of handsets instead of just being hacked to work on one type of handset. It makes sense.

  8. Sorry John, it doesn’t make sense. They are trying to GROW a product line here. That is ADMITTING a shortcoming meaning x amount of developers won’t develop and since apps are so important today the y amoung of consumers not buying because of x are LOST to another platform. WP7 **needs** some killer app that reside exclusively on the platform. If Microsoft isn’t willing to do it, how can they expect 3rd party developers to??

  9. There will be killer apps once mango is released and their is global access to the low level API’s, as they said iOS has matured over the years steadily and its a very stable platform, im sure MS would love wp7 to be as mature and stable as iOS but its not and they know that.

    with the windows phone 7 devices ms also have the hurdle of multiple handsets, the low level API’s need to work across all of these handsets so any app MS releases works on all handsets. Until these API’s are rolled out to developers and to the phones they can’t release the an app that uses them. It makes sense this way and MS are admitting the short coming on their platform.

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