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…