A short time ago we opened up the comments for your Windows Phone 7 questions which Brandon Watson, Microsoft’s Director of Development Experience, agreed to answer. Throughout the participating sites there were literally pages of questions which we widdled down and submitted covering hardware, software, app availability, etc.

I want to start by thanking Brandon on behalf of all of the sites involved and of course the users who participated for taking the time to be a part of this event. Without further introduction, here are your questions about Windows Phone 7 and the answers, with a few point at the end in case you missed the finer details in his answers:

1. In the photographs of WP7 running on phones with a slide out keyboard the home UI never rotated into landscape mode. Will this be addressed by launch? Is there any requirement for developers to make input heavy apps work in landscape mode or is this something that market demands will be looked to?

We would prefer not to comment on pre-release photos and forthcoming features

2. One of the most prominent features of WP7 are the panoramic controls yet MS hasn’t provided tools to developers and instead we’re seeing developers create the controls and share them with other developers. The problem with this is the same as WM6.5 and the fragmented experience this leads to. MS needs to take the lead and ensure a seamless experience across all applications. This is a large omission since it’s the look and feel of WP7. When will MS address this? 

We love to hear from our developers, and one of the things which came up time and time again was a desire to have official panorama and pivot controls from Microsoft. We announced at TechEd in New Orleans that we would be releasing these controls later in the summer with the final release of the Windows Phone Developer Tools.

3. The lack of native code has been addressed by stating that the best experience is needed and that requires some level of control. It’s obvious that at some point you’ll have to let developers use native code. Currently WP7 is going to be missing apps like Swype and Skyfire which, as an HD2 user, I’m sure you can appreciate how much they add to the end user experience. We all understand preserving the end user experience, and I think it’s pretty clear to everyone involved that the demand is there for native code and that it’s inevitable that MS permit it. Why not treat it the same way you treat Xbox Live services and limit it to top tier developers and do whatever additional checks you need to? The omission is going to limit too many apps.

I actually don’t agree that a managed code development platform limits app development. There is tremendous upside to using common tools and platforms that are consistent across a range of popular product environments. The key is a design principle that says we’ll deliver a consistently great end user experience, not how we handle native access. That said, today the best way to be confident that applications are behaving in a way that results in a great experience across the entire phone is to limit native access. Furthermore, regardless of whether or not an application has native access we don’t allow changes to the soft input panel, so things like Swype still wouldn’t work as currently architected.

4. In a similar vein, some multitasking is inevitable or else apps like Skype and Pandora would be crippled. Apple already learned their lesson and it’s inevitable for WP7 to have some multitasking. Same question – why the delay? Why not open multitasking to a select set of developers under controlled conditions? The longer MS delays in granting this, the more the omission will be prominent and used as a reason that WP7 is behind the other OSes.

Our phone platform allows users to multitask while also optimizing for phone performance. This is why the user mode is restricted to one process at a time. There are mobile platforms that allow anything to run in the background, but they are also dealing with mounting customer dissatisfaction with phone performance – our intent is enable customers to engage is multiple tasks simultaneously on the phone, while avoiding the dissatisfaction pitfalls the come when you compromise performance.

5. We’ve yet to see a YouTube application. How will YouTube be treated? If there’s a link in an email or website, what action will the device take? Similarly, we know that Flash will be a part of WP7 but its availability at launch has been questioned. Will it be active at launch and is this the YouTube solution?

We continue to work with our partners and want to provide for the best user experience. YouTube is obviously a very important partner. Flash will not be available at launch, although we will work to bring Flash technology to future versions of Windows Phones.

6. For years Windows Mobile has had front facing cameras and upon shipment to the US the camera was always neutered. Thanks to the EVO and iPhone 4 those days are over. Is MS going to provide any software to take advantage of the availability of front facing cameras? Along the same lines, Live Messenger permits video calling (over data). Will Messenger with camera support exist at launch?

We certainly get that pictures and photos are critical to delivering a great customer experience, but we have nothing new to share at this time. The consumer features of the phone will be discussed in the coming months. For now, we are actively engaging developers about the features which are important to them, to ensure that we have great apps available at launch.

7. What can you tell us about support for Macs? Will there be a Zune Mac application or will Mark/Space be utilized?

No plans to announce at this time.

8. Microsoft has had ebook readers for Windows Mobile for some time. Will there be an ebook reader present at launch on WP7? Will Marketplace have ebooks for sale?

There are some great ebook applications in the Windows Phone Marketplace and we are working with those companies to provide great ebook experiences on Windows Phone 7.

9. How does email treat html with embedded images? On Windows Mobile the user needs to take the extra step of downloading internet pictures. On a PC you can add trusted senders so that they automatically download. On the iPhone it automatically downloads html internet images. How will WP7 treat this? Any screen shots available?

Here again, we’re working to balance customer experience and ease of use with performance, but don’t have anything specific to share at this time.

10. Some developers have noted that many of their app ideas are dropped because they are impossible to implement on WP7 for one reason or another. Apps should either add the fun factor (games) to the phone, or the utility or phone capabilities extensions factor (until MS offers the functionality built-in in a new release). Seems like, with such lockdown and limitations, only games would make sense to build on WP7. Can you name a few app categories, beyond games, that can be built on WP7 and which cannot be built on WM6.5.x or otherwise explain the enhancements that are brought to WP7 beyond WM6.5?

We are working with many software companies looking to build applications across a range of categories like games, entertainment, productivity, video, travel, social, communications, lifestyle and business. The only major restriction on apps is the inability to use native code, but C# has long been used by millions of developers to build an almost infinite variety of apps. There are many amazing applications which can be built for Windows Phone 7. The features and functionality enabled by Windows Phone 7 open the door for far more developers than had been the case with Windows Mobile 6.x.

11. Will WP7 sync Outlook tasks? If so, I presume a task tile would exist. Any screenshots available?

We have a set of consumer features which haven’t been publicly discussed, stay tuned.

12. How do you think Windows Phone 7 v1.0 matches up with iPhone 4.0 and Android 2.2? Google has admitted that Android was really a beta when it was released. Now that both rivals have updated and launched before Windows Phone 7 v1.0, where do you see Windows Phone 7.0 in the market, feature wise and advertising wise?

Windows Phone 7 really is a different kind of phone, from the smart new design to the integrated experiences in hubs. We didn’t set out to replicate what other are doing on a feature-by-feature basis, or even provide a similar customer experience. The ability to integrate your data with the phone creates a distinctly different experience than what you get with jumping in and out of discrete apps. Windows Phone 7 will certainly be a first step in a new direction, but we have no intention of releasing beta quality code into the market and calling it “done.”

13. The new hardware buzzword is ‘gyroscope’. To date we haven’t heard of any requirement of a gyroscope in WP7 but obviously if that’s left out at initial launch then it’s going to lead to the exact fragmentation between phones that MS is trying to avoid with WP7. What can you tell us about this?

There is no gyroscope.

14. Will front facing cameras be required on WP7 devices? Will you provide developer tools for them?

There is no specific requirement for front facing cameras.

15. To date we know of one CPU that’s been approved for WP7 – Qualcomm’s Snapdragon. MS has a history of working with Tegra and there are other CPUs being used in smartphones that appear to have the specs that WP7 requires. What CPU’s have been approved to date?

We have not published the specific hardware requirements, but I would note that we’re working with OEM and MO partners to provide customers and developers with a consistent hardware experience across all devices is central to the Windows Phone 7 strategy. There is a single Windows Phone 7 hardware specification. Developers can count on the fact that all Windows Phone 7 hardware will include; a powerful processor, 256 MB of RAM with a minimum of 4 GB Flash, 802.11 b/g wireless), 4 point, true multi-touch capacitive only screen and 5 sensors (A-GPS, accelerometer, compass, proximity and light). Within this specification there are two screen options; with WVGA at launch and HVGA coming shortly thereafter. There will be only two options. These specifications and requirements are reflected in the tools and guidance we are providing at MIX and will continue to update throughout the months ahead.

16. Micro USB has become standard but it does not appear to be a requirement of WP7. Is it? This is another possible fragmentation issue as USB host services, for example, would require it.

See above.

17. The headlines are filled with iPhone4 and Android 2.2. There’s still not a lot of talk about Windows Phone 7 aside from the blogospheres. There’s obviously a soft deadline to get some attention before June 24 when a few million people lock in contracts for 2 years on a new iPhone. This obviously ties into release dates as well. October has been repeated on numerous occasions. This plays into people’s decisions to buy a phone or wait. What is MS doing about mindshare and advertising? What can you tell us about release dates and availability?

The release date has always been “holiday 2010”and you can expect to see Microsoft working hard to promote Windows Phone 7 as we get closer to availability. We feel we’ve done a fair job of giving people an early look at Windows Phone 7 so that people who are already interested in something different can start to plan ahead a bit.

18. If a user on an Xbox live game on WP7 pauses a game, can they resume the game using their Xbox assuming the developer used the same source code?

To date we’ve shared that managed developers can bring Xbox LIVE features to a mobile phone. The Windows Phone 7 games hub will provide access to a managed portfolio of Xbox LIVE and non-Xbox LIVE games. It also lets users:

· Collect Achievements and build their Gamerscore

· View Xbox LIVE Leaderboards

· See their Xbox LIVE Avatar

· Access Spotlight feeds

· Add Xbox LIVE friends to their friends list while out on the go

· Turn-based (asynchronous) multiplayer gaming

Clearly we are giving developers quite the big of freedom with the platform and what they can do with it. It will be pretty exciting to see some of the scenarios they create, including the one we showed at MIX where a game was paused on the console and picked up and resumed on the device.

There you have it folks. For those of you who have been following this like a hawk, here are a few points to note. On ebooks it looks like the B&N app that we have on 6.5 will likely continue to be our friend (note that it’s not on Marketplace but there’s only one ebook app on Marketplace and it doesn’t have a store associated with it). This also suggests that Marketplace will not be the place you buy ebooks. Also, notice that Xbox games are capable of being paused and resumed (which contradicts what we previously heard would not be implemented at launch so we’ll have to see how it plays out). Based on the number of items that are going to be revealed in the coming months, I’d suspect that those who think WP7 is coming by the end of the summer are likely mistaken. Lack of Swype really hurts me, not going to lie. Also, contrary to what we heard Flash is not ready to be released. That probably ties into their desire to not have beta software released. But by MS working with YouTube (owned by Google) it certainly puts them into bed with a frenemy. There are lots of teasers here but this platform has me on the edge of my seat still. What do you think?

And of course, before we close, a big thanks again to Brandon Watson and his team for his time and availability on this unique event. Thank you, thank you, thank you. To follow Brandon you can check out his blog ManyNiches.com or on Twitter @BrandonWatson

9 COMMENTS

  1. Wow. We should have sent him a huge list of questions and just told him to answer the ones he could. Just a lot of “no comment” or “wait an ambiguous while” kind of answers. So we learned that there will be an Ebook reader but have zero details and now we know it’s possible that a developer could implement the xbox-phone game switching but it’s up to them. I guess I was expecting a little more transparency. Microsoft keeps the non-disclosure agreements pretty tight though. I just hope this stuff works as flawlessly as they plan.

  2. all i have to say is a front-facing camera is going to be on wp7 or sales will be down at lunch.. one more other issue… no swype is really kind of funny.. I’ve watched videos were the people who use the phone everyday at microsoft can barely use the on screen keyboard.. but one thing i can say.. im not to worried about things like swype because there will be a way to get it on there (xda developers)… But hardware stuff has to be there.. Front-facing camera, hdmi-out 5 row keyboard like the touch pro 2… 3.8 inch screen or better…. that will push windows phone 7 out of the gate real fast… :)

  3. @Terry W.: I’ve used swype a couple of times on my phone and I gotta say, I don’t like it. I still prefer using my thumbs. But to defend the keyboard skills of the MS staff, seems like every video they are trying to type one handed to keep the screen in view of the camera so hopefully this works better when typing with the device right in front of you. But I think I’d still rather see MS make the built-in work better then open up the ability for 3rd party input panels.

  4. Those answers did not change my “highly guarded” attitude on the future of Windows Phone. I am not yet impressed.

  5. I know they have published some of the hardware specs, but connectivity is going to be key. Look at all the accessories you can buy for apple products, like the portable stereos or cradles. It’s easy for 3rd parties to make these because the port is standard, and always at the bottom. I hope, if they haven’t already, work with device OEMs to put a standard port in place, like the zune port. So when I want to plug in my phone to my tv to watch a show I downloaded from the market I don’t have to find or have several different connectors sitting next to the tv like one for my zune, one for my wife’s LG made WP7 and another for my HTC made WP7.

  6. agreed, there is way to much no comment and wait and see answers, the game switching being a possibility is awesome but other than that i didnt see a whole lot of wow in there seeing as i dont read ebooks, and not commenting on the landscape mode issue really scares me, you’d think that would be fixed by now…

  7. @Terry W.: Swype is a deal breaker for me. I have to have it or a physical keyboard, but I’m liking the thinness of a phone without the keyboard.

  8. Good idea for the Q&A but totally pointless in the end, nice try. This phone better not crash, at this point stability is my only sticking point with ANY phone. I use the HD2 and it is so embarrasing when it chooses to not connect to a certain wireless network and then it freezes… totally unacceptable flaw in an otherwise great phone.

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