Windows Phone 7 Development: Where to Start

Overview

The announcement on October 11 from Microsoft about its Windows Phone launch came as no surprise to the mobile community. Ever since Apple launched the IPhone in 2007, the mobile arena has seen a Botox like face-lift. In the hardware front, keyboard-less phones have started to push out the QWERTY keyboard phones as uncool and obsolete, while, at the same time, the Appstore has delighted consumers and applications of all sorts are available on the IPhone and the story is repeating with the Android platform.

Realizing that it missed the boat with the Windows Mobile story, Microsoft did a reset on its mobile efforts and came up with a new platform with a modern UI and a robust programming model.

Platform Overview

The Windows Phone Runtime is a sandboxed environment where managed code can execute in a safe and secure environment. The sandbox ensures that one rogue application cannot impact the other applications in a detrimental way.

The Runtime supports two frameworks to build applications on:

  1. Silverlight for Windows Phone: Silverlight is an ideal platform for Rich Internet Applications, as was very evident from the online streaming videos of Olympics 2008.
  2. XNA Framework: This is an ideal for game development framework for Xbox 360, Zune and the Windows Phone 7 platform. The framework provides a lot of managed API for game development.

Both these frameworks run atop the Common Base Class Library thus ensuring that your C# programming skills can be reused for Windows Phone 7 application development.

Tools

To get started developing for the Windows Phone 7 platform, you will need to install the Windows Phone 7 Developer tools by clicking here. The tools are available for free from http://create.msdn.com/en-us/resources/downloads.

What do the Windows Phone 7 Developer Tools Contain?

The developer tools are shown below in figure 1:

WP7 developer tools
Figure 1

Installation

Clicking on the link above downloads vm_setup.exe which is the web installer for the developer tools. Once you launch it and navigate through the installation steps, it takes about 30 minutes to complete the installation.

If you have retail version of Microsoft Visual Studio installed (not the Express SKUs), the installer will install the templates for the Windows Phone 7 development such that you can use them from the Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 installation itself, without the need to use the Visual Studio 2010 Express for Windows Phone 7.

Installation Requirements

To install the Windows Phone 7 developer tools, you will need the following:

  1. Operating system: Windows Vista or Windows 7 - All editions except Starter Editions
  2. Disk space - 3 GB
  3. RAM - 2 GB
  4. For emulator to work, you will need DirectX 10 capable graphics card

Which Framework To Use for Windows Phone 7 Development

While the Windows Phone platform allows using the most of the APIs belonging to either framework, each framework has certain scenarios which would make it better than the others. Below in figure 2 is a list of which scenarios would work best with which platform.

a list of which scenarios would work best with which platform
Figure 2

App Hub

The erstwhile Windows Phone 7 marketplace has been reincarnated as the App Hub (http://create.msdn.com/en-US). While the tools for developing applications for Windows Phone are free, getting the application approved for the marketplace and selling them requires paying an annual $99 fee.

Summary

This article will have given you an overview of how to get started for building applications for the Windows Phone 7 platform. Happy coding.

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About the Author

Vipul Vipul Patel

Vipul Patel is a Software Engineer currently working at Microsoft Corporation, working in the Office Communications Group and has worked in the .NET team earlier in the Base Class libraries and the Debugging and Profiling team. He can be reached at vipul_d_patel@hotmail.com

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