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Microsoft released a Community Technology Preview (CTP) of Visual Basic for Windows Phone 7 Thursday -- a move that may help the as-yet-unreleased phone operating system gain apps, which in turn may help the upcoming phones succeed in the marketplace.
"Ever since we first announced the application platform for WP7 [Windows Phone 7], there was a loud chorus of Visual Basic developers asking if and when they would be able to build apps for Windows Phone. That wait is over," Brandon Watson, director for Windows Phone, said in a post to the Windows Phone Developer Blog.
Visual Basic, which has its roots in the first product that Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) ever released back in 1975, is one of the most popular programming languages of all time.
However, Watson warned developers that the CTP is just that -- a "preview" -- meaning that it's not yet ready for use in building commercial products.
"There is no 'Go-Live' license [for the CTP], which means you shouldn't try to release apps built with this version of the technology" Watson added.
Still, the move may reinforce in VB developers' minds the thought that they may be able to make money from writing apps using their preferred programming language.
"They're [Microsoft] clearly trying to get their developers onboard with Windows 7," Jack Gold, principal analyst at J. Gold Associates, told InternetNews.com.
Microsoft has been working over the past several months to generate enthusiasm for developing for the phones, which are due out in the next few weeks -- perhaps as soon as Oct. 11 in New York, if the rumor mill is correct.
Gold said that the timing would be about right.
A month ago, the company said that developer tools for Windows Phone 7, which it had made available in beta form in July, had been downloaded 300,000 times in approximately six weeks. Microsoft also gave developers free engineering test phones in July.
In a major milestone, the final code of Windows Phone 7 was released to phone makers in early September.
Last week, the development toolkit was released to the Web. The tools work with Visual Studio 2010 and Expression Blend 4.
Watson did not give a projected ship date for VB for Windows Phone 7.
He also cautioned that programmers need to have Visual Studio 2010 Professional or higher in order to use the VB CTP.
"If you only have the Express edition of the Windows Phone Developer Tools, you cannot use this version of the CTP," Watson said.
Even with Microsoft's best efforts, however, it's still going to be a long haul for Microsoft and will take every advantage -- such as a cadre of already-trained developers -- the software giant can muster.
"Most mobile developers can't support more than two or three platforms. Microsoft is not up there at the top yet, and that's something they're going to have to do," Gold said.