Microsoft announced that the code base for Windows Phone 7 1.0 has been finalized. The software has been "released to manufacturing," meaning that this version is the one handset makers will deploy on the first devices to feature the radically redesigned mobile OS.
A range of tweaks and some changes have been incorporated into this final version, based on a vast internal testing program and feedback from developers outside of Microsoft.
On Sept. 16, Microsoft will release the production version of the Windows Phone 7 development tools. And in early October, the redesigned online applications store will open. Possibly, that event indicates that the first handsets might be announced about the same time or shortly thereafter.
The resources companies devote to creating high-quality, compelling handsets that fully exploit Windows Phone 7 will be critical in attracting legions of users.
The release to manufacturing announcement was made via a blogpost by Terry Myerson, Microsoft Corporate Vice President of Windows Phone Engineering.
The "work of our internal engineering team is largely complete," he wrote. Presumably, that team is now refocusing on subsequent Windows Phone 7 updates, which could include features like copy/paste, and some form of application multi-tasking
Myerson also revealed the extent and depth of Microsoft's testing program for the mobile OS. "We had nearly 10,000 devices running automated tests daily, over a half million hours of active self-hosting use, over three and a half million hours of stress test passes, and eight and a half million hours of fully automated test passes," he wrote.
Additional comments and suggestions came from "thousands of independent software vendors and early adopters" using and testing the code. Microsoft announced recently that the mobile development toolset has been downloaded more than 300,000 times.
The testing and code quality, both of the OS and of the development tools for building Windows Phone applications, seems to have paid early dividends for Microsoft. At least some developers have praised the quality and stability of the code, almost from its earliest release last spring, when developers began working with a PC-based Windows Phone emulator.
And more recently, Microsoft began handing out more than 8,000 prototype Windows Phone devices, with the availability of the "Technical Preview" release in early July. Again, developer feedback in general seems to have been favorable. (See Windows Phone 7 'preview' winning generally good reviews)
Myerson noted that the "final integration of Windows Phone 7 with our partners' hardware, software, and networks is underway." The first handsets running Windows Phone are expected in time for 2010 holiday shopping. Asus, LG, Samsung, and HTC are all expected to unveil products, perhaps as early as October.
Microsoft worked with these and other manufacturers to create a foundational hardware specification for Windows Phone 7 devices that would ensure a high-quality user experience. The spec includes, for example, a powerful Qualcomm 1GHz Snapdragon processor, in part to ensure that there's enough power to create a smooth-flowing, seamless interaction with the Windows Phone touch-based user interface.
Myerson didn't go into details on the main changes since the Technical Preview release. But he did mention one: a change to the "People" hub, which is one of several groupings for related applications, tasks and features. "[F]olks loved the Facebook integration in the People Hub, but they also wanted ways to filter their contacts so only the Facebook friends they really know will show up in their contact list – we've added support for that," he wrote.
Another change: making it quick and easy to "like" a Facebook post, right from the People Hub, or to quickly post a message to someone's Facebook wall directly.
Windows Phone 7 is not just a completely new mobile OS for Microsoft. It represents an almost completely new approach to the mobile user "experience." Microsoft officially scrapped the PC model and created a new UI that anticipates and cooperates with what a user wants to do. (See From sneakers to smartphones: The man behind Microsoft's Windows Phone design)
John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World.
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