Saturday, 11 April 2009

The Missing Windows Mobile Component

I’ve been looking into developing on mobile platforms recently and after looking at Windows Mobile, Android, iPhone, BlackBerry and Palm I’ve come to an unusual conclusion regarding the Microsoft offering. Everyone knows the UI is weak in comparison to other devices so I’m not going to look at that. I’m actually talking about the developer tools for Windows Mobile.

Downloading the SDK for version 6.1 is nice and easy from Microsoft.com but the problem emerges when you start looking for a supported environment. Android and BlackBerry use Eclipse plug-ins which are free to download as is Eclipse itself. If you own a Mac you will get Xcode when you download the iPhone SDK and once again these are free. Microsoft’s free Visual Studio Express environments are not actually supported for mobile development. You have to go out and purchase a copy of Visual Studio before you can develop for the Windows Mobile platform. To me this is a massive flaw in the Microsoft model. Google, RIM and Apple are making the most of innovative developers who might think twice if they had to purchase the development environments.

Microsoft may be able to boast about the number of applications they have for Windows Mobile but many of them are pretty awful. I do feel that if Microsoft doesn’t want to get left behind in this field and lose developer support they must offer a Visual Studio Express version that hooks into the 6.1 SDK and allows developers to play and build apps for free. After that they can charge for distribution because everyone else basically does.

Image from msdn blogs

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