Quality Time with Windows Phone 7

Windows Phone 7, Microsoft’s smartphone operating system set to launch later this year, has been talked about plenty since it was first unveiled back in February. Videos, images and other bits info have hit the web--either via Microsoft directly, or due to leaks from phone-watchers. People who pay close attention to these things already have a good sense of where this mobile OS is going.

But not everyone has gotten a chance to see a Windows Phone 7, up close and personal. Tom's Guide feasted its eyes on a Windows Phone 7 At an application developer event hosted by Microsoft in Hollywood.

This ogling session yielded a few tidbits of previously unknown information. For instance, the manufacturer of the handset we saw was not actually listed on the device, but sources indicate that the devices at the event were made by Dell or Acer (or, possibly, both).

Due to the minimum hardware requirements for WP7, we already know that these devices have certain features like a capacitive touchscreen with at least four control points, 256 MB of RAM, 8 GB of storage, a 5 megapixel camera, Direct X 9 graphics, and an ARMv7 Cortex/Scorpion CPU. Again these are all minimum specs, so a version with a camera, 16 GB of storage and an 8 MP camera wouldn’t come as a surprise. While we were not allowed to touch the phone, we did witness the screen on this Dell/Acer device in action, and the response was very smooth.

Here's what we learned about the WP7 app developing process. Anyone can develop apps for WP7, for free. Tools like Expression Blend 4 and Visual Studio 10 Express are free. Developers can create as many paid apps (apps that cost money to buy in an app store) as they want, as well as up to five free apps. If developers want to create more free apps, there is a fee of $19.95 for each additional app. In order to list apps for WP7 in the store environment, Microsoft charges a one-time fee of $99.99. This fee covers the developer for life, no strings attached (as far as we know).

This gets even more attractive for students, who, through Microsoft’s DreamSpark program, can not only obtain devs tools for free, but the listing fee is waived. As long as someone has a .edu email address, he can create and list apps for WP7 for free.

Listen up, game developers. Because games for WP7 will be created in Silverlight, XNA3 or XNA4 (XNA is the environment that Xbox Live Arcade games are created in), any dev can easily port their WP7 game in Windows 7, Xbox Live Arcade, or the Zune Marketplace (after some minor resolution tweaks). In short, one game can be seamlessly ported to a desktop, laptop, Zune HD, and Xbox 360, which means more money in the pockets of small indie game developers.

After our time with WP7, we can safely say that this newest mobile OS out of Redmond will give Android, BlackBerry OS 6 and iPhone OS 4 some serious competition. Indie devs, start your coding.

…and while this has nothing to do with WP7, seeing a seven story tall Inception poster across the way from this event was pretty awesome, too.