What the Windows Phone 7 Series means to web developers

Windows Phone 7 SeriesGreat news on the Microsoft front.  The response to the Windows Phone 7 Series, which was officially unveiled at this year’s Mobile World Congress, in Barcelona, has been overwhelmingly positive.

But here’s the question everyone is asking:  is Microsoft too late?

The iPhone, with a nearly three year head start, owns a seemingly unbreakable stranglehold on the nextgen, consumer mobile market, while Android appears to be the only other platform making any headway.

So is there any room for a third player—or a fourth if you count enterprise-centric RIM/Blackberry?  Not if Microsoft plays Apple’s game.

It may be safe to presume that Microsoft will never be able to compete with the sheer volume of iPhone apps out there, which now numbers above 140,000.  The rest of the mobile world feels the same way, as shown in another major announcement this week in Barcelona, as wireless carriers and manufacturers around the globe joined forces in an attempt to give the Apple App Store a run for its money.

But it appears, at least with the small taste we’ve received so far, that Microsoft is, in fact, going to play Apple’s game, but not in the way you might think.

The Ol’ UI Filparoo

In today’s mobile world, the Microsoft-Apple relationship is completely backwards:

In personal computing, Microsoft owns the market dominance, and the Windows platform has supported far, far more applications.

Apple, on the other hand, chiseled its way into relevance by providing a more aesthetic user interface (UI), and by including, as standard features, some essential software to manage our digital lives (like music and pictures).

Now it’s Microsoft who looks to take on Apple in its own UI game; the new Windows mobile UI is, to say the least, absolutely stunning.  Check it out:

What this means for web developers

In a previous post, I suggested that the future of mobile devicing is not in native applications, but in the browser.  Of course I don’t claim to be the only one to feel this way.  As we’re now witnessing with both personal and business computing, the propensity is to evolve towards the web.

Mobile data service will continue to get faster.  The performance of mobile processors will continue to improve and astonish us.  And more and more of our everyday tools will move to the cloud.  A quicker rendering web browser may very well be the only native application our devices will ever need, other than a few essential tools, like the “hubs” on the Windows Phone (as mentioned in the above video) to manage our digital lives.

And just as the growing popularity of Apple’s line of Mac computers coincided with the growth and popularity of web applications—and largely dampening Microsoft’s huge Windows/PC “app” advantage—the Windows Phone UI enhancements could make it a  winner when the dust settles.

And if that happens, good old fashion web developers will be kings of mobile application development.

But what about now?

Mobile browsers on nextgen smartphones are already full blown web browsers.  Are you testing your websites/web apps on mobile browsers?  Is making  your websites more mobile friendly (i.e. smaller images sizes for faster page rendering, etc.) a part of your existing strategy?

And please let us know your take on the new Windows mobile OS?  Love it?  Hate it?  Leave your comments below.

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