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Microsoft’s Response To The iPhone Is Right Around The Corner

Posted by Keith Elder | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 12-01-2007

I had sort of an epiphany tonight while I was watching an interview of Scott Guthrie on Channel 9.  Scott is “the” guy when it comes to all of the tools Microsoft produces for developers such as the CLR, IIS, Visual Studio, LINQ, WPF, ASP.Net etc.  There were a couple of things that jumped out at me during the interview that made me start to put together a puzzle that I think is right around the corner which could overtake the buzz of the iPhone.  Stay with me on this one as I explain my thought process.  In the end I’ll get to the point, see if you agree.

#1: WPF/E

Before I get into the interview with Scott that released this epiphany, let me explain what WPF/E is for those that don’t know.  It is important to understand this before we move on.  It stands for Windows Presentation Foundation Everywhere.  The first part, WPF, is the graphics engine which is running in Vista that allows developers to write cutting edge user interfaces for their applications.   Instead of me telling you all of the technical details, take a look at a new application from Yahoo! that is leveraging WPF, their new Yahoo! Messenger.  Here is a video of the application to give you an idea what is possible with very little effort on the developer part.  WPF is very important because it is going to allow developers to push the envelope of their applications in terms of user interface.  Things that were technically impossible are now a reality.  The Everywhere part at the end takes the graphic engine and ports it to the web so developers can extend the richness of WPF into the browser.  Hopefully this makes sense because it is important to understand this in order to get where I am going.

During Scott’s interview he talked about WPF/E.  The first thing that jumped out at me was when Scott mentioned the fact they are working on C# for other platforms.  Rory, the interviewer, was caught off guard by Scott even stating this and asked if he wanted to cut the comment from the video and Scott declined.  Obviously this is a huge insight into where things might be going.  We are already seeing some of the efforts of this with WPF/E  running on different browsers such as Firefox as well as Safari on a Mac.  As Scott said, the same code base works on the different platforms so a developer can write C# for their WPF/E application that runs inside of a browser and it will in fact run on the Mac.  Being able to write once and run on different platforms is huge and it is probably coming.  With that said, now onto part two.

#2: WPF/E Is Only 1MB

The second thing that jumped out at me during the interview was the fact that the download to enable WPF/E in Safari is only 1MB.  I think that is pretty impressive, especially seeing some of the stuff that has already been built with the CTP release of WPF/E.   So if we take #1 and #2, add them together what do we have?

WPF/E + 1MB Download = Mobile Eye Candy

The fact that WPF/E is only a 1MB download got me to thinking and then it hit me.  Here is the “epiphany” part.  If WPF/E is only a 1MB download and it will run on lots of platforms Microsoft probably has the same plan for their mobile devices.   If that is the case, Microsoft is in a position to provide developers with the tools they need to create visually stunning mobile applications using WPF/E that will rival the iPhone in terms of eye candy.  All the pieces of the puzzle are in place for this to happen.  For me, the difference in current Windows Mobile devices and the new iPhone is just about eye candy.  Pocket PC devices have had touch screens for a long time as well as phones so this is nothing new.  However, what Apple has done with the iPhone is spend lots of time on the form factor and interface of the device.

Pocket PC Phones With WPF/E

Today Pocket PC phones do everything the iPhone does in terms of features (mail, videos, music, web surfing, sync contacts, calendar, etc) and even do things that the iPhone isn’t planning on doing, games.  Another difference between the two is the rich development platform Microsoft has built around its mobile line.  In typical Apple closed proprietary fashion, Steve Jobs announced yesterday that nothing will be installed on the iPhone unless Apple wants it to be there.   Closing the iPhone from developers and custom applications.  This is yet another reason the Windows Mobile platform is going to thrive because corporate America can adopt, customize and grow their mobile force.   Or anybody else for that matter.

Apple spent a lot of time on the interface of their phone.  The difference in the current offerings in Windows Mobile devices and the iPhone boils down to the software interface.  This is where WPF/E could play a major role in the future to combat the UI of the iPhone.  As Jobs pointed out during his keynote, the best interface is software.

This is all total speculation of course on my part, but imagine a Pocket PC phone running WPF/E.  Imagine all that would be possible.   If we are able to get WPF/E running on mobile devices with a touch screen things could really get crazy in the mobile space.  Of course Microsoft will come up with some very uncool name for it I’m sure but in the end this could be the response the Windows Mobile space needs to get an edge over the iPhone’s user interface.

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Comments (6)

iphone does have games…


Microsoft will come up with not only an uncool name, but an uncool product. As a former Microsoft supporter and endorser – now an Apple user – I can tell you that Apple did Windows Vista 2 years before Vista actually came out.

As for the iPhone – I just heard that Jobs is going to let many others write applications for the iPhone.

Windows is old, huge, clunky, and although ubiquitous, is showing its age.

Breaking News: Microsoft is working on having a version of the framework that will run on the Mac! That's

One small correction, the Mac WPF/E install is a universal binary (contains both PPC and x86 versions) and hence, is larger than the 1MB Windows install.

Breaking News: Microsoft is working on having a version of the framework that will run on the Mac! That's

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