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RealTime IT News

Make Mine Mobile: Microsoft

SAN FRANCISCO -- Microsoft is approaching the mobile market with fresh eyes this week with the introduction of its second-generation mobile developer platform.

The Redmond, Wash.-based software vendor on Wednesday said its new Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition software piggybacks on its other next generation platforms - most notably the Visual Studio 2005 developer's tool (codenamed Whidbey) as well as its upcoming SQL Server 2005 (codenamed Yukon). The company also launched a $100,000 Mobile2Market contest as an incentive to get developers to write Windows-based apps, with the promise of Microsoft-aided promotion and distribution. The goal, according to the guys in Microsoft's trenches, is to convince coders that smart clients are more than just unwired PDAs or personal computers.

The company also updated its Windows Mobile Developer Resource Kit, which includes eight new white papers focused on Windows Mobile development, new and updated code samples, Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition emulators, embedded Visual C++ 4.0 SP3, and Windows Mobile 2003 SDKs.

"I have a confession... We [at Microsoft] haven't done enough," Microsoft Software Design Engineer Chris Anderson said to attendees at the company's Mobile Developer Conference here. "We have tools today that are good... We're going to keep investing in this, adding features each year."

Microsoft said that based on the feedback on its original Mobile platform and subsequent builds, the company is most excited about reducing the amount of coding that developers would have to do to produce an application and get it running.

"The common theme here is that this type of development takes about two developers working a couple of weeks, and the most work that they do is to leverage back-end infrastructure," Microsoft .NET Product Manager Jonathan Wells told internetnews.com.

Wells said Microsoft's hook with developers and their bosses is that there is continuity between the Windows environments from desktop to server to mobile client. The luxury of already working under the .NET coding and linking the Visual Studio to the mobile space, Microsoft says, is that it allows them to offer a "Click Once" tab function that inserts pre-bundled code; brings back "COM interop" for devices; and adds new ability to attach to remote processes. The new version of the Windows Mobile development platform also supports ATL 8.0, MFC 8.0, an ARM chip design emulator and a native debugger.

"The IDE also allows you to write the code and not have to worry about whether the data is being viewed in profile or landscape mode," Anderson said.

Such is the case with the Motorola MPx smartphone series and similar offerings from Microsoft PocketPC/smartphone partners like Samsung.

The giant obstacle that Microsoft has at this point is that Nokia , which runs J2ME as well as its Series 60 platform on top of the Symbian OS, makes the majority of the cell phones in the marketplace. Wells said that while Microsoft is somewhat behind the curve with deployments, the "giant" mass of mobile developers and decision makers is yawning and waking up to Microsoft's pervasiveness. Wells points to some 24,000 rollouts of PocketPC applications and some 40 case studies in Microsoft's back pocket.

"Our goal this week is to raise that awareness," said Wells, who also noted that his group is getting interest from developers coming from the C# and Visual Basic camps. "If you run a J2ME app, you take the risk of it not running everywhere unless you write to the lowest common denominator."

Microsoft is expected to include the mobile community in its upcoming Visual Studio 2005 Community Technology Preview. The program announced this week would give developers a sneak peek at builds and give them an opportunity to provide feedback. The developer community also can get support from OpenNETCF.org under the Microsoft Shared Source license.