Smartphones have become a huge deal, with Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android both taking large portions of the current mobile market.
Recognising mobile’s importance to the future of software development, Microsoft has thrown their full weight behind their latest mobile operating system, Windows Phone 7, which launched in October.
Comprising a multitude of communication and entertainment services, including Internet Explorer Mobile, Xbox Live and Microsoft’s new app store, the software provider is counting on Windows Phone 7 not only being the first choice for business, but leisure too.
Richard Banks of Microsoft Research has already shared information on interface design for the handset.
Now, Microsoft UK’s consumer marketer for Windows Phone Oded Ran tells CasualGaming.biz what separates WP7 from its competitors, why Xbox Live is a prime selling point and what they’re doing to encourage developers to make games for their mobile platform.
How important are games to Microsoft’s overall strategy for Windows Phone 7?
Windows Phone 7 is built with a focus on creating the best mobile experience for consumers which helps them juggle their personal and professional priorities to live every moment. It delivers an innovative set of features for end-user social networking, media and entertainment and marries those with our traditional strengths in messaging and productivity.
Gaming is also an important part of this experience. Windows Phone 7 connects the 25 million active members in the Xbox Live community to mobile, offering a unique mobile gaming experience.
Microsoft has touted the Live Anywhere initiative as a major feature of its past mobile operating systems, but has not yet fulfilled total connectivity between its Live-enabled devices and services. How close are you to reaching that goal with Windows Phone 7?
We remain committed to building out a network that connects you to your entertainment, games and friends in a variety of ways. Zune on Xbox and the expansion of Xbox Live to Windows Phone 7 are great examples of the progress we’ve made against that original vision. We continue to work toward expanding the Xbox Live service to deliver the entertainment you want shared with the people you care about, wherever you are.
Windows Phone 7 has support for Xbox Live. What are the unique factors of the service that separate it from your competitors?
Unlike any other mobile phone, Windows Phone 7 offers a managed games portfolio for Xbox LIVE that puts quality first, proactively selecting top titles from the biggest names in mobile and console game development. In addition, Windows Phone 7 Microsoft Game Studios, has strong partnerships with independent game developers, and innovative connections to Xbox 360 with exclusive console companion games and applications.
Xbox Live on Windows Phone 7 unlocks a world of games and fun and directly connects you to a global community of more than 25 million active Xbox Live members. Windows Phone 7 is the only phone that seamlessly integrates Xbox Live and provides unique mobile gaming experiences.
Apple launched their own social gaming network, Game Center, back in September. What are your thoughts on it?
I’m not overly familiar with the specifics of that offering. What we’re excited to talk about is what Windows Phone 7 means for gamers and how it provides unique experiences not available anywhere else. Today Xbox Live remains the largest and most active social entertainment network. For the first time, Xbox Live users can send friend-to-friend messages from a phone, compare games and Achievements or customise their Avatars.
We believe the quality and consistency of what we offer with Xbox Live speaks for itself. It’s why Live has remained an industry leader for more than seven years, and we’re confident that consumers will recognize the unique value of Xbox Live on Windows Phone 7. Xbox Live on Windows Phone 7 will also be the only mobile gaming platform backed by an award-winning first party game studio.
Why should developers make games for Windows Phone 7?
Our new design and operating system, coupled with a great developer platform and tool set, give developers new ways to bring their ideas to life and engage more potential customers. Windows Phone 7 continues our heritage of giving developers familiar tools, an expansive network of guidance and resources and the benefits of an open and transparent process for bringing apps and games to market through our Windows Phone Marketplace.
What is Microsoft doing to support developers with the Windows Phone platform?
We have a 30 year track record with the developer community. This gave us the ability to custom design an application platform on which developers can create apps and games in Silverlight and the XNA framework with Visual Studio 2010 and the best tools in the industry for quickly and easily bringing creativity to market – all for free. Only Microsoft offers an app and game Marketplace that is both developer friendly and quality oriented.
What features does the new Microsoft app store have that will benefit the development community?
Some measure app store success by the tens of thousands. We have taken on a different challenge; to win each customer and developer one at a time. That means we’re creating great lasting experiences that result in loyal phone customers and developers who continue to find value in innovating on our platform.
Windows Phone 7 offers a tremendous variety of quality apps and games across a wide range of categories. We see the very careful and deliberate ignition of Windows Phone Marketplace and the application certification process as a critical step in establishing the kind of trust with developers that will further energise the community and provide end users with a steady supply of creative apps and games over the long term.
How important is it to Microsoft to convert the Live community to users who embrace your home and mobile platforms?
Windows Live provides authentication and a rich set of experiences to over 500 million users worldwide. Bringing WLID into the phone experience benefits our users by enabling us to integrate a breadth of services – both Microsoft and third-party – into a seamless, inclusive set of hubs, centralising otherwise disconnected information and features. We’ve designed the out-of-box-experience (OOBE) to be a simple, intuitive and fast process that we don’t believe represents a significant hurdle for the vast majority of consumers.
Titles such as Angry Birds and Bejeweled have become huge mobile hits. How necessary is it for Windows Phone 7 to have a mainstream hit of its own?
Microsoft is empowering the global developer community and working closely with hundreds of leading game developers to bring exciting titles and experiences to Windows Phone 7 in unique and compelling ways. We’re focused on providing great apps and games to anchor the categories that people value most: games, entertainment, music & video, photos, lifestyle, news & weather, sports, health & fitness, finance, travel, navigation, social, productivity, tools, business, reference & books.
What are your expectations for Windows Phone 7 as part of the casual gaming market?
We have a proven track record of delivering amazing gaming experiences on Xbox Live, which has fostered a community of more than 25 million gamers we’re now bringing to Windows Phone 7. Xbox Live is the industry’s leading multiplayer gaming network, and you can bet that we’re leveraging that heritage to deliver compelling mobile gaming experiences you simply won’t find anywhere else.