Microsoft Releases New Developers Tools for Windows Phone

Microsoft unveiled a raft of new features and capabilities for Windows Phone developers today when it previewed a major forthcoming update to the OS dubbed Mango. The slew of new capabilities include additional sensors, direct camera and gyroscope access and faster switching between applications.

The Windows Phone ecosystem still lags far behind iOS and Android with just 17,000 apps to Apple’s 500,000 and Google’s 200,000. But that isn’t stopping Microsoft from waging a multi-billion dollar campaign for third-place with a deal to ultimately put the Windows Phone OS on Nokia phones and aggressive marketing spending in concert with carriers and handset manufacturers.

Microsoft says the new features include background processing, a brand new profiler and emulator for testing, and links to apps from notifications and live tiles (or those brightly-colored, interactive squares on the home screen that represent apps).

More specifically, new abilities for developers in the  7.1 version of Windows Phone include:

  • Scheduling actions for a future time, which can run in the background.
  • Building audio applications that can run in the background.
  • Creating apps that can access the compass and gyroscope sensors.
  • Initiating file downloads in apps that continue even if the user navigates away.
  • The ability to access information about the network and network interfaces like the user’s mobile operator.
  • Better access to the camera including the ability to pull raw frames in real-time. This will help developers create scanning and augmented reality applications.
  • The live tiles will have two sides and can flip periodically, letting users see more about their apps.
  • The ability to measure the use of system resources such as CPU and memory over time in an app.
  • Read-only access to the user’s contacts and calendar data.

Microsoft is also expanding app sales to 35 countries and allows for submissions from China, Israel and Luxembourg. Middle Eastern and African developers can submit via Yalla Apps, an accelerator focused on distributing localized Windows Phone 7 apps. Another organization App Port has a similar role in publishing apps from developers in 13 Asian markets, while APPA Market supports developers in 19 central European countries.