So far, developers wanting to write programs for Windows Phone 7 have had to rely on a software emulator to see how their programs will run. Starting next month, though, the first group of developers will get their hands on actual devices.
While Microsoft says it won't have enough phones for all developers, it is working to make sure that the devices aren't limited to just the big software developers.
Microsoft is putting the final touches on Windows Phone 7, a major overhaul of its phone operating system. (Check out our behind-the-scenes story on that effort). The company is also working to make sure that carriers can start their testing of the devices in the coming weeks so the company can meet its goal of having devices on sale by this year's holiday season.
"We are still in the process of putting the final touches to each of our programs which will enable developers to get devices, so the only thing I can ask is to be patient," Windows phone 7 development team member Brandon Watson said in a blog post. "Orchestrating this sort of thing is quite challenging, but I can say this: we are putting devices in hands starting next month."
He offered few details, but encouraged developers to figure out his corporate e-mail and send them their ideas, suggesting those who reach him with a novel app are more likely to get one of the "several thousand" phones Microsoft will make available to testers.
"We will be doing so for a broad range of developers...not just big (software makers)," he said. "Individual developers with great ideas are just as important. Active folks on this forum are the very people we need to get phones to."
Watson said he appreciated the interest from developers in the new operating system.
"It makes my day to see so many of you clamoring for devices, and talking about the awesome apps you want to build," he said. "Believe me, I want nothing more than to put a device into each of your hands. Without passionate developers like you, we will fail."
Beyond finishing the software, one of Microsoft's key goals between now and when the first phones go on sale is making sure that key applications that are available for other smartphones are also ready for the Windows Phone 7 launch.
Watson also took a swipe at Google, which is known for handing out Android devices to everyone that attends on of its developer conferences.
"For us to show up to an event with phones for everyone is great for blog and media coverage, and to hand out a (lot) of phones, but it doesn't optimize for developers doing app development," he said. "I would rather give a phone to the 2 man team in Italy that has a great idea and is showing progress, but no ability to travel around the world to an event, than to give a phone to someone who had budget from his company to get to an event, but has no intention of building apps for the phone."
That may be true, but for a company looking to catch up from a deep hole, it might not be a bad idea, especially one with Microsoft's deep pockets. I think the bigger challenge is that it is still early in the product cycle and the carriers and Microsoft would have a tough time supporting 100,000 people using early prototypes.
Developers wanting to purchase an unlocked phone, he said, will mostly likely have to wait until after the first phones launch.