By Jacqueline Emigh, Betanews
With previews of the Windows Phone 7 operating system and the launch of Microsoft Expression Studio 4 at Internet Week New York, Microsoft helped to set the stage for a forthcoming smartphone application store aimed at doing a much better job of rivaling Apple’s App Store for iPhones and Google’s Android Market.
In a speech at the Expression 4 launch in New York City on Monday, Bill Buxton, principal researcher at Microsoft Research, pointed to a day when Windows applications will run across devices ranging from smartphones to TVs, for example, while being outfitted with a series of user interfaces (UIs) geared to the requirements of the specific device, and even to the preferences of specific users.
Released on Monday, Microsoft Expression Studio 4 will later include tools that designers and developers can use for creating applications for the Windows Phone 7 smartphones slated to ship at the end of this year, officials said during the launch.
First rolled out four years ago, Expression Studio is geared not just to traditional software developers, but also to application developers who are less savvy about the ins and outs of software code, said Dave Mendlen, Microsoft’s senior director, develop marketing, for Visual Studio, in an interview at the Expression 4 launch, held along with HP’s rollout of its new smartphone-enabled Web printers to kick off Internet Week New York.
Meanwhile, on the show floor at Internet Week, Microsoft showed a prototype phone from LG — one of its several phone maker partners for Phone 7 — running an early version of Windows Phone 7 dubbed Phone 7 Preview.
Microsoft gave sneak peeks at features that included GPS with mapping and turn-by-turn voice navigation, along with integration between Microsoft Outlook and Facebook that lets users navigate Facebook pages without leaving Outlook.
Microsoft is already running an app store for Windows Phone 7, but right now it’s still in closed beta, said a Microsoft rep during a demo. Noting that Silverlight applications can be ported from other Windows environments through the re-use of Silverlight instruction sets, the rep expressed optimism that Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 store will ultimately be much bigger than Microsoft’s existing store for Windows 6.5. “It’s looking good,” he elaborated. Microsoft had previously acknowledged that Windows Mobile 6.5 apps will not run on Phone 7.
The tools for creating Windows Phone 7 apps in Expression 4 are still in private beta, but Microsoft plans to open up the software tools to public beta over the next few weeks, Mendlen said during the interview.
Microsoft mentioned the upcoming Windows Phone 7 tools during the Expression 4 launch, while also highlighting capabilities such as SketchFlow, SuperPreview, and improvements to Expression’s video encoder and search engine optimization (SEO).
First introduced last year in Expression Studio 3, SketchFlow is aimed at letting application designers and developers create applications interactively with customers through “what-if” scenarios. In Expression 4, SketchFlow adds integration with Microsoft’s SharePoint portal server.
In one of several customer testimonials to the advantages of Expression Studio, a speaker from software solutions provider Anvil Digital told the crowd that the use of SketchFlow has helped his company to increase its new business win rate from 30 percent to 90 percent over the past year.
SuperPreview, on the other hand, is targeted at letting developers view and correct coding errors in Web pages on multiple browsers — including Internet Explorer (IE) 6 to 8, Safari, and Firefox — on the same PC. Like the Windows Phone 7 tools, SuperPreview is still in beta, Betanews was told.
Expression 4 comes in three flavors. The Web Professional edition includes Expression Design, Expression Encoder, and Expression Web (ultimately to come with SuperPreview). Studio 4 Premium adds Expression Blend. Studio 4 Ultimate adds Expression Blend with SketchFlow and replaces Expression Encoder with Express Encoder Pro.