The battle for developers’ hearts and minds

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The interwebs are ablaze with the news of Apple relaxing their once stringent guidelines in regards to 3rd party developer tools. The reasons for this change of heart are many with Gizmodo speculating that

Now, Apple is backtracking, and it’s not surprising—espeicially after that Epic Citadel demonstration created with Unreal Engine. Epic Citadel is a cross-platform 3D game engine which, before this change, would be technically prohibited by the iOS developer license.

And 9 to 5 mac

Should we blame this on Android?  Nah.  More likely this is Apple not wanting to mess around with the Feds who are looking at Apple’s development guidelines courtesy of a formal request by Adobe.

For the most part, Apple supporters and critics  alike are welcoming this change saying it shows “Apple is finally responding to users/developers feedback”

I, on the other hand, would like to posit a different theory. These developments are all due to the sudden and credible threat that Windows Phone 7 poses when it comes to ease of development using Visual Studio and Expression Blend. We have seen story after story of developers spending a minimum amount of time to develop or port over their app to WP7 instead of weeks or even months it took them to develop the same apps for the iPhone or Android. For example, Sarah Thomson, of Canadian indie game developer IUGO,  had this to say in an interview with pocket gamer

What is the platform like to work with?
Firstly, we are very lucky to have one of the most skilled teams in the world. With our seven years of experience on mobile platforms of all kinds and the team using our proprietary, platform agnostic technologies, it was a pleasure to work on the WP7 platform.
Just to give you an example; it took two weeks (emphasis mine)to bring the initial Implode! build over to the new platform.

Checkout Pocket Gamer for more interviews that involve iOS developers porting their games over to WP7. Paul Thurrott had an insightful post; Windows Phone’s Real Secret Weapon: Developers, Developers, Developers last week which in part said

From a developer perspective, however, these platforms are a disaster. The iPhone requires you to use a Mac for development, learn a cryptic and mostly horrible development environment, and learn yet another programming language, the ancient and archaic Objective C. Android is even worse. It’s based on Java, of all things, a language we had pretty much given up on from a client computing perspective, and the developer tools are stodgy and weird.

And it is here where the Windows Phone advantages start to become obvious. Windows Phone is based on Silverlight, which is in turn based on Windows Presentation Foundation, which is itself based on the managed code goodness of .NET. Developers that wish to write Windows Phone applications will generally do so in the familiar confines of Silverlight, using a familiar and logical language, C#. Those that are writing games will generally do so using the XNA Framework, which allows for cross-platform development between Windows (on PCs), the Xbox 360, and Windows Phone. This means that developers can very easily port games between these three platforms. Exciting? You bet.

The changes in Apples guidelines may now allow Adobe CS5 to be used to develop iOS app but that does still not compare to the Visual Studio 2010 and Expression Blend 4.0 combo. Check out this article on what it takes to develop for the Android. All this however does not guarantee a total success for  WP7 but it is nice to see the competition taking steps to thwart the possibility.

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