Windows Phone developers now have a new online home, courtesy of Microsoft. The technology giant has unveiled the Windows Phone Dev Center, which it calls an evolution of the retired App Hub Developer Portal.

Top to Bottom Redesign

In a post on the Windows Phone Developer Blog, Microsoft describes the Windows Phone Dev Center as being “redesigned from the ground up.” In addition to streamlined menu options and links on the front end, on the back end the site sits on top of a more robust and scalable infrastructure.

Beyond changes to site layout and infrastructure, Microsoft is expanding the reach and payment opportunities for developers, who in the near future will be able to register in four times as many countries or regions, and get paid in three times as many as what’s possible today. Microsoft is also in the process of tripling the number of consumer storefronts for developers to sell their Windows Phone apps.

The Dev Center also now supports PayPal and allows developers to enter a unique price in each country or region. Furthermore, Microsoft is promising to provide the ability to add and manage in-app merchandise and track sales in the next version of Dev Center.

There are also other changes besides those to the site’s financial capabilities. For example, Microsoft has streamlined the account signup and submission processes and integrated Dev Center more with Microsoft Advertising’s pubCenter, so it’s possible for developers to create a pubCenter account and ad units from the same place they manage their apps.

In addition, Microsoft says it has improved features such as reports and analytics, beta testing, and portal integration with MSDN.

Windows Phone Readies for ‘Ramp-Up Year’

Although Windows Mobile/Windows Phone shipments only represented a small portion of worldwide smartphone shipments in Q1 2012 as reported by IDC, the research group said 2012 should be “considered a ramp-up year for Nokia and Microsoft to boost volumes.” During Q1 2012, there were 3.3 million global Windows Phone 7/Windows Mobile smartphone shipments, representing 2.2% of the market. Although the Windows Phone market share dropped from 2.6% in Q1 2011, total phones shipped grew a healthy 26.9%.

Windows Phone 8 Nearly Complete

Although Microsoft has not said whether the Windows Phone Dev Center will immediately be compatible, Microsoft should have the smartphone version of the Windows 8 operating system done in the next few weeks, with Nokia expected to announce new devices for a coordinated launch later in the year. One of the major aims of the new OS is to help Microsoft get back into the smartphone race.

Developers can use Windows Phone Dev Center for Windows Phone 7.5 or earlier apps. Microsoft says it will “fine tune and optimize the site and infrastructure in the weeks ahead.”