wp7logo_2011.jpgMicrosoft's (news, site) Windows Phone 7 hasn't exactly gotten off to a rocking start and it'll take a while for the Nokia deal to bear fruit. So, what are the phone developers doing to make things better now?

MiXing It Up

Microsoft has expended great effort on Windows Phone 7 and is keeping on pushing with new generations of mobile hardware and developer tools, even as the market slips increasingly iPhone and Android's way. The latest news comes from the MiX developer conference in Las Vegas. Among the promised new features are:

  • Augmented reality: Something that most rival devices have already and is largely a novelty at best. Microsoft is opening up developer access to the hardware sensors and camera to allow software that overlays digital images and data on the camera output.
  • Neo from the Matrix won't want a Windows Phone 7, as Microsoft is now adding Live Agents to the device. Not as scary as it sounds, these will add more interaction to the phone's live tiles with push notification, linking and background processing.

The Qantas app pulls real-world data together

Bigger, Better?

In the wider scheme of things, Windows Phones will be going on sale in 35 countries, including the massive Chinese market, and Microsoft is now touting some 13,000 apps, a growing army of developers and the arrival of popular games such as Angry Birds and Plants vs. Zombies on the system.

The beta of Silverlight 5 packs in a number of new features and is now the phone's primary development platform with improved HTML 5 support, hardware decoding and on-the-fly variable rate video encoding and playback.

The new tools will be available for free in May to registed developers, while rumors of new Nokia Windows phones are strengthening all the time, suggesting that a launch later this year is on the cards. Will all this activity help boost Microsoft's mobile fortunes? The Nokia tie-in is now key to seeing how succesful it will be -- and the result is far from clear.