Software makers tend to break a few eggs whenever upgrading from one operating system to another. Some Windows 98 apps didn’t function properly with Windows XP. And while many Windows Mobile 2003 apps run on Windows Mobile 6.5, I wouldn’t expect them all to work. But there’s one thing we do know now: Absolutely no Windows Mobile applications will run on Windows Phone 7 Series when it’s released later this year.
Basically, Microsoft reinvented the wheel with the next version of its smartphone operating system. While Windows Mobile 6.5 is basically an updated version of an OS that Microsoft has been working on for the past 10 years, Windows Phone 7 Series is completely redesigned from the ground up. Phones running the new OS will be more like a Zune HD than a Windows Mobile smartphone. And as a result, the new operating system will not be backward compatible with earlier versions of Windows Mobile.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to run popular apps like Opera Mobile or Pocket Informant on new handsets. It just means that developers are going to have to retool those apps to run on the new platform.
In other words, expect new versions of successful commercial apps and some freeware applications. But there are thousands of freeware applications that were developed for Windows Mobile over the past decade. And my guess is that many of the people that developed those games and utilities have no real incentive to update their software. So expect a much smaller library of available apps for Windows Phone 7 Series at launch.
On the bright side, Windows Phone 7 Series will support Silverlight, .NET< XNA, and other platforms which will make it easier to develop some truly cool applications.
At the same time, Microsoft isn’t kissing Windows Mobile 6.5 goodbye. The company will continue to support handsets released under that platform, which means we’ll probably continue to see some development for Windows Mobile 6.5. After all, it’s been several years since Sony launched the Playstation3, and Playstation2 games continue to stock the shelves of my local video game store.