Will it cost us to develop for Windows Mobile 5.0?

Smartphone Thoughts is running a rather lengthy discussion about whether the development tools for Windows Mobile 5.0 are not going to be free. The Slashdot crowd has immediately jumped onto the issue as usual blaming Microsoft of a vile conspiracy.

The core of the issue is the fact that Microsoft is trying to unify all of its development tools underneath the Visual Studio 2005 umbrella. Since Visual Studio is not freely distributed (unlike the Embedded Visual Tools development system), the argument goes, there will no longer be any free development for the Windows Mobile platform.

I find the argument flawed for a number of reasons. If we look at the trend, there are actually many more free development tools available from Microsoft compared to the past. In fact, looking specifically at CE development tools: in order to develop for Windows CE some 3-4 years ago one had:

  • To acquire a Visual C++ development system, and
  • To purchase an add-on for Windows CE development.

Nowadays, one just has to spend 15 minutes downloading eVC++ 4 for free. Same goes for Windows-oriented development. Same for dozens of other SDKs. There are ways to develop for each and every Microsoft platform using free tools from Microsoft.

What is going to happen actually, in my opinion, will be similar to the situation with development tools for .NET framework:

  • There will be a freely available SDK with a set of tools allowing free development for Windows Mobile 5.0 platform just like there is a free .NET SDK with a set of compilers and tools allowing developers to create .NET applications.
  • VS.NET 2005 will be positioned for Windows Mobile 5.0 development in the exactly same manner VS is positioned for Windows and .NET development. That is, it will not be the only tool available for such development but the sheer convenience, integration and automation will appeal to a broad segment of ISVs compelling them to purchase it instead of going with free tools.

Now on a personal note. I think, I am willing to pay $299 if this would give me a single tool that would provide coverage for all Pocket PC and Windows Mobile target platforms without the sheer madness of having to install eVC++ 3, eVC++ 4, VS 6, and VS.NET 2003 (let alone a half dozen of platform SDKs). This alone is well worth $299. 😉