Windows Phone 7 tool beta debuts

Developers interested in creating apps for Microsoft's upcoming Windows Phone 7 platform can now play with the newest beta of the development tools.

Graduating from community technology preview status in March to near-final status on Monday, the Windows Phone Developer Tools offer several new features designed to intrigue developers thinking of building games and other apps for the platform.

Microsoft has now integrated its Expression Blend 4 development tool directly into the Windows Phone 7 environment. Using Expression Blend, developers will be able to build graphical interfaces for their mobile apps using a drag-and-drop approach. Expression Blend 4 joins Visual Studio 2010 Express as the development tools for Windows Phone 7.

Developers will also be able to use their own Windows Phones as a testing area to see how their apps perform. Microsoft had promised that preview Windows Phone 7 models would be available for developers this month and has targeted July 19 as the shipping date for a broader release of the devices. The company concedes that it won't be able to supply enough units to feed demand but said it plans to set up deployment and test labs in major cities so developers can at least have access to the phones.

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