Game Changer: iPhone Apps That Work on the Zune HD

Microsoft may be building a self-branded smartphone to combat the iPhone. But with over 60,000 apps, Apple’s behemoth App Store might be too big to beat. What if a Zune (or a Zune-phone) could run iPhone apps?

That’s the potential shown by WordMonger, a little iPhone game made by developer Foundation42. Engineers there ported their iPhone game to work on the ZuneHD in under 12 hours, reports Mashable. But how? (Below, a video of the iPhone game working on the Zune.)

The trick: the developers built WordMonger with Novell’s MonoTouch, which allows coders to work in C-sharp and .NET languages to build their iPhone apps, instead of Apple’s own language, Objective-C. C-sharp is Microsoft’s standard language, meaning that programs written in C-sharp should presumably work on most any Microsoft device like the Zune.

Objective-C, Apple’s language for the Mac and iPhone, is a close cousin of C-sharp; they’re a little like American English and Australian English, both object-oriented supersets of the PC’s ur-language, C. Developers that can code in one can usually code in another. But the shortcuts of the game that Microsoft and Apple provide, called frameworks, are very different, so you can’t exactly copy-paste from one development environment to the other. Tools like MonoTouch could allow for a new breed of Zune-and-iPhone development shops, where code is easily developed cross-platform.

That’s not something that as easily done for platforms like Android and Palm’s webOS, which run apps based on a scripting Web language called JavaScript. The divide may mean that the mobile developers of the future align along just that axis: Palm-and-Android shops that are mainly Web programmers, versus Zune-and-iPhone shops housing mainly desktop PC developers.CD