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The capabilities of mobile phones have come a long way in the past few years, but a new Windows Phone app from Microsoft takes things a step further — allowing users to write simple software programs for the phone on the very same phone, no computer required.

The first beta of the app, dubbed TouchStudio, was released over the weekend for Windows Phone by Microsoft Research’s software engineering group. The idea, according to the Microsoft Research project page, is to bring “the excitement of the first programmable personal computers to the phone.”

TouchStudio comes with sample scripts consisting of specific actions that can be edited inside the app. The project page uses the rudimentary example of finding a song of a specified length on the phone, and then posting it to the user’s wall.

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The app “is already a fully functional development environment to edit and run code,” writes Microsoft researcher Nikolai Tillmann. “But not all aspects of our vision are realized yet: Not all sensors are exposed yet, the cloud is not yet used as a backing store and for state sharing, and more.”

Also see the TouchStudio Facebook page for more hints about future capabilities, in the team’s responses to early users.

The app is notable in part because it was released directly by the company’s research group, rather than one of its product teams. The timing is interesting, because developing for Windows Phone will be a big focus of Microsoft’s MIX conference in Las Vegas this week.

Here’s the link to the TouchStudio app in the Zune marketplace.

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