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Microsoft today announced that it is replacing its App Hub developer portal for developers with a new online home for Windows Phone developers called Windows Phone Dev Center. The new site works today for developers targeting Windows Phone 7.5 and will point the way to Windows Phone 8 development in the days ahead.

“The site is an evolution of our retired App Hub developer portal,” Microsoft’s Ash Wahi writes in a post to the Windows Phone Developer Blog. “It is designed to provide everything you need to build, publish, and manage apps for Windows Phones around the world. The result of months of careful planning and attention to your feedback, it has new features to help make Windows Phone app development faster and more profitable.”

Windows Phone Dev Center features many improvements over its predecessor, some of which I list below. But allow me to point out the most obvious improvement of all: It actually uses the term Windows Phone in its name. I know, obvious. (App Hub always bothered me, sorry.) Anyway… New features:

Cleaner design. The Windows Phone Dev Center has been designed to present a streamlined set of menu options and cleaner look so you can complete common tasks more quickly.

Backend improvements. Months ago, Microsoft posted about how it was changing the Windows Phone app submission back-end to better accommodate the swelling ranks of developers targeting this platform. The Windows Phone Dev Center includes these changes.

More markets. Developers can now target four times as many countries or regions, and get paid in three times as many as what was previously possible. Many of these new markets are available starting today. Others will arrive soon, Microsoft says.

PayPal support. Windows Phone Dev Center now supports PayPal, so developers can get paid via PayPal and can pay for their developer account via this service too. (PayPal has to work in your locale for this, of course.)

More beta testers. Where App Hub allowed developers to beta test their apps with up to 100 users, Windows Phone Dev Center supports up to 1000.

Better pubCenter integration. Windows Phone Dev Center is more integrated with Microsoft Advertising’s pubCenter, Microsoft says, so it’s possible to create a pubCenter account and ad units from the same place you manage your apps. (You will still need to access pubCenter for some things, however.)

Better reports. Windows Phone Dev Center provides new analytic tools for tracking app downloads and performance. A new My Money report shows monthly payouts and will soon include exchange rate information.

MSDN integration. The Windows Phone Dev Center is now integration with MSDN and other sources of developer information so you can access everything you need from a single location.

Obviously, I like a lot about Windows Phone, but one area in which I think Microsoft has done a particularly excellent job is its support for developers. The Windows Phone Dev Center appears to be another nice bonus for developers, and it’s nice to see this happening now, and not timed to the release of Windows Phone 8.