Just writing a quick article about going to the first Windows Phone 7 User Group @wpug last night. With the device release within touching distance I get a feeling there is more and more excitement growing about the device and what developers will be able to do with it.
First off a bit thank you to Matt Lacey for organising the event, EMC Consulting (especially Michelle Flynn)hosting the event and Microsoft for great information about what is happening, buying beer and showing off some prototype phones.
It was a great format, an opening presentation then 5 demo’s from participants an a closing presentation.
Is Microsoft doing any thing new?
Personally I don’t think that there is anything particularly new in what Microsoft is offering. What is new is how it has been packaged up and delivered to the end user with a lovely new handsets and OS. The core components of building applications on Windows Phone 7 are:
- Visual Studio
- Expression Blend
All these tools are tried and tested, they are well known, they have excellent support from both Microsoft and the development community. I think this is fantastic, it really lowers the risk of developing an app for this device. Microsoft are just leveraging these existing technologies to make development easy.
Is Microsoft doing anything differently?
I think this is a big YES. Microsoft know that it is them ‘on the hook’ for the user’s experience so they are taking ownership of a lot of what controls this.
The devices are new but Microsoft have set a very high minimum specification for the hardware manufacturers. This is again excellent news, I feel that a number of the Windows Mobile handsets were underpowered and gave a poor user experience.
The Marketplace is the only way that you can get apps onto your handset (unless you have unlocked your phone via a Marketplace developer account). Again this is excellent news for two reasons.
- Before finding an app was hard. They were very distributed with a few 3rd party market places or vendors selling their apps on their own websites. The new Marketplace means that there will only be one place to look and one way to purchase which puts this important part of the user experience right in Microsoft’s control
- Microsoft can ensure the quality of the apps that are put on the Marketplace. This should mean that people don’t pay for or have to wade through 1000’s of sub quality apps that would reduce that all important user experience.
The last thing which I think will make a difference is how controlled 3rd party software is on the device. While the device is multi-tasking 3rd party apps are not allowed to leverage this. The reason being that badly behaving applications running in the background could drain the battery, use cpu and generally slow down the device. Making 3rd party software exit when a phone call is received for example is a sensible approach but a little frustrating for us developers.
A big thanks to Microsoft’s Paul Foster for his very interesting session about what’s going on with Windows Phone 7 and an even giving me the chance to use his prototype phone.
It is easy to create an application
Yes it is very easy. The development tools are free and can be downloaded from http://developer.windowsphone.com/ .
There are some excellent tutorial labs to follow which are very clear and easy to follow. They touch on all the key points of development using the development tools and the Windows Phone 7 os. I blogged about my attempt to create an iPhone app back in January which was a horrendous experience, I found this process much clearer and painless. I have been a .Net developer for 10 years which probably helped but I’m sure that the Microsoft tools are far superior to Apple’s XCode IDE.
Rob Fonseca-Ensor showed how easy it was to create an Xna game on the phone, and it was surprisingly easy. Create a picture, load it in the app and then pop it on the screen and that was about it.
At the user group there were 5 demo’s of apps that people had created. The app which I thought was the best (although I naturally voted for myself!) was Hosain’s tube app. It was a beautify clean design with lots of useful information being displayed from a data feed on the TFL website. I spoke to him afterwards and he had only spent about a week on the app, very impressive.
Other slick apps that were shown where UkTree’s CryoDefense which was a Tower Defence game. This was a very nice game created by seasoned mobile developers.
KeyboardP had created a really nice app to store information that can be used In Case of Emergency (ICE) he also had the best line of the night:
“I hope you buy my app and never use it” KeyboardP
I didn’t spend much time on my app at all It was a client to read and display skillbooks from my www.skillbook.co.uk website. I spent a day doing the labs I downloaded and then a day writing the bulk of my app and it was really really easy. I had another few hours to do a few tweaks on the app but in total probably about 12 hours, plus it was the first time I had used Silverlight. I didn’t win the X-Box but I hope people found the concept useful, here is a video of my demo:
A video of me demoing my Skillbook App
I really enjoyed the event, it was great to see Microsoft engaging with the development community and to also see what other developers are doing on the platform.
I was pretty sceptical about the ‘new windows phone’ when I first heard about it because of the previous pain I have had with Windows Mobile. However Windows Phone 7 is a completely different beast and looks fantastic, and I for one am getting very excited about it’s launch in the not too distance future!