What's your favorite thing about developing for Windows Phone 8? Is it the new CoreCLR that replaces the .NET Compact Framework, providing unity across both the smartphone and Windows 8 tablet platforms? Is it the inclusion of the async programming model? Maybe the code generation that now happens in the Windows Store cloud, speeding up app delivery by, potentially, a lot? The fact that the annoying SDK delay is finally over?
For developer Bill Reiss, it's none of the above. He has an interesting blog entry on his site about the most exciting thing for him when it comes to building apps for Windows Phone 8: it's the fact that devs can now code natively in C++. He writes:
"...I really think that the changes made in Windows Phone 8, especially the ability to write apps and games in C++ makes a huge difference, and now I think you will see Windows Phone be a first class citizen with developers because they won't have to do nearly as much to support the Windows Phone platform."
It's an important point to make, I believe. The first priority for Windows Phone 8 is to have a great, user-friendly OS that's differentiated from the competition, meaning Android and iPhone.
Windows Phone 8 looks, feels, and is completely different from its rivals. Next up comes the app ecosystem. If developers aren't creating apps that take advantage of these differences, it won't matter a lick if it's the greatest thing since the first hyperlink was clicked on -- consumers will ignore it and it becomes the next Palm Pre.
Now, I don't expect developers to migrate to C++ in droves -- most of you are C# and VB devotees, and with good reason. However, now that the option exists to use C++ for Windows Phone 8, those with specific needs for the kind of performance and scalability offered by native apps, and the skills to code it, can do so.
For instance, game developers will certainly take a long, hard look at Windows Phone 8, maybe in a way they wouldn't have before. And it's clear that games are still the most popular use of smart devices, be they phones or tablets.
Social media apps are another example. You might remember that Facebook recently rewrote its iOS app from the ground up in Objective-C, after it finally got tired of the delayed responsiveness the app had from its HTML5 roots. And who wouldn't prefer to code an app in Visual Studio using C++ than in Objective-C? It's a pretty clear choice, if the criteria is ease of development and time to market.
Of course, those aren't the only criteria; more important is the potential to make money off an app, and the size of the audience for that app. But smart choices like making C++ a viable language in Windows Phone 8 get developers like Bill Reiss excited; and excited developers tend to make exciting apps. Exciting apps can move consumers to new platforms. You know the rest.
Will you be building C++ apps for Windows Phone 8? If so, let me know what you're creating.
Posted by Keith Ward on 11/09/2012 at 11:20 AM1 comments
You'd better get to work. Microsoft is counting on you, dear developer, to write Windows 8 apps at a furious pace.
At least, that seems to be Microsoft's stance, based on an interview with Keith Lorizio, Microsoft's vice president of U.S. sales and marketing, that appeared on Beet.tv. In the interview, currently making the rounds of cyberspace, Lorizio says Microsoft's goal is to have "100,000-plus" apps in the Windows Store within 90 days of Windows 8's release, which would put it at Jan. 26.
That's quite a high bar to hit, considering that there are currently fewer than 4,000 apps in the store. That's according to data from a new site, WinAppUpdate.com, started last month by Wes Miller, a Research Vice-President at Directions on Microsoft. Miller also spent time in the Windows division at Microsoft.
Lorizio's counting on huge Windows 8 adoption for the carrot -- if Microsoft builds it, they will come. "It's critical for us to get a critical mass of apps", he says.
The available marketplace for Windows 8, says Lorizio, is one billion-plus consumers. "In order for us to reach our goals, which is a conservative estimate of 400 million units in marketplace by July 1, we know we have to have a very, very healthy ecosystem of apps," Lorizio says.
No kidding. Microsoft continues to face a chicken-and-egg situation: Applications draw customers to a platform, but developers are drawn to platforms with the most customers. But if Microsoft can reach that "conservative" goal of 400 million copies of Windows 8, developers will be falling all over themselves to create apps for it.
Still, 100,000-plus apps would be fairly amazing, considering that the Apple Store and Google Play, both mature marketplaces for products that have been out for years, are at about 700,000 and 675,000 apps each, respectively. That doesn't mean Microsoft can't do it -- just that it will take a phenomenal effort on both Microsoft's part and its legion of developers.
Posted by Keith Ward on 10/10/2012 at 8:16 AM5 comments
Microsoft has revealed that it will announce Windows Phone 8 later this month, on Oct. 29. The news comes via the always-reliable Mary Jo Foley, Redmond magazine columnist and ZDNet's Microsoft blogger.
Oct. 29, Foley wrote is not the day the phone will be launched, however; rather, the complete feature set and specs will be unveiled. What's even more important for Windows Phone developers, though, is that the Windows Phone 8 SDK should also be available at that time.
As I recently blogged, many developers have been frustrated by Microsoft's unwillingness to widely release the SDK before the phone launches. Microsoft declared in early September that the only developers eligible for the SDK were those who'd already published apps in the Windows Store. In addition, access to the Windows Phone SDK 8.0 Developer Preview program was limited to a five-day signup period.
The angry mobs have a point -- it's hard to get apps prepared for a launch when one doesn't have the SDK to work with. And having apps ready at launch can be a key to building an audience, when the white noise of the market is at its quietest. Why, some asked, isn't having an MSDN subscription good enough?
Todd Brix acknowledged the developer unhappiness, and laid out his reasoning in a blog entry on Sept. 12:
"The reason is that not all Windows Phone 8 features have been announced and our SDK includes comprehensive emulators that allow developers to test apps against a wide range of Windows Phone features."
Whether that explanation satisfied developers is another question entirely. It certainly didn't for a responder to the blog named "hopmedic", who pointed out the difference between this SDK and the one for Mango, Microsoft's big update to Windows Phone 7:
"This is rather a crock... Last year we were using Mango for what, 2 or 3 months prior to general release? And this year we can't even have the SDK unless we get picked from the pool of applicants?"
"HowieC42" summed up a lot of the feelings expressed in the comments:
"Not releasing the SDK to interested developers prevents apps being ready for the release of Windows Phone 8. With all the competition in the mobile phone arena, this makes little sense. Phone purchasers are swayed by both the number and quality of apps. A must have app can sell a lot of windows phones. You should be encouraging all developers, not just those with present apps."
Brix responded in the comments, suggesting some options. They include: continuing to write apps using the Windows Phone 7 SDK, as Windows Phone 8 will run Windows Phone 7 apps; and that developers should wait to do final app testing on a shipping Windows Phone 8 device anyway, rather than relying on an emulator. Since those devices aren't out yet, they have time.
In any event, developers don't have that much longer to wait, since the SDK will be out at the end of the month.
Posted by Keith Ward on 10/06/2012 at 12:23 PM7 comments
The Windows Phone Developer Center, open just a month now, already has its first update. Microsoft's Todd Brix blogged that the Web site has more than 100 upgrades, including reliability, performance and app submission fixes.
One very cool update is the ability to have user feedback on an app translated into a language of the developer's choice. So if you're getting feedback in German, for example, and you don't know German, the dev center can translate comments into English. It does this via the "Microsoft Translator," according to a screenshot on the blog entry.
The Developer Center was renamed in August, being formerly known as App Hub. At the time of the rollout of the new site, a number of developers complained about it being slow and buggy. It appears, based on the number of changes, that Microsoft has worked hard to address those concerns.
Posted by Keith Ward on 09/28/2012 at 11:50 AM0 comments
Is anyone else bothered by this Bloomberg report that quoted Intel CEO Paul Otellini as saying that Windows 8 isn't ready for release?
Otellini allegedly made those comments to employees at a meeting in Taiwan. "Improvements still need to be made to the software," he was quoted as saying.
Remember that Intel isn't some obscure third-party developer making tower defense games for WinRT; it's Microsoft's most important partner. And its CEO says Windows 8 isn't fully baked? The point is that there's a strong desire to treat Otellini's comments as credible, given who he is and the company he runs.
I get the desire to have Surface, and other WinRT tablets, out before Christmas. And I get the need to not fall further behind the iPad, new Android tablets that are finally starting to catch on, etc. Yeah, Microsoft needs to get in the game.
But given the quality of the competition, this is very risky. Consumers will be comparing Windows 8/WinRT tablets to mature tablets from the Other Guys. The old saying about not getting a second chance to make a first impression is relevant here; if Windows-based tablets suffer by comparison, by being incompatible or buggy or insecure or whatever, then those consumers may give up on Windows for anything but desktops and laptops.
(And it could potentially spill over into Windows Phone 8 as well. "Hey, if WinRT stinks, how good could Windows Phone, based on the same technology, be?")
Microsoft sort of responded in the story. Here's what a spokesman said:
"With over 16 million active preview participants, Windows 8 is the most tested, reviewed and ready operating system in Microsoft's history," said Mark Martin, a spokesman for Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft.
That's not a statement that fills me with confidence. Martin did say, specifically, that it's ready, but he didn't say Otellini was wrong, or that his comments had no substance. In my opinion, he used numbers (16 million) to try and obscure the main point -- that Windows isn't ready for release one month from today.
All this could work out, of course. Windows 8, as mentioned in the story, will be updated -- probably frequently -- in the early days of its general availability. But the potential flood of bad publicity that could be coming its way, if those flaws end up being major issues, could seriously suppress sales. This isn't an iPhone, after all, in which tons of negative reviews about the new maps application have no effect due to iPhone's impenetrable public perception of near-perfection. Windows 8 is brand-spanking-new, and Microsoft doesn't have a history in mobile computing yet.
If those issues are minor, on the other hand, they may have no effect on sales at all. But if they were minor, one would think Intel's CEO wouldn't have said what he said.
Posted by Keith Ward on 09/26/2012 at 9:05 AM12 comments
An update of the "Roslyn" Community Technology Preview (CTP) has been released, Microsoft announced.
The September CTP features a host of new language features and a number of API changes. Microsoft warns that there are "known issues" with the CTP, and that only a subset of the C# and VB languages are included. The APIs that have been updated include the Compiler, Services and Editor Services APIs.
This is the third revision of the compiler-as-a-service project; it was previously updated in June, and was first released publicly to developers in October 2011.
Roslyn is a project to rewrite the C# and VB compilers in those languages; currently, they're written in C++. At the same time, the compiler is "opened up," instead of being a closed system, as in the past. As Visual Studio Magazine contributing editor Joe Kunk recently wrote, "Roslyn exposes information regarding source code parsing (what elements are present in code), semantic analysis (what they mean), binding (how they relate to each other), and IL emitting (executable code)."
VB developers may be disappointed to learn that the September CTP still doesn't support the "Interactive window", which is a popup window that allows immediate evaluation and testing of code snippets. Microsoft says, however, that VB support is coming in a future release.
Note that there are several requirements for running Roslyn. The most important is that the September CTP must be run on Visual Studio 2012; it won't work on Visual Studio 2010 or earlier. The supported operating systems are Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows Server 2012.
Microsoft also states that the June CTP doesn't need to be un-installed before installing the September CTP.
Posted by Keith Ward on 09/19/2012 at 8:06 AM0 comments
So, Jason Zander is following Scott Guthrie over to Azure. Zander, formerly Corporate Vice President of the Visual Studio engineering team, is moving from DevDiv to partner up with the cool new kid on the block, Windows Azure (as the estimable Mary Jo Foley reports).
Foley received an emailed statement from Microsoft, laying out the changes. It read, in part:
"With Visual Studio 2012 and .NET 4.5 now available and as we begin to work on future versions of Visual Studio and offerings, this is the right time to make organizational changes ... As part of the recent STB (Server and Tools Business) organizational changes, Jason Zander effectively began his transition to a new role leading the Windows Azure development team."
Is this a blow to Microsoft's Developer Division? Two heavyweights on the Visual Studio team leaving within 16 months of each other, for the same new home? The reality is that it remains to be seen what effect this will have on Visual Studio, the product, going forward.
If Zander was going to leave, this was certainly the time to do it. Visual Studio 2012 and the .NET Framework 4.5 were officially launched last week. Those products are the first to really address the move to mobile and Windows 8 which, to use the over-used term, is truly a bet-the-company strategy for Microsoft. No one wants to leave in the middle of the iteration.
And Corporate Vice President S. Somasegar, who still heads DevDiv, is quite capable. More and more lately, he's become the public face of the division, and his enthusiasm and love for development, and the developer community, comes across in interviews.
But Zander, and before him Guthrie, were equally brilliant and creative. Azure's come a long way already, in Guthrie's short tenure. He and Zander are good at understanding what their customers want and need. It's hard to replace that kind of firepower.
I don't see this as any kind of sign, however, that DevDiv's starting to get short shrift from Redmond. If anything, developers have never been more important, and Visual Studio's never been more important. The platform ecosystem has never been broader, and Microsoft's welcoming the open-source community more warmly than any time in its past. Smartphones and tablets give developers opportunities undreamt-of even a decade ago, and software innovation is peaking. Microsoft is desperate, as it should be, to get developers working on Windows 8.
At the same time, the cloud is growing fast, too. And Microsoft's presence is as iffy there as it is in mobile. Azure needs to succeed for Microsoft; adding talent like Jason Zander and Scott Guthrie gives it the best chance to do that. Visual Studio's rolling along like a tank, while Azure's still in its toddler years -- at best. Now it has even more guidance.
Posted by Keith Ward on 09/18/2012 at 8:35 AM3 comments
Microsoft has unveiled its first new logo in a quarter-century. It looks like this:
Are you excited by it? To me, it doesn't look much different than the old logo. Sure, there are differences, but you know immediately it's still Microsoft. That's a good thing, I guess. Maybe our art folks will weigh in with a different opinion, but it doesn't cause a thrill up my leg, Chris Matthews-style.
As for the squares, Microsoft had this to say about their meaning: "The symbol's squares of color are intended to express the company's diverse portfolio of products." That's certainly true -- Microsoft is nothing if not diverse. Do four colored squares == diversity? Again, I guess so, but I'm no design guru. (I should add that the old logo didn't have the squares, which had their start as a Windows-specific logo. The old logo was just the word "Microsoft." So in that sense, it is significantly new. But to me, it really just ties together two long-time elements).
So there you have it. Microsoft's new look and feel. To end on a slightly cynical note: at least we know that Microsoft won't have any trademark or copyright problems this time, unlike a certain UI that's part of a new operating system being released toward the end of October...
Posted by Keith Ward on 08/23/2012 at 10:55 AM4 comments
There's a fascinating story on CNET about how software developers are getting hired based on their work on GitHub, the open-source code repository, and how it's replacing LinkedIn as the go-to site for hiring managers.
I'd never considered it, but it makes sense: If you've put a lot of stuff on GitHub, that's real work that potential employers can see. It's one thing to have a great resume, but another entirely to have great software already built (or forked, if you haven't built it yourself.) "A common view is that a developer who has a profile there has an advantage over those who don't," writes Daniel Terdiman.
It works the same for authors who want to write for Visual Studio Magazine: If you can point me to articles you've published, it demonstrates that you're not just a wannabe. You're actually doing it, and have done it. That gives you an advantage -- at least in this editor's eyes.
So now you have another reason to consider contributing to GitHub; not only will you be helping move the field forward, but you might land a job out of it!
By the way, John Papa wrote about other reasons for using GitHub, and describes his experiences with his alert message program toastr.
Posted by Keith Ward on 08/17/2012 at 2:48 PM0 comments
Metro? Modern? Windows 8? What's going on here?
First, word comes that Metro's out as a designation meaning "applications built for the version of Windows 8 that runs on ARM processors". Apparently, there was a partner conflict that Microsoft didn't want to turn ugly. But here's the thing: Metro's been used for years now to refer to the new UI. My question: why didn't anyone discover this potential conflict before? Big, huge, Jupiter-sized epic fail by marketing or someone else at Microsoft. My prediction: heads, more than one, are going to roll over this -- in fact, they may have already.
Since the initial revelation that Metro's gone, several more trial balloons have been floated. The first was simply replacing Metro with "Windows 8". That's a tough one, however, since Windows 8 is an operating system, and not a UI. Can you see the potential confusion coming? Windows 8 apps on Windows 9? Windows 10? One shudders at the thought.
The latest rumors floating around the Web, from Mary Jo Foley and others, is that "Windows 8" may be out, and "Modern" may be in as the UI designation. This makes more sense, since it would once again be referring specifically to a UI, and not an OS. I have to say, however, that Modern doesn't exactly thrill my toes as a name. Sorta bland, blah, un-memorable.
I wouldn't be surprised if Microsoft's not done. It seems the company isn't sure what to do now, so they're flailing about, throwing name spaghetti at the wall and seeing what's likely to stick. Given the name-game musical chairs now being played, it seems that this is a pretty big deal in Redmond. And indeed, it should be. Windows 8 is a critical product, acting as the first bridge between the traditional software/OS combo and the mobile era that demands new software and nimble OSes. Getting the branding right is important, since those products will be competing with the dominant brands of Apple and Android.
In other words, I'd be surprised if the name ends up being Modern or Windows 8. This may not be settled until Build.
Posted by Keith Ward on 08/10/2012 at 9:33 AM10 comments
If you blinked, you missed it. If you were on the phone, or out on a run, at the store or in a meeting, and you didn't sign up for Microsoft's upcoming Build conference, you're out of luck.
It appears that the show sold out in an hour. That's One. Single. Hour. Sixty little minutes.
Wow. Fortunately for us press types, things don't work quite the same way. I was in the middle of a press briefing -- with Microsoft, ironically enough -- when Build registration came and went in the time it takes to watch a Star Trek episode. So I'm set for Build, but many, many others aren't.
That bites, as does the timing of the show: Oct. 30 - Nov. 2. Doesn't anyone in Redmond have a calendar? None of those people noticed that Oct. 31 is Halloween? That's a pretty big holiday for lots of folks. I'm wondering if Microsoft is planning a massive party for that night, seeing as how they're keeping us from tricking and treating. I assume, of course, that the timing is much more due to the release of Windows 8 than anything else, but still...
I doubt there will be many earth-shattering announcements; most of those -- Windows 8, Visual Studio 2012, .NET 4.5 -- have been made. I'll be very interested in seeing how Microsoft positions its Surface tablet, given the growing unease by some OEM partners about hardware competition from Redmond. I'll also be watching closely for announcements related to Windows Phone 8, which could be the big deal in terms of news.
So there will be a lot going on; we'll try to keep those of you who had something else to do that hour informed.
Posted by Keith Ward on 08/08/2012 at 11:01 AM3 comments
Well, it's certainly a new day for Microsoft, isn't it? Yesterday's announcement of the Surface tablets signals a major shift. Microsoft has decided that being more like Apple isn't a bad thing: making its own hardware to go along with software means complete control of the pipeline.
That also means, of course, additional risk: Microsoft doesn't have a history of rolling its own, so there will undoubtedly be hiccups along the way, as the hard lessons will have to be learned -- lessons Apple has long ago internalized.
Still, I'm impressed by what I've seen. Making both an ARM and Intel version of the tablets is clever, and opens up opportunities that don't exist on the Apple side: the only touchscreen tablet coming out of Cupertino is ARM-based. There are likely to be advantages to having a more desktop-like tablet in addition to a traditional tablet. I like my iPad lots, but there are many times I would like the portability of that with the ability to get more serious work done like I do with a laptop/desktop. The Windows 8 Pro version (which runs the Intel processors) may be just the ticket for me.
One other thing: three huge cheers for the cover/keyboards, both the Touch and Type styles. Not having to buy one means more usefulness and lower cost out of the box.
So, although I'm encouraged by the announcement, the execution is another matter entirely. To that end, I've got some Surface questions for Microsoft:
- How backwards-compatible will Windows 8 Pro be? I don't expect Windows RT to work with traditional Windows 7/XP apps. But the Intel version had better work with them -- and well. One of the key failings of Windows Vista out of the gate was the lack of compatibility. Microsoft can't afford to suffer that kind of catastrophe again.
- How will they be priced? The iPad (v.3) starts at $499, the Kindle Fire at $199. Both of those tablets are market leaders, by a wide swath. And all indications are that Apple's developing a smaller, cheaper iPad version to compete more directly with the Fire. For Microsoft to gain traction, picking the right price point will be beyond crucial -- it could be everything. There could be even be multiple price points: one for RT and another for Windows 8 Pro, which would give customers more options, but not too many options so as to get confused.
- How much time and effort will be spent on the App Hub and Windows Marketplace? More and more, it's becoming clear that good navigation and app discovery technologies, along with reporting ease and timeliness, are crucial in getting developers on board. Google has had lots of issues with its Android Market, and Apple has suffered some slings and arrows in regard to its policy of disallowing apps for competitive or simply incoherent reasons. If any company knows the importance of the ecosystem, it's Microsoft. But Redmond is still getting its legs under it when it comes to this kind of sales channel.
- How will Microsoft market the versions? Will Windows 8 Pro (as I suspect) be touted as the business tablet and Windows RT as the consumer device? Defining the segments will ensure that the waters aren't muddied in the sales channel. Customers should know exactly which tablet they want, and exactly why.
- Will they definitely be out for the holidays? Microsoft says that Windows RT will be out the same time as Windows 8 general availability, with Windows 8 Pro "about 90 days later". So the priority is Windows RT and the consumer market. But no firm date for Windows 8 has been released yet. If it's October, for example, that pushes off Windows 8 Pro until the very end of 2012 or into the early part of next year, when sales typically lag. Will that get it off to a slow start, which is sometimes death in a market often unforgiving of latecomers?
There's a long way to go, and these questions will need to be answered in the positive for Microsoft to pick up some mobile mojo.
[Click on image for larger view.]
Posted by Keith Ward on 06/19/2012 at 10:11 AM2 comments