MIX10: Windows Phone Developer Tools Are Free, Silverlight 4 RC

The opening keynote of Microsoft's 5th annual MIX10 conference for Web developers and designers focused on the company's rich Internet application technology Silverlight and its role in Windows Phone Series 7 app development. The first Windows Phone 7 Series devices are expected at retail this fall.

The Windows Phone application development platform is based on Silverlight (XAML), XNA Framework (games) and the .NET Compact Framework, according to Microsoft. It supports Windows Azure cloud services, Zune apps, Xbox Live and third-party Web services such as social networking.

"This isn't Silverlight-lite, this isn't Silverlight different, this is Silverlight," said Scott Guthrie, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Developer Division, during the keynote. Developers can use the same programming skills (C#) and tools to create event-driven applications for the Windows Phone OS 7.0.

During the keynote, Guthrie announced that the Silverlight 4 Release Candidate is available for download today. The final release is slated for April, he said. It will include improvements to the media stack such as streaming to multiple monitors. A Silverlight Pivot control for data visualizations—based on the Live Labs technology-- will be released this summer.

The RC follows the first and only beta release at Microsoft's Professional Developers Conference in November. Since November, the Silverlight installed base has jumped from 45 to 60 percent of all Internet-connected devices worldwide, said Guthrie.

The fourth iteration of the technology since its introduction in 2007 adds support for Web cams, microphones, programmatic clipboard access and printer output, rich text editing, drag and drop capability, right click mouse and scrolling, access to file system resources, elevated trust, and out of browser online and offline applications.

Microsoft Silverlight 4 Tools for Visual Studio 2010 RC were released today. The Expression Blend 4 Beta, which adds support for Silverlight 4, Visual Studio 2010 and .NET Framework 4 (Windows Presentation Foundation 4) was also made available for download. Registered users of Expression Blend 3 can upgrade to version 4 for free, announced Guthrie.

Microsoft announced that the XNA Framework currently used to build Xbox 360, Windows PC and Zune apps, supports Windows Phone and Silverlight prior to the Game Developers Conference last week. Developers can use the same project to develop games for multiple devices—Windows PC, Windows Phone and Xbox 360. This functionality was demonstrated during the keynote with a loop-based game called The Harvest. Visual Studio supports the 2-D and 3-D APIs in the XNA Framework. It also provides access to limited Xbox LIVE functionality such as achievements, scores and connecting with other gamers.

The Windows Phone 7 Series platform is a clean break from the company's Windows Mobile 6.5 platform, which Microsoft says it will still support. Current applications will not run on the new operating system.

Microsoft's mobile strategy is focused on enabling its developers and designers to use familiar tools and skill sets to build Windows Phone 7 Series applications. Community Technology Previews of Visual Studio 2010 Express for Windows Phone, Windows Phone Emulator, Silverlight for Windows Phone and XNA 4.0 Game Studio were released today in the Windows Phone Developer Tools CTP, which supports Windows Vista and Windows 7. Developers with Visual Studio have the option to use a Visual Studio add-in or the Express tooling. Expression Blend users need the Expression Blend 4 Beta and the Expression Blend SDK for Windows Phone.

All Windows Phone 7 Series development tools are free and will remain free for Windows Phone developers, announced Guthrie.

The Visual Studio and Expression Blend tools for Windows Phone offer shared project templates and WYSIWYG controls that pick up the same look and feel as Windows Phone 7 Series skins--not Silverlight default controls. Among the Visual Studio tools is a Windows Phone Emulator, a virtual machine running the Windows Phone OS 7.0 for debugging, deploying and executing test builds. Apps can also be tested by plugging into a registered Windows Phone 7 Series test device with a USB connector.

Joe Belfiore, corporate vice president, Windows Phone, who introduced the Windows Phone 7 Series in February at the Mobile World Congress, gave another overview today of the user interface design, which is based on Live Tiles, task-oriented hubs and a wider than the screen "panoramic experience."

One of Microsoft's goals is to make life easier for developers and designers, according to Belfiore, who reiterated that the Windows Phone 7 Series devices, despite different manufacturers, will all use one application processor, a unified graphics subsystem, only two screen sizes and support capacitive touch. "Every Windows Phone 7 Series device is a Zune," he reminded the audience.

The Windows Phone 7 Series also supports standard smartphone functionality that developers can tap into such as location (Wi-Fi, cellular and GPS) and map control (Bing), microphone, push notifications, sensors and accelerometers. The location API works with Azure cloud services.

Several Windows Phone 7 Series apps were demoed during the keynote, some developed in as little as three weeks, according to Microsoft. Cynergy Systems Inc. developed an out of browser application in Silverlight 4 for sellers who list on eBay called the Simple Lister (beta). It allows users to scan barcodes using their Web cam to list items or to upload photos and resize them in a few clicks. The application will be available when Silverlight 4 launches next month.

Archetype designed an Associated Press Mobile News Reader Silverlight app that takes advantage Windows Phone UI and its "panoramic experience" by allowing users to pan to the right to see shared articles and comments. An application called Hush Hush from Jackson Fish Market used a customized interface to emulate a diary that can use photos, input from the keyboard and features page animation from a Silverlight library. A Shazam application for Windows Phone 7 Series (similar to its iPhone app) identifies music tracks based on sampling and offers band, album, video and tour information.

Silverlight supports IIS Smooth Streaming, hardware accelerated video and digital rights management. Scott Stanfield, the chief executive of design firm Vertigo, demonstrated an Instant Watch Netflix application for watching video content. Silverlight's DeepZoom functionality was showcased in an application by It allows Windows Phone 7 Series users to zoom in or zoom out (thumbnails) to peruse, comment and share comic books from well-known publishers.

Scott Guthrie had some fun with a Coding4Fun cannon application--once the "waiting for network" technical glitches got ironed out. It remotely controlled an actual "cannon" and shot red polo shirts into the audience. An open source sample of the code is available for download. Guthrie also demonstrated a JibJab style marionette application that used Microsoft's chief executive Steve Ballmer's head on a marionette to dance around the screen and mouth, "phone developers, phone developers, phone developers."

The Windows Phone 7 Series UI features a Windows Phone Marketplace hub for applications. The phones will have a "try" and a "buy" button. Developers can use a single binary, according to Guthrie, and still control the app functionality in the trial and paid-for versions. People interested in Windows Phone development can use their Windows Live IDs to register and get the tools for the Developer Portal. Application packages need to be certified by Microsoft before they can be published to the Windows Phone Marketplace. Developers will receive 70 percent of the proceeds from their app sales, as previously announced by Microsoft.

As many as 12 technical sessions on application development for the Windows Phone 7 Series platform are scheduled this week at MIX10, March 15-17. The sessions will be posted online after the conference.

About the Author

Kathleen Richards is the editor of and executive editor of Visual Studio Magazine.

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