Two Big Developments for Tablet PC

Frank Gocinski, Microsoft''s ISV Business Development Evangelist Manager, discusses major developments for Tablet PC.

Note: This is a transcript of an interview conducted at VSLive! San Francisco.

Patrick Meader: Frank Gocinski is the ISV Business Development Evangelist Manager at Microsoft. We're here to discuss the major developments with Tablet PC, especially as they relate to the announcements here at the conference. Could you walk us through some of the major announcements that you're making with respect to that device?

Frank Gocinski: We've made two major announcements for Tablet PC around our developer ecosystem. First, we announced the InfiNotes control in partnership with our friends at Agilix Labs. InfiNotes is an enriched note-taking control, one that enables you to implement its functionality using drag-and-drop. Simply open up your Win or Web Form, grab the control, drop it onto that form, and you have full journal-like capability in your application. What used to take developers a couple of months to implement can now be done in a day or two.

We're excited about this control because developers have been asking for this type of capability, and we're able to deliver it now with a free standard control that Agilix will be shipping. You can go to to find out more about that control. Agilix also has a professional version of the control that incorporates additional features, such as tabbing and multi-page support.

The consistent feedback from the corporate-minded business developer to date has been that they want to integrate this rich note-taking experience into their existing applications. What shipped with the platform prior to InfiNotes was a neat picture control, but using that control to implement the desired functionality took a lot of time and effort. In many cases, we've seen Tablet PC deployments stall because this capability was too hard to introduce. So, we're excited from the perspective that now we're going to see those corporate applications able to implement this functionality with drag-and-drop simplicity.

PM: You've mentioned the note-taking aspect of developing for Tablet PC. One of the major concerns for developers is, what do you have to know in order to implement proper—not just Tablet PC—but mobile applications in general? What do you tell developers when they're looking for information on standards or proper approaches to doing this?

FG: We're trying to use our development center——as our primary portal to communicate this kind of information to the developer community. This site is updated regularly. We have a lot of input from people in the field/community, folks with a lot of activity around that site.

I think the primary thing that we're hearing today from our customers, our end users, is that they want access to their applications anywhere and any time. And that puts a different set of requirements on a developer. You can no longer build an application and assume it's being plugged into the wall, assume it has Internet connectivity throughout its life, and assume it's being displayed in a landscape mode on a large monitor. That is not the case anymore. That machine's going to go with the customer, and the customer is going to walk through the halls. The customer might go from wireless access point to wireless access point, or he might run through battery power until the battery is completely depleted.

Application developers need to start thinking about building apps that are truly good citizens in the mobile environment. And that's the part of our message for this show. We're talking about pen and ink as an integral part of the experience when you go mobile, but there are other considerations that developers need to take into account when they're building these applications.

PM: In addition to the control that you mentioned, I understand there's also going to be a Whidbey starter kit. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?

FG: Sure. We're actually looking for feedback from our customers on what we should do there. We have an opportunity. We're deciding right now what we want this kit to be when it debuts in the Whidbey timeframe. We have a couple of ideas—maybe it's an enterprise-type application, perhaps it's a game. But it's important that we get the best starter kit out there we can, and we're working on it. Within the next couple of weeks, we expect to start talking more broadly about what those pieces are and will be.

The other thing I didn't mention about our announcement this week is our Tablet PC Game SDK. This is another area that we're pretty pumped because the Tablet is a great device, and the pen really does change the way you can envision either doing games and/or just mainstream computing in general. Using a pen makes it easier to work with the computer. Our Tablet PC Game SDK is for all-around the casual game developer. It has abstractions and .NET classes that allow you to quickly and easily understand how to do a background, how to do things like velocity, how to figure out pen movement—basically, how to integrate pen input into the games.

The first game we're shipping is called Arcs of Fire, and you can go to the Web site now and get a look at the specification. This is an in-progress piece. We're working with our friends at 3 Leaf Development.

We'll reach out to the community throughout the entire process. So you're seeing the spec today; the SDK will drop this week; the Arcs of Fire first version of the game will be out there. People will be able to interact with us and tell us what they think. We fully expect to see new games come from this. The code itself will be available to everybody as a sort of reference-type application. It will include full, derivative rights, so you can do with it what you will.

One of the things I'm going to do is probably a build a football-simulation game for my Xs and Os. We think the game SDK is a fun way to learn about the Tablet, to learn about the pen, and to learn about how to integrate ink into an application.

We're also going to be showing some of the mobile features there. So this first game that we ship will be mobile-aware. It'll know if it's on a network, it'll know if it has battery power, and developers can pick up some of that coding expertise by looking at the sample and integrating it into their application.

PM: So developers will be able to download the full source for the application?

FG: The full source for the application will be available. That is correct.

PM: A lot of developers are not familiar with the development opportunities for the Tablet PC in pen and ink. What are some of the more commonplace scenarios that would make developers want to enable pen and ink in their applications?

FG: I think the key point for developers and for companies in general is to understand that this platform and the pen itself will change and open up new opportunities for them. Your applications can be used in new ways. This means you can attract new users, who will get new things out of your applications. The bullet points, if you will, are that Tablet PC is a great platform for note-taking, a great platform for annotating documents, and a great platform for walking around. For example, it's a great device for cases where you're standing up and using your machine and settings in situations where a keyboard-based or a notebook machine are simply too hard to hard to use and/or too awkward.

We're trying to make sure that developers and ISVs alike look at some of these scenarios, think about how their applications can be used in those scenarios, and then take that to market to their customers.

About the Author

Patrick Meader is editor in chief of Visual Studio Magazine.

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