Windows Phone Update: July 2010
Availability, Developer Tools Updates, and Connected Services
With Windows Phone barreling towards its final release later this year, the updates are starting to come fast and furious. Which is a bit overwhelming, since I'm also simultaneously trying to write--and complete--my next book, Windows Phone Secrets, by the end of this month. (Be sure to check out my Windows Phone Secrets blog for regular updates about my progress on the book and other related Windows Phone issues.) No matter how you slice it, there's a lot going on. So here's what's happening with Windows Phone this month.
While some of my dealings with Microsoft are still covered by a broad NDA (non-disclosure agreement) I've signed in order to get early information access for the book, I can at least point out that a senior Microsoft executive recently let slip the company's plans for shipping Windows Phone.
You may recall that Microsoft has generally used the terms "by the end of the year" or "in time for the holiday season" to describe the Windows Phone release date. But Microsoft vice president Mich Mathews, in Cannes late last month for an advertising conference, slipped up a bit when she casually said "we launch this October."
Separately, and officially, Microsoft did announce this month that Windows Phone will be available around the world and via a variety of carriers by the end of 2010. The initial release will support five languages--English, French, Italian, German and Spanish--and the Windows Phone Marketplace will support the buying and selling of applications in 17 countries, including Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, New Zealand, Singapore, Spain, Switzerland, UK and United States. That should give you some idea of the scope of the launch.
Windows Phone Developer Tools Beta
This past week, Microsoft released the beta version of its Windows Phone developer tools. This is an important milestone, because it provides a near-final peek at the tools and APIs Microsoft is providing to developers. (It also provides a near-final peek at the Windows Phone OS; the OS version included in the software emulator, build 6414, is the same as the build the company will deliver to developers on prototype devices; see below.)
And make no mistake, this is indeed nearly final. According to Microsoft, only a few pieces didn't make the beta release--though some of them are quite important, like the Panorama and Pivot controls, which are key parts of the Windows Phone UI and will be delivered in the "next few weeks." The beta tools include, among other things:
Visual Studio 2010 Express for Windows Phone Beta or integration with Visual Studio 2010, depending on what's preinstalled.
Microsoft Expression Blend for Windows Phone, now integrated completely into the Windows Phone Developer Tools Beta, providing a way to easily create drag and drop UIs.
Developer Registration Utility, so developers can unlock Windows Phone 7 devices for development purposes.
XAP Deployment Tool, which lets you deploy Silverlight applications (which are packaged as ZIP files saved with the .xap extension) directly to an unlocked device.
Near-final Windows Phone 7 API. Microsoft has done a lot of work to clean up and complete with Windows Phone 7 API, and the version found here in the Beta release is near-final.
You can find out more about the Windows Phone Developer Tools Beta, and about Windows Phone development in general, at the Windows Phone Developer web site. Also...
Windows Phone Developer Training Kit Beta Refresh
Hot on the heels of the Windows Phone Developer Tools Beta is the Windows Phone Developer Training Kit Beta Refresh, an up-to-date version of the company's excellent training kit for Windows Phone developers. According to Microsoft, this release of the training kit includes all the labs from the previous release (updated to the Beta tools) and all the videos from the previous release. Additionally, there are two new labs, Using Windows Phone Launcher and Choosers In Your Applications and Understanding the Windows Phone Application Lifecycle.
That second new lab is particularly interesting because it covers "tombstoning," which is Windows Phone's temporary solution for multitasking. Here's how Microsoft describes this process:
Windows Phone allows only one application to run at any given time in the foreground, and no 3rd party applications are allowed to run in the background. Therefore when a user navigates away from your application, either to a chooser like picture chooser, or to a launcher like phone call, Windows Phone operating system terminates your application.
Tombstoning is the procedure in which the operating system terminates an application?s process when the user navigates away from the application. The operating system maintains state information about the application. If the user navigates back to the application, the operating system restarts the application process and passes the state data back to the application. This lab explain in great detail what tombstoning is, how it works, and what you should be handling in your application.
Beyond tombstoning, there are some neat labs in there, including examples of the push notification service, building your first Windows Phone applications (Silverlight), Windows Phone navigation and controls, game development with XNA, and more.
A weather hub example using push notifications.
Click here to download a copy of the Windows Phone Developer Training Kit Beta Refresh.
Windows Phone connected services
One of the biggest advantages of the Microsoft stack as it evolves to encompass the PC desktop (Windows/Windows Live/Bing/Zune), the living room (Xbox 360 + Kinect/Xbox Live/Zune), and now Windows Phone (Windows Live/Bing/Xbox Live/Zune) is the connectivity between these locations via connected services. (I'm wrestling with how to best describe or name these services for the book--Web services? Online services? Cloud services?--but let's just call them connected services for now.)
If you're familiar with Microsoft's previous mobile efforts, you know that the company created a mobile apps store (Windows Marketplace for Mobile) and a My Phone service for backing up phone contents online and minimizing the damage if you should lose your device, both for Windows Mobile 6.5. There are mobile versions of Windows Live services, and even some native mobile apps like Bing and Windows Live Messenger. And for the KIN, Microsoft created the revolutionary KIN Studio, which automatically backed up everything on the phone--including all full resolution photos and videos--to the cloud, via limitless storage space. (That the KIN was killed so quickly is another story, but KIN Studio was both well intentioned and nicely done.)
Given this, you may be wondering what Microsoft plans for Windows Phone. This week, the company announced (most of) the answer. Windows Phone users will enjoy the following connected services:
Windows Phone Live. This one will debut with Windows Phone and I've been dying to discuss it. Via a new Windows Phone Live site, Windows Phone users will be able to automatically back up photos from the device (albeit in low-res versions), view their Windows Live calendar and contacts, view and edit OneNote notes, and access other information from the phone. Most important, perhaps, Windows Phone Live will offer a Find My Phone service that lets you see your phone on a map, ring the phone remotely, lock it remotely and display a message, and remotely erase the phone. All of this is free.
Windows Live. Windows Phone users are advised to thoroughly configure their Windows Live ID for the best possible Windows Phone experience. Why? Via Windows Live's "Messenger Social" (previously called the What's New feed), you can connect your Live ID to a host of third party services--Facebook, MySpace, Flickr, Blogger, YouTube, Pandora, and hundreds more--and access them seamlessly through the device. By doing this, Facebook updates from your friends will appear in the People hub and in the Pictures hub, for example. It's all automatic.
Windows Phone Marketplace. Windows Phone apps will be available for browsing, trial, and purchasing via the Windows Phone Marketplace, which will be available on the device and, via the Zune PC software, via desktop versions of Windows.
Office. Thanks to the Windows Phone Office hub, you can view and download Office documents (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) from Windows Live SkyDrive, automatically sync OneNote notes between the device and SkyDrive, and integrate seamlessly with SharePoint 2010-based document repositories. Windows Phone also supports Windows Live and Exchange (and Google and more) email, calendar, and contacts, and can configure multiple accounts for each.
Xbox Live. Via the Games hub, Windows Phone users can connect to their Xbox Live account and view their avatar, gamertag information, latest achievement, and other Xbox Live content. But they can also purchase and play Windows Phone games, invite others to compete with them (and vice versa), and access Microsoft's games feed for up-to-date information about the latest Windows Phone game news.
Zune, Zune Pass and Zune Marketplace. Microsoft's beautiful but relatively unknown Zune software will be made available via the device's Music + Videos hub, and you can sync (optionally over Wi-Fi) with your PC's media collection using the also excellent Zune PC software. (This free software is, in fact, the only PC-based connection to Windows Phone, and it can be used to transfer photos and videos from the device to the PC.) Customers with Zune Pass subscriptions will be able to access the 7+ million songs in the Zune Marketplace, over the air, from their devices. And all Windows Phone users can use Zune Marketplace, on the device, to purchase and sample music and Windows Phone apps.
Bing. Via a dedicated Search button that will be found on every Windows Phone, you can search contextually based on which app you're using, or search the web, local places, maps, and so on. It's the full meal deal.
Developer device prototypes
Starting next week, developers will begin receiving prototype Windows Phone devices running a near final (build 6414) version of the OS. These developers can use the prototypes--which are not ship-level hardware and are not indicative of the innovative form factors we'll see in the marketplace--to test their apps and games on real silicon. I'll have more information about these devices next week. But if you're interested in receiving a device, drop a note to firstname.lastname@example.org to get in the queue. (Real mobile developers only, please.) Space is limited, and of course the first wave of devices is already accounted for.
That's a lot of stuff, and July is only half over. Expect some more info next week about the Windows Phone prototypes, and of course I'll be busy finishing Windows Phone Secrets for the remainder of July as well. Hopefully, by the time I post the August Windows Phone update, the book will be done. And so, too, will Windows Phone. See you on the other side.