Monthly Archives: March 2009

Windows Marketplace for Mobile preview video teases the app store you want, don’t yet have

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Building up to the Microsoft’s Windows Mobile 6.5-centric keynote at the International CTIA Wireless 2009 event on Thursday April 2, a new promotional video has been released about the much-anticipated Windows Marketplace for Mobile – the app store Microsoft don’t want to call an “app store”.

wmmarketplace1This is an interesting video because it is the first time the actual store experience has been shown, whereas previous announcements have just acknowledged it exists. The video demonstrates a simple scrolling list to browse applications, a detailed view for applications, its screenshots and (questionable) user reviews (with excessive l33t-speak). A user can pay for their purchases from an account-tied credit card straight from the device and it downloads OTA. In addition to the general store, there is an operator-specific store if they wish to distribute operator-exclusive applications. The website can also be used to browse and purchase applications which are then automatically installed on your device.

For some reason, the video also promotes a full self-refund service for the applications you buy. I find it weird it was featured in this otherwise video at all, as if it was subtly acknowledging you’d want to refund many of your purchases.

On a related note, it’s also nice to see the Windows Mobile team is actively responding to feedback and even going as far as changing their app store developer program for the better.

Windows Marketplace for Mobile to charge developers for application updates (Update: Microsoft changes decision, updates free)

wmmarketplace

I’m beginning to question if Microsoft’s motivation to open a centralized app store for Windows Mobile is more so for profit rather than the growth of its application platform. What I expected was a distribution platform that welcomes developers with open doors, warm cookies and fresh milk, not an exclusive downtown club with former boxers for bouncers and overcharges for food and beverages.

Following the confirmation that developers submitting free applications are not given exceptions to the cost of submission, I’ve also received word from Microsoft “application updates will count as new application submissions, and therefore will count towards the first 5 free submissions, or will cost $99 each after the that”. That is, every new binary is treated as a new application.

I understand that in the perspective of a reviewer who has to qualify these applications, every new binary could be an entire rewrite of the application, but then on the other hand it could just be a simple typo correction. An expensive typo at that.

What this means to developers is that if they submit one application to the marketplace, they have only 4 opportunities to update that application a year. Whilst most commercial applications do not update as frequently as 4 times per year, much of the gem that’s in the iPhone App Store and on hobbyist WM development sites like XDA-developers are casual projects and receive a flood of updates during its early days as bugs are squashed and polish added.

What both of these requirements (charging for free applications and application updates) on the Windows Marketplace for Mobile imply to me is that Microsoft is more concerned about recouping (and/or profiting from) the cost of its submission approval process rather than supporting free applications and regularly updated applications on its mobile platform.

On a lighter note, imagine if the tables were flipped, instead, Microsoft paid developers to improve their applications. Wouldn’t that be nice.

Update: I’ve also learnt that Microsoft will charge developers for resubmitting applications if their prior submissions were rejected.

Update 2: Microsoft has told CNET.com that application updates within 7-days of last certification are considered free. Weird they would leave that detail out when they were answering my question, but this is a better model which allows for some room for errors.

Update 3: Microsoft has since changed the Marketplace pricing structure and application updates are now free. Yay.

istartedsomething.com, now in 13 languages, powered by Microsoft Translator widget

istartedsomething spanish

In the Microsoft “2019” vision video, you might recall the first scene where two kids are talking to each other through a digital wall and their speech is instantly translated from English to Hindi and vice versa. That language-neutral vision is now nearly a reality on the web thanks to the Microsoft Translator Widget.

In true Web 2.0 style, the service announced last week at Microsoft’s MIX09 conference is in a limited invite-only technology preview. I’ve been lucky enough to get an early invite-code to try out on this blog, and I love it. It’s as easy to implement as embedding a YouTube video, and the end-user experience is fast, convenient and without disruption – the user stays on the page.

There is however a couple bugs related to different browsers including IE8 (use compatibility mode) and Safari 4, but they’re definitely working on it. Their blog also indicates they’re still tweaking the design, adding features and progressively adding languages.

I’ve been told users who’ve registered their interest on the Microsoft Translator Widget website should be getting their invite codes this week. Can’t wait to see this on many more sites.

MIX09: Windows Mobile 6.5 shows more polish

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During the opening day of Microsoft’s MIX09 conference yesterday, Loke Uei Tan – senior product manager for Windows Mobile gave a presentation titled “Windows Mobile 6.5 overview” where he showed off one of the latest builds of the OS running on a HTC Touch Pro.

This 3-minute long demo includes sights of the new chrome (lists, scrollbar, menu), lock screen, Today screen and Start menu, all of which seems to be more polished than earlier demos at the Mobile World Congress announcement. Performance seems to be much improved and the UI seems more responsive.

The honeycomb Start menu has also been visually tweaked – the honeycomb background removed but the layout remains. Update: I want to reinforce the fact that the honeycomb pattern is not gone, and its benefits over a square layout remains. The scrolling of the honeycomb has also been enhanced to stop at every page-break instead of continuing with kinetic motion.

Initially I was skeptical of how Windows Mobile 6.5 will play out, but all the improvements in user-experience WM6.5 seems to provide should be at least an adequate stop-gap measure until the real revolution arrives with Windows Mobile 7.

On a related note, the presentation confirmed that the new Windows Marketplace for Mobile will apply application updates directly on the device. However it also appears application updates will require developers to resubmit their application for approval which would then cost a submission token or fee and take time to process. This too makes me nervous about the Mobile Marketplace.

Expression Web SuperPreview makes cross-browser testing like moist delicious cake

Expression Web SuperPreview

Editorial note: If you’ve been following my tweets in the past 12 hours you’d have seen me hinting at something very cool for web developers coming out of Microsoft’s MIX09 event today. Well, it’s still at least 3 hours until MIX but it appears Microsoft’s own Expression Web team blog has let the dogs out early (their server is set to to New York time, not Las Vegas time), so consider the NDA broken :)

superpreviewforie“Expression Web SuperPreview”, the name is typical of Microsoft products, it’s technically self-explanatory but mind-numbingly bland and ridiculously long.

To make matters worse, the beta being released today – a subset of the full release coming with Expression Web 3 – is called “Expression Web SuperPreview for Windows Internet Explorer”. Granted the name is not that important for a developer tool, a kickass one at that.

Every web developer today faces the challenge of checking website compatibility across a large pool of browsers and browser versions in the marketplace. Up and until now, either you could install every browser, verify the website via a visual inspection and debug with tools specialized to that browser, or you could send a URL to a third-party screenshotting service like BrowserShots for an all-in-one visual inspection. The former is messy and tedious but gives you more control and an opportunity to diagnose problems, whilst the latter is simple but slow and useless to fix the problem. Needless to say, SuperPreview is the best of both worlds.

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MIX09 teasers from Angus Logan and yours truly

mix09This is what Vegas can do to you, it makes you stream a video demo of upcoming product announcements.

Angus Logan and James Senior of Live Mesh fame decided to do a little midnight tease of some web technology to be announced at Microsoft’s MIX 09 event starting tomorrow. Typical of a tease, it cuts off at probably the worst time. James, who was recording the stream blames it on Qik, but I call sabotage.

In related news, I also have a teaser for an announcement at MIX09 tomorrow. I can’t say much, but every web developer should keep an eye on MIX tomorrow. It’s not a Silverlight or Internet Explorer announcement, but its very cool and something most web developer today can and probably will use.