Monthly Archives: July 2010

Over 3,000 Windows Phone 7 devices in the wild

Windows Phone 7

Although Microsoft has a long road ahead of them to catch up to the 59 million iPhones sold to date, the baby is taking its first steps. According to the Facebook application configured exclusively for Windows Phone 7 devices, Microsoft has now seeded 3,076 mobile phones into the hands of developers, Microsofties and a handful of US journalists (jealous).

Bear in mind the cost of this exercise to seed even more devices to developers and its employees entirely for free, Microsoft is already beginning to reap some of the reward as developers have begun demoing a reasonable amount of in-production WP7 applications and games.

As generic and rough honestly crap as some of them may be, there’s definitely momentum and enthusiasm building amongst developers and that’s exactly what Microsoft needs to compliment its otherwise impressive mobile OS. 3,000 down. 59 million to go.

Microsoft on the hunt for a new look?

Update 2: The original image has been removed by request. I’ve replaced it with an artist’s sketch, or an attempt at a sketch, for the record.

A set of string-themed logos for Microsoft’s many brands teased at the Microsoft Global Exchange (MGX) event today might actually be one of many concepts the company has considered as part of an exercise to at least think about how they can refresh their image.

Over a week ago I noticed a vifro dubbed the “Microsoft rebrand intro”. The animation which lasts no longer than 12 seconds shows off a set of various Microsoft logos with a consistent glossed square shape.

When I first saw this I didn’t know what to make of it. I had a hunch this wasn’t “it”, but at the same time I didn’t doubt its authenticity. Now that an alternate version has been revealed, I can safely assume these are all submissions made by various creative agencies Microsoft might have contacted for a rebranding proposal.

Even though Engadget reports Microsoft is not actually committed to the design shown at MGX, you only need to look at all the Microsoft logos on one page to realize why a consistent new look might be a worthwhile investment.

Update: the video has since been removed.

Photoshop your own Windows Phone 7 applications

It looks like Microsoft is not just making the Windows Phone 7 application development experience easy for developers, but it turns out designers have most of their job cut out for them. If you need to mock up an application UI for Windows Phone 7, it’s now as easy as mashing up some Photoshop files from the “Design Templates for Windows Phone 7” resource.

Since finding useful information on MSDN is practically a treasure hunt, this 88MB archive is a treasure chest full of PSDs with layer-licking goodness. The gems include a full suite of UI controls as well as other practical UI elements such as the on-screen keyboard, notifications and start menu for easy drag and drop manipulation, if you can find the right layer amongst hundreds that is.

Although UI mockups are not impossible from scratch (especially if most elements are solid shaped squares), what I really like about this is that Microsoft is providing an official resource that will make mockups that much more consistent if not pixel-perfect with their real counterparts.

As someone who’s put together their fair share of mockups, trust me when I say this is awesome.

Windows Phone 7 SDK beta emulator walkthrough

At the Microsoft Worldwide Partners Conference 2010 yesterday, the Windows Phone 7 team took the opportunity to announce the beta release of its developer tools, another significant milestone for the platform as it inches closer to consumer availability.

As expected, this release includes an updated version of the emulator image (build 6414) for developers to debug with. Naturally, it took devoted xdadevelopers members no more than a couple hours to unlock some of its hidden glory. I recorded this thorough screencast video to save you the hassle.

Right off the bat you’ll notice performance and responsiveness has been improved several folds. Although some of that might be attributed to improvements in hardware acceleration for the emulator itself, I’m sure for the most part this is also the result of the optimizations the team has been doing in the recent months.

Diving into the every application and setting reveals the team has applied a very generous layer of polish throughout the OS, removing all traces of previously incomplete or inconsistent UI elements. For everything that do work, which excludes the social integration, email, games, Zune and Marketplace, it looks and works great. (Maps broke in the demo, but works great otherwise)

Finally, perhaps as a testament to just how close this release to manufacturing this code might be, some ringtones and alert sounds are in! Whilst I assume there will be more coming, the sound is quite unique and almost soothingly calm in a nice way. “Two Step” would be my favourite so far.

Thoughts on WPF 4.0 from a novice

Anyone who still reminisce about Longhorn-era codenames will probably agree they are much better than their official counterparts. Not only did “Avalon” sound cool, it has a certain utopian ring to it. Now in it’s fourth revision, Windows Presentation Foundation 4.0 is pitched as the state-of-the-art framework for building graphically-rich desktop clients on Windows.

When I decided to build a modern Windows application kindled with animations, the choice to use either a nearly ten-years-old low-level graphics subsystem based on technologies dated even earlier, or an abstracted graphics framework that considers the expectation of user experiences in the current decade, was a no-brainer.

First and foremost, over just a couple of months, what we’ve achieved with MetroTwit was simple not possible without WPF considering the few precious midnight hours we put into it on most days. According to the rest of the team (the real developers), apparently I owe much to data-binding which I’ve been told is nothing short of a miracle.

Having said that, working with WPF has been somewhat of a rollercoaster ride. There is up – very high ups, but there is also down – pretty lows too.

I won’t bore you with all my gripes but I must say WPF can only be tamed with experience. Granted the MSDN documentation is required reading material and an exhaustive resource, I found only when I complimented it with others’ experiences on StackOverflow and the MSDN forums like study guides on SparkNotes I could then make sense of it all.

I constantly have the feeling there is a million different way to achieve the same effect in WPF and everything you do is wrong until it is proven otherwise. Flexibility is great but when a few thing work better one way over another, not because they are documented as such but because you find through experience, you begin to doubt everything else you do.

It must be said though WPF has come a long way in a relatively short period of time. What should be noted is that the significant drive behind its evolution appears to be when Microsoft decides to dogfood WPF. First it was the Expression suite of design applications (it still blows my mind they built the product using itself) and more recently with Visual Studio 2010. Hopefully this is a trend that will continue to deliver benefits to all WPF developers.

In the end, when rich and beautiful application have become the norm, I’m glad Windows Presentation Foundation is what it is today. Although it’s no stroll in the park, but at least it makes it not impossible.

“Arc Touch Mouse” surfaces – Microsoft to launch multi-touch mouse?

Arc Touch Mouse

Microsoft might be introducing a multi-touch mouse of its own tomorrow soon as several European retailers (specifically those in Norway and Denmark) have begun publishing listings for a product dubbed the “Microsoft Arc Touch Mouse” with the product code RVF-00003.

Notably Microsoft also registered the domain “arctouchmouse.com” late March which is currently pointed to the Bing site as most Microsoft placeholder sites do.

Those familiar with the handy work of Microsoft Research will recall a project from late 2009 dubbed “Mouse 2.0” that explored many different designs for a prototype multi-touch mouse. One of them (pictured above) featured a design which bears striking similarities to the existing Microsoft Arc Mouse and could very well be the foundation for the Arc Touch Mouse to be revealed.

Although it may very well turn out to be just a Windows-version of the Apple Magic Mouse, but even so, it could mean users can take advantage of the native multi-touch support in Windows 7 without owning one of the expensive multi-touch PCs. In turn, this could also re-energize the Windows Touch platform for developers as more users will be able to access multi-touch features in their applications.

According to several of the listings which includes prices, the Arc Touch Mouse looks to retail for just under $70 USD, the same price for the Apple Magic Mouse I might add.