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.

55 insightful thoughts

  1. Two Step is quite nice sounding ringtone, would be nice if someone could extract it and make it available for use today. Not really a fan of the WP7 home screen user interface but there is some nice eye candy in it otherwise.

  2. Very nice videos. Good to see that WP7 is finally shaping up to become a complete mobile phone OS. I think that the ring and alert tones sound great, too. All this news makes me feel better about my decision not to buy an Android handset, but to wait for WP7.

    Concerning your belief that this build may be close to rtm, I noticed that the OS version number in the about section (visible at 0:23 in the walkthrough video) is “6414 PPEscrow”. Doesn’t “escrow build” mean “potential release candidate” in Microsoft parlance?

  3. It is coming along very wel indeed.

    But I do wonder about the browsing experience. The browser seems very slow, even in the emulator on a wifi connection. A good mobile browser is almost half the platform..

  4. They have done a great job! I’m very interested in this platform but still can’t understand their decision to change the font—especially the numbers. When typography is almost the whole UI then this is very important. It’s now quite different from the Zune HD’s appearance and a bit too close to how Nokia’s font numbers look, IMO.

    I hope they will change the icons for maps and marketplace in the final version! And there was nothing wrong with full-colored icons on tiles for full featured apps like Office or IE.

    But it’s really impressive to see this in an almost final state. It’s really unique and stylish with a lot of small and cool ideas.

    1. Hmm, I didn’t notice a change in font. From the Zune HD i’m holding in my hand right now, the font looks pretty much identical… including the number. So what’s different?

    2. Also, the MobileTechWorld video is much better for looking at the map app, which looks very quick and responsive. Again I think the internet here at this video must have been lacking or slowed some how, as it had problems with the web and downloading the map details, unlike MobileTechWorld’s video.

  5. The sounds are very calming and soothing but kind of similar. Needs a little more variety, just a little (nothing completely different from the current).

  6. This cannot be the close-to-final UI look? Please? Simplicity is fine, but this is simplicity&boring. At least the home screen….

    1. Simplicity. Read Marcus Aurelius. Of each particular thing ask: what is it in itself? What is its nature? What does it do?

    2. Don’t worry about the home screen UI, it’ll evolve quickly over time, just like the rest of the OS. And now with over-the-air automatic updates built right into the core of the OS, the idea of rapid updates will be more complete.

    3. I agree. Simplicity is *not* everything, I like my phone to look good. This looks like it’s programmer art knocked together according to a layout by some UI designer fresh out of Uni who was told he couldn’t use any colours.

      It’s not just about function and cleanliness, it has to have aesthetic beauty as well, and not the kind of aesthetic where you look at it in the distance and say, ‘that’s nice’. If i’m going to be carrying it every day, it should be a kind of comfortable beauty, not some sharp-edged modernist ultra-minimal thing.

      1. I read this quote on another message board and I had to repost it:

        “I feel like it makes a bold statement about technology in general. It’s basically saying that we’re comfortable with technology and we don’t need our digital note taking device to try and look like a sheet of note paper. Our compass doesn’t need to be set on a wood backdrop. Our calculator buttons don’t need to look like they’re made of plastic. Our weather app doesn’t need a near photorealistic cloud icon to get it’s point across. That philosophy really jives with me. I think we’ve pretty much reached the limit of trying to make applications look like actual things, and we’re at the point where we could leave that comfort blanket behind. I’m not advocating that aesthetics be ignored, only that the main measure of aesthetics ceases to be how close the application looks to a physical, 3 dimensional object.”

  7. This is very good Demo.. but I think the constant animations (like those jumping text, fly in/out of pages) are a bit irritating after watching it for a while. Can’t imagine what happen if a user has to watch those all the time when switching apps and flipping menus back and forth..

    1. With my Zune HD, those nifty flipping animations never get old. Seriously, not only does it just look very interesting, but the metro metaphor is that the movement helps the user understand what they are doing.

      Flipping into and out of large application isn’t “just” for style, but it also “leads” the user that they are moving onto something else, or back to something previous. If all the transition were simple fade in or fade out, or even simpler just flashes to the next screen, then it’s harder to understand where the user is moving to or from.

      Imagine slow turning as you’re walking down a hallway to a 4 way intersection vs suddenly being flipped in another direction, without that guided movement, you have no reference to which direction you’re going. Of course in that analogy you could say that you may eventually recognize the differences each new hallway may have, but that’s not really how we live our everyday lives where we are moving fluidly from event to event.

      But I do have to say that it really is just nifty to see, I actually just grabbed my Zune HD quick and flipping through menus is just a delight…. it’s not often that people can say that about a UI for menus….

    2. I understand some animations are visual cues to facilitate UI fluidness. But I think part of those animations are too much and makes it feel like a powerpoint slideshow that has too many unneeded transitions. But anyway, can’t judge much from this video until I have the device in hand..

  8. How did you make the player controls on top show up? Over here, double clicking the top just shows the signal strength and battery level, even tho the radio’s active.

    1. Yea, I tried to do it, but couldnt. I also tried to go to an mp3 file in the web browser, hoping to save it to the phone like you can with images, but nothing showed up, not even an in-browser player.

  9. This looks awesome. I am waiting with baited breath for Windows 7 Phone series to come out.
    I am only hoping they have a non-phone version of it as I don’t need/want a cellphone (Zune HD2 anyone)
    As for the emulator, please keep working on it. It would be wicked if the emulator could actually do everything the real thing could do. eg sync with office on your computer , access email and social stuff online.
    The emulator would make an awesome replacement for Windows Live Messenger (which in my humble opinion sucks the big green weenie.)
    Looks sweet so far and I for one will be watching to see where this leads to.
    Good work guys and gals!!!

  10. My issue is that if I try to debug my game on XNA it will launch a copy of the original emulator and run the game on that instead of running it on the open unlocked emulator. It may have something to do with the WP 7.1 being out or something as my WindowsPhone\v7.0\Emulation\ folder does not even have images there, it only has a few PNG files, the image folder is instead in WindowsPhone\v7.1\Emulation\Images\. I tried replacing the image there so that XNA will run that instead but I get a emulator that pops up and says “Windows Phone Emulator is doing a complete OS boot…” forever.

    Is there a way to manually load the game onto the open emulator or something else that I can do to fix this issue?

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