Scenes from Microsoft’s Surface Pop-Up Store in Toronto

Microsoft's pop-up store at the Toronto Eaton Centre, seen from above

Microsoft will have a proper Microsoft Store in Toronto — it’ll be at Yorkdale Mall — but it’s not scheduled to open until November 16th. That’s a couple of weeks too late to capitalize on the buzz about Windows 8 and Surface, so they decided to set up a pop-up store in the Eaton Centre, located right in the middle of downtown Toronto. It’s on the bottom level, close to Sears’ south entrance. I had a meeting only a couple of blocks away, so I decided to take a look.

Microsoft's pop-up store at the Toronto Eaton Centre, seen from above

I arrived at the Eaton Centre around noon and made my way to the pop-up store, which maintained a constant crowd of a hundred or so people surrounding it. I approached from an upper level of the mall so I could get some overhead pictures. I wasn’t the only one taking photographs of the pop-up store; there was easily a dozen other people doing the same. That’s not surprising; people tend to take photos of queues for new stuff, and while a long line for new Apple goodies like the iPhone 5 is expected, a line for something from Microsoft is downright surprising, even for Microsoft fans.

Microsoft's pop-up store at the Toronto Eaton Centre, seen from above

The pop-up shop have demo units set up on three sides, where you can wait your turn to take a Surface for a spin. The fourth side, the one facing Sears, is where the cashiers are located, and it’s the end of the line for people who want to purchase a Surface. When I was there, this line was about three or four dozen people deep. I saw a number of people walking away with brand new tablets, which the staff placed into large, reusable Microsoft- and Surface-branded bags.

Crowd gathered at Microsoft's Surface pop-up store at the Toronto Eaton Centre

When I was there earlier today, the following were available:

  • The 32GB model, without a cover, for CDN$519
  • The 32GB model, with touch cover (the one with the flat keys), for CDN$619
  • The 64GB model, with touch cover, for CDN$719
  • The type cover (the one with the shallow-throw keys), for CDN$139

Crowd gathered at Microsoft's Surface pop-up store at the Toronto Eaton Centre

My first impression of Surface: pretty good. It’s a responsive tablet, with butter-smooth scrolling on par with the iPad and much better than all but the very latest Android tablets. The body feels solid and reassuring, the kickstand’s better than I expected, and the magnetic connection between tablet and keyboard is strong and makes a satisfying “click” when you dock the two together. There’s a lot to be said for being able to use the touch or type cover, both of which include a trackpad: it feels faster and more satisfying than typing on a screen. It also feels more “done” than Windows Phone 7 did when it came out, which is a good sign: it means that Microsoft has taken some launch lessons to heart.

My startup, CTS, is in the business of building mobile apps for enterprises, so we’re keeping an eye on Surface. Although I managed to take it for a spin for only a handful of minutes, it shows great promise and looks like a great platform to write apps for. We’ll be watching to see what the enterprise uptake on these devices will be.


Scenes from Last Night’s Surface Launch in Times Square (and Where to See Surface in Canada)

Photo by Nick Wingfield.

The crowds came out to Times Square last night — well, they usually do, anyway; it’s probably the most iconic intersection in North America — but many of them were there to get their hands on Microsoft’s Surface.

“I’m not sure it’s a sight I’ve seen before,” tweeted Ina Fried about the scene pictured below. It was taken last night at Times Square:

It’s been a while since we’ve seen photos of a line for a Microsoft product (at least outside of a Microsoft developer conference, anyway), so this is a good first step.

Here’s a photo from Tom Warren, taken inside the Times Square Microsoft Store last night:

Here’s a photo of Times Square from Frank X. Shaw, Microsoft’s supreme corporate communications guy:

The on-the-street demo tables of Surface and other tablets are by the big, brightly-coloured banners made up to look like Windows’ “Modern UI” tiles on the right. Here’s a closer look taken at 10:45 last night, courtesy of the Times Square webcam:

Here’s a shot from the same webcam this morning at 10:43…

I’m heading downtown today for a meeting at a place only a couple of blocks from the Toronto Eaton Centre, one of the locations where Microsoft is opening a pop-up store to show Surface to Canadians. I’ll head down for a peek, take some pictures, play around with it and post my findings here.

Microsoft pop-up store at Toronto Eaton Centre, earlier this week.

If you’re in Canada and want to take Surface out for a spin, Microsoft’s pop-up stores are in these locations:

Here’s MobileSyrup’s video of what’s happened so far at the Eaton Centre, published earlier today:


Shit Android Fans Say

Just in time for the AndroidTO conference taking place in Toronto today, here’s Shit Android Fans Say. Created by the folks at MobilePhoneFinder, it’s a great response to the video Shit Apple Fanatics Say. The Android fan in this video is perfect.

My thanks to Claude Moelan from MobilePhoneFinder for pointing this one out!


Mobile Developer News Roundup: Discount Code for “iOS in Practice”, Nokia Lumia 510, Samsung Galaxy Note II, and Today’s Apple Event

Discount Code for iOS in Practice, Hello! iOS Development and HTML5 in Action

Manning Publications’ Deal of the Day for today, Tuesday, October 23rd, is for iOS in Practice, a book by Bear Cahill that comes out on November 1st. Here’s the description:

When you are building an iOS app, you want more than basic concepts—you want real answers to practical problems. You want iOS in Practice.

This book distills the hard-won experience of iOS developer Bear Cahill into 98 specific iOS techniques on key topics including managing data, using media, location awareness, and many more. And the sample apps are wonderful! As you pull them apart, you’ll see two things: experienced app development and creative design savvy in action.

What’s inside:

  • WhereIsMyCar drives you through maps, CoreLocation, and camera access.
  • PlayMyLists tunes in on settings, audio, and shake detection.
  • Rock, Paper, Scissors explores networking, voice, in-app purchase, push notification, and invitations.
  • Examples written for iOS 6 using Xcode 4.5.

Written for readers who know the basics of Objective-C and are interested in practical app development.

If you order the book online and use the discount code dotd1023cc, you can get the ebook version of iOS in Practice for a mere US$20 (a $15.99 savings off the regular price). You can also use this code to save 45% off these books:

Lumia 510, Nokia’s New Low-End Windows Phone

Here’s a video featuring Nokia’s latest smartphone, the Lumia 510, a phone for the budget-conscious shopper. Here are its features:

  • 800 MHz Qualcomm processor
  • 256 MB RAM
  • Windows Phone 7.5, upgradeable to Windows Phone 7.8
  • 4″ screen, 480 * 800 resolution
  • 5-megapixel camera at rear, no front-facing camera

Samsung Galaxy Note II

The Samsung Galaxy Note II, a 5.5″ device that lies somewhere between phone and tablet, goes on sale in the U.S. on November 9th at AT&T and tomorrow, Wednesday, October 24th at T-Mobile. It will retail for $300 with a two-year contract.

Today’s Apple Event Will Be Streamed

Today’s Apple event — the one rumoured to be the launch of the iPad Mini — will be streamed via the web and Apple TV. This should be interesting.



Mobile Developer News Roundup: App Store Search Terms, iOS 6 Adoption Hits 61% in U.S./Canada, Field Guide to Mobile App Testing

Most People Search for Apps Based on Function, Not Name

This chart is based on Chomp’s November 2011 App Store search terms.

In Search Engine Land’s article, The Most Popular App Store Keywords from Chomp and Google Play, you’ll not only learn what the most popular search terms for iOS and Android apps are, you’ll also learn that most app search terms are focused on what the app does rather than its name. Keep this in mind when you’re writing up the description of your app!

iOS 6 U.S./Canada Adoption Rate is at 61% One Month After Its Release

iOS 6 boasts the fastest adoption rate for a mobile OS, with 61% adoption in a month, according to Chitika Insights, the research wing of Chitika, an online ad company.

Here’s how iOS distribution breaks down in the U.S. and Canada:

Click the graph to see the source.

Chitika expect to see iOS 6 usage peak at about 70%, and should the iPad Mini prove to be more than just a rumour, it’s expected to accelerate adoption.

For comparison’ sake, here’s a breakdown of Android distribution, courtesy of an article on BGR posted on October 2nd:

The two most recent versions of Android are:

  • Android 4.0, a.k.a. “Ice Cream Sandwich”, released October 19, 2011 (just over a year ago). It’s on 23.7% of devices out there.
  • Android 4.1, a.k.a. “Jelly Bean”, released this summer, July 9, 2012. It’s on 1.8% of devices out there.

These two versions, put together make for about 25% of all the versions of Android in the wild. The most common versions out there are:

  • Android 2.2, a.k.a. “Froyo”, released May 20, 2010. It’s on 12.9% of devices out there.
  • Android 2.3, a.k.a. “Gingerbread”, released December 6, 2010. It’s the most common, installed on 55.8% of devices out there.

A Field Guide to Mobile App Testing

If you’re a mobile app developer and have wondered how testers approach their work, you’ll want to check out this Smashing Magazine article, A Field Guide to Mobile App Testing.


Commander Riker’s “Turbolift Pitch” for Early ’90s Enterprise Software

Here’s a video promotion from 1993 by Boole and Babbage (supposedly “the first software company in Silicon Valley”, acquired by BMC Software in 1998) featuring Johnathan Frakes as Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Commander Riker. Boole and Babbage made “software to help corporations stitch together computer networks,” a rather messy prospect in those days before we standardized them around the internet protocols.

You don’t have to be a programmer or IT person to enjoy the nostalgic cheese on this video. It opens with a chaotic scene at an early ’90s airline logistics centre, where the reservations system has crashed.  Harold, the only employee “with vision”, is contacted by Commander Riker through the monitor on his 386-based PC. Riker tells Harold that Mainview, Boole and Babbage’s network monitoring software, can solve him problem. After some quick technobabble that’s as vague and hand-wavey as any you’ve seen on Star Trek: The Next Generation, Mainview gives Harold the solution he needs: “Reroute through Cleveland” (which isn’t all that different from the standard deus ex machina on the show: reroute some energy through the ship’s main deflector).

I’m pretty impressed that Boole and Babbage were able to get Paramount to go along with letting them use Star Trek and the bridge set of the Enterprise for this promo. I’m less surprised that Frakes would sign up for the gig: over the years, he’ll appear on anything, no matter how cheesy.

There is one line near the end of the promo that rings true for techie today, even with our pocket-sized devices that run circles around the best desktops of that era and far, far better networks: “Doing more with less will be your constant challenge in the coming years”.

This article also appears in The Adventures of Accordion Guy in the 21st Century.


Mobile Developer News Roundup: Mobile Games, Mobile Career Opportunities, Mobile Markets, and Mobile Commerce

The State of HTML5 Mobile Game Development

Pascal Rettig’s The State of HTML5 Mobile Game Development presentation is an overview of the situation with current browsers, HTML5 and game development that you navigate as if it were an HTML5 game. It may not be apparent when you first load the page, but use the arrow keys to move the character around (left-arrow and right-arrow move left and right, use the up-arrow to jump); moving off the right side of the screen takes you to the next slide, and moving off the left side takes you to the previous one. There are some slides whose bullet points reveal themselves as you move from left to right. The presentation is on GitHub, so you can get it, fork it, learn how it works and make your own.

HTML5 game capabilities have improved in leaps and bounds, from Atari 2600-like in Q1 2010 to something along the level of the original PlayStation today. This presentation gives you a look at the state of HTML gaming, both on desktop and mobile devices, the current state of the art (HexGL, an HTML5 racing game reminiscent of Wipeout 2097), the opportunities and limitations, the different ways you can approach HTML5 (as a web platform, a target platform or as a language) and a quick plug for his book, Professional HTML5 Mobile Game Development.

Most Enterprises Have Key Mobile Jobs to Fill

According to ComputerWorld UK, three-quarters of US and UK enterprises have mobile-based jobs to fill. Other stats from the article, which is based on a survey of 600 HR managers from US and UK companies:

  • Nearly 30% of companies already have a “mobile strategist”; 29% plan on bringing in someone whose role will be “to development and carry out business-wide mobile strategies”
  • 20% plan to create 1 – 2 mobile roles in the next year; 5% plan to create 5 – 10 such roles
  • 25% of companies with mobile roles to fill have found it hard to find the right people, most of whom say that they can’t find someone with the “right qualities” for the job
  • 20% of business are recruiting mobile app developers and content creators
  • 23% are look for looking for people with mobile device management (MDM) expertise
  • US and UK companies plan to double spending on mobile initiatives over the next 12 – 18 months

How to Design a Mobile Game with HTML5

If you’ve been meaning to get started with HTML5 mobile game development, this Smashing Magazine tutorial is a good start. 

Google and Microsoft Under Threat from the March of the Mobiles

This Guardian article talks about the idea of “peak search” and “peak desktop” — our industry’s analogue to “peak oil” — how the shift to mobile technologies is affecting giants like Google and Microsoft. For Google, cost-per-click paid by its advertisers has been dropping for the past year; for Microsoft, a slowdown in the PC business has led to drops in income (down 8%) and revenues (down 26%), and in both cases, mobile is pointed to as the culprit.

Mobile Games from the Past (A Post-Mortem)

The year was 2003 and J2ME had just come out. It was the perfect time to be a mobile game developer, right? Perhaps not.

The Market Sides of the Mobile Ecosystem

Charlie Kindel, the guy from whom I used to get my Windows Phone Champ marching orders, says that the mobile ecosystem is a six-sided thing where “each side gives and receives value from the other sides”. They are:

  • End Users (that’s right, I said “users”, not “customers”. I’ll explain in a later post.)
  • Channels
  • Device Manufacturers
  • OS Providers
  • Services
  • 3rd Party Developers

Shopify’s “Rise of Mcommerce” Infographic

And finally, a great graphic from my last company, Shopify, on the rise of mobile commerce. The folks at Shopify are very good at knowing how to respond to changes in the market, and the acquisition of mobile dev company Select Start Studios was a smart one.