Windows Phone 7 Blogger Night in Toronto

Last night, we held a night to showcase some cool Windows Phone 7 apps being written by developers in and around the Toronto area. We invited some local tech and mobile industry bloggers and developers to see these apps in action and try out a late beta version of Windows Phone 7 on the hard-to-come-by advance devices and check out the look and feel of our new mobile operating system on some actual mobile hardware.

00aKing Street East, looking west from George Street (just east of Jarvis).

Rather than hold it in some bland “multi-purpose room” at the office, we chose to hold the event at Kultura, a nice little tapas restaurant on King Street, a short walk east of Toronto’s financial district, yet worlds away at the same time.

00bThe front room of Kultura’s second floor.

We held the event in the back room of Kultura’s second floor, a lounge area with enough space to do a big presentation followed by a number of small hands-on sessions with the apps:

00cThe back room of Kultura’s second floor.

Practice Run

Sure, seeing Steve Ballmer run around shouting “Developers, developers, developers, developers” is funny, but it’s also the truth. We’re a software platform company, and we know that a software platform ain’t nuthin’ without developers building apps for it. Windows Phone 7 is our newest software platform (coming soon!) and we want developers to build for it, so we decided to inspire people by showcasing local developers building apps for our phone and making them rock stars.

A well-run show requires a practice run. We asked the developers to come early and do a practice run through their presentations, and while they did that, I snapped some photos:

01Alexey Adamsky shows off his 3-D Sudoku app while Barranger Ridler waits his turn.
This looks like an album cover.

02Barranger Ridler demonstrates his “Where’s Timmy?” app,
which guides you to the Tim Hortons locations closest to you.

03Shawn Konopinksy shows us his social music app, “Songbuzz”.

04Mark Arteaga shows us his open data app, VanGuide.

05Mike Kasprzak demos his match-the-objects-to-eliminate-them game, “Smiles”.

The Real Thing

With the practice run done, I had a little time to grab a drink and chat with some of the guests as they arrived:

06Steve Syfuhs, Todd Lamothe and Colin Melia.

And soon after, it was time to start the presentations. I did the “opening monologue”, a quick three-minute overview of Windows Phone and what it means to both users and developers:

07“…and the Twitter hashtag for this event is #WP7dev…”

08“It’s like having an Xbox in your pocket.”

09“I’m never without my Windows Phone and my Microsoft Office ironic hipster trucker cap.”

10“Ever since Alexander Graham Bell, Canadian techies have always punched above their weight class.”

The audience sat in rapt attention, bedazzled by my scintillating oratory:

11Must…hang onto…every word…

And then came the developers, showing off their Windows Phone 7 wares running on the emulator, which made it easy to show apps on the phone to an audience.

First up was Alexey Adamsky, who with Alex Yakobovich, built Sudoku 3D, which literally adds an extra dimension to the popular puzzle game.:

12[3]Alexey Adamsky and Sudoku 3D.

Alexey and Alex work out of Ryerson University’s Digital Media Zone, an incubator where Ryerson students and alumni with a technical bent and entrepreneurial ambition can work on their projects, start companies and take their ideas to market. Sudoku 3D started off life as a game for the Xbox 360 written using the XNA framework, but when they heard that Windows Phone 7 was going to be XNA-powered, they knew their project could be turned into a mobile game.

13Sudoku 3D, running as both a phone app (in the WP7 emulator) and a Windows application.

XNA lets Alexey and Alex target Windows, Xbox 360 and Windows Phone 7. Alexey says that most of the code is the same across all three platforms and that porting Sudoku 3D from the original Xbox version to the phone was very easy.

After Alexey finished, it was Barranger’s turn:

14Alexey Adamsky, Barranger Ridler and Shawn Konopinsky.

Barranger Ridler is an indie developer who’s done some work for utility companies, and this work sometimes took him to small towns. One of the questions he often asked when arriving in a small town was “Where’s the nearest Tim Hortons?” His app, “Where’s Timmy?”, answers that question:

15Barranger Ridler demos Where’s Timmy?

Luckily for Barranger, Tim Hortons publishes their store location data as a static file saved in a number of formats. He took this data and put it into a database on a server that Where’s Timmy? can access. Where’s Timmy? uses this data, the user’s location (determined via the phone’s GPS) and Bing Maps to tell the user where the nearest ten Tim Hortons branches are and even provide step-by-step directions:

16Where’s Timmy? shows us the way to the nearest Tim Hortons.

Next up was long-time Windows Mobile developer and MVP Mark Arteaga, who showed us a couple of his apps, including VanGuide. Mark is one of my “go-to guys” for Windows Phone, and he’ll be sharing his knowledge in two Windows Phone sessions at the TechDays conference, which will take place in eight cities across Canada.

17Mark Arteaga shows the crowd his apps.

After Mark came Shawn Konopinsky of Nascent Digital, a Toronto-based company specializing in building applications based on touch technologies:

18Shawn Konopinsky and Songbuzz.

Shawn demoed Songbuzz, a social music app that allows users to share what they’re listening to, find out what their friends are listening to and discover new music:

19Songbuzz, close up.

20The audience, still captivated.

Closing the demos was Mike Kasprzak, creator of the puzzle game Smiles:

21Mike Kasprzak shows us Smiles.

22The Jedi Mind Trick doesn’t work on games.

It’s a really cute game with gorgeous graphics and great animations featuring several modes, from a full-on arcade mode to a more relaxed “zen mode”:

23A close-up of Smiles in action.

The Party

24Everyone to the bar!

With the demos done, it was time for mingling and socializing. The audience could talk to the developers and get personal demos of their Windows Phone apps, grab a drink and some tapas, and work the room.

25Everyone to the bar….again!

I got to chat with a number of guests, including Valerie Fox, Director of Ryerson’s Digital Media Zone, Emil Protalinski, who write for Ars Technica’s column One Microsoft Way and Nitin Bharti of DZone.

26Mandatory arty shot.

I had my hands full chatting up guests, doing video interviews and answering technical (and some non-technical) questions, so I’m glad that my fellow evangelist Ruth Morton took most of these pictures. Also present was another evangelist on my team, Barnaby Jeans, who held court at a banquette as people came to him to find out more about Windows Azure:

27Barnaby Jeans and Michelle Michalak.

31Barnaby Jeans and Todd Lamothe.

It was a full and lively room…

28Everybody to the tapas!

…with some of the brightest lights in our local tech scene…

29Sandy Kemsley, Leigh Honeywell and Valerie Fox.

…and these guys, too! (I kid because I love, gentlemen!)

30Colin Melia, Steve Syfuhs, Jean-Rene Roy, Mark Arteaga and a guy I can’t identify.

I’d like to thank:

  • The developers: Alex Yakobovich, Alexey Adamsky, Barranger Ridler, Mark Arteaga, Mike Kasprzak and Shawn Konopinsky, for building those apps and showing them off so well.
  • Our PR company, High Road Communications, and especially Chantelle Bernard and Allison Colalillo for organizing the event. I always say: if you’re ever invited to an event held by High Road, you must RSVP “yes”.
  • Ruth Morton for helping me out by taking pictures and directing me to people who wanted to ask me questions or look at my Windows Phone.
  • The people at Kultura, who were gracious hosts and made great food and drinks!

This is Only the Beginning

For the developers who showcased their apps, this is only the beginning. They’re going to continue polishing them, and soon the Windows Phone 7 Marketplace is open up and they’ll submit them for approval. For them, the next few weeks look something like this:

  1. Register at the marketplace today.

  2. Finish their application or game using the Beta tools.

  3. Download the final Windows Phone Developer Tools when they are released on September 16th.

  4. Recompile their app or game using the final tools.

  5. Have their XAP ready for ingestion into the marketplace in early October when it opens.

For the Developer and Platform Evangelism Team at Microsoft Canada, this is only the beginning. We’ve got a cross-Canada conference starting next week, and Windows Phone 7 is going to be one of the big topics. It offers the most bang for the tech conference buck; if you haven’t registered for it yet, do it now!

We’re also looking for more Windows Phone 7 developers and their apps, and we want to showcase them! Do you have a Windows Phone 7 app that you’re working on? Drop me a line and tell me about it!

download wp7 dev tools

For you, this can be the beginning. The mobile platform is still new ground, and Windows Phone 7 is a great mobile platform for both developers and users. Download the developer tools today, check out some tutorials and make your mark!

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


A Must-Read for Mobile Developers: The Mobile Developer Economics 2010 Report

What’s the number one reason why developers choose a mobile platform? According to Mobile Developer Economics 2010 Report, which is produced by VisionMobile (and which I’ll call MDE 2010 from now on), it’s market penetration:

developers reasons

Do mobile developers stick to one platform, or do they develop for multiple platforms? MDE 2010 says that the latter is true:

Most developers work on multiple platforms, on average 2.8 platforms per developer, based on our sample of 400 respondents. Moreover, one in five iPhone and Android respondents release apps in both the Apple App Store and Android Market.

Which mobile platform was most used by developers in 2010? It might not be what you think, going by MDE 2010’s numbers:

most used platform

Are app stores the way of the future? Quite likely, and that’s because according to MDE 2010:

  • It provides the fastest time from final GM version to market, and
  • It’s the fastest way to get paid.

time to market

MDE 2010 is a treasure trove of useful information for developers and entrepreneurs looking to make it big by creating software that runs on those little computers that are rarely more than arm’s reach away. Luckily, it doesn’t cost a thing – the folks at VisionMobile have made the download available for free!

If that weren’t enough, VisionMobile is also posting a four-part series of articles on their blog in which they discuss MDE 2010. Part one is here, with the other parts to follow.

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


Windows Phone 7: Challenge Accepted!

Hands holding Win 7 Phone that reads "You'll find out at MIX10! (Mar 15)"

"Counting Down to Seven" badge Over at Wired’s Gadget Lab blog, there’s an article titled Microsoft’s Challenge with Windows Phone 7 is Wooing Developers. They saved the most important line for last, and in case you missed it, I’ll repeat it here:

The company plans to preview its development tools at its MIX developers conference next month.

If you can wait three weeks, you’ll get a fuller story. If you attend MIX (Monday, March 15th through Wednesday March 17th at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas), you’ll even get development tools and support!

I agree with the title of the article. Complete changes of direction and the circumstances that dictate them are never easy (but then again, that’s why I signed on with Microsoft: for the challenge). We will have to work hard to gain mobile developers’ interest and trust, and it’s quite clear that we’ll have to reach out to the same sort of independent developer coding away at a kitchen table, cafe or converted warehouse office – the kind who made the apps that made the iPhone what it is today. From what I’ve seen of the developer outreach plans for Windows Phone 7, I think it’s doable.

I’d take the quotes from the people interviewed in the article with a big grain of salt. The writer took the “cover all bases given your deadline” approach and quoted a whopping three people whose collective opinions cover the full spectrum of reactions: one positive, one negative, and one (mostly) neutral. None of their titles suggests “developer”: two are CEOs and one is a COO. The negative guy completely misses the point in his remark about hubs and a cool-looking UI, and the neutral guy seems to be drinking deeply of the anti-RIA kool-aid, dismissing technologies like Flash and Silverlight as made for desktops and not for mobile, while forgetting that other technology now considered to be mobile – like browsers and operating systems — have the same supposed limitations. They were, after all, originally made for the desktop.

I accept the challenge of wooing developers. I know what it’s like, speaking as someone who left Microsoft development in the wake of the dot-com bubble burst for other tools and technologies. But what brought me back were signs of a sea change at Microsoft, from the Xbox to SDL to its initiatives to better “get” the web to dynamic languages and much more, and I think that Windows Phone 7 is part of it.

In the end, the developer whose opinion matters most is you. To that end, I plan to use every resource at my disposal to get the toolkits, tutorials and techniques necessary for Windows Phone 7 development into your hands. I’m going to support your development beyond just the “download this, and here’s the code for Hello, World!” – expect stuff on how to build great mobile experiences, what people are looking for and how to sell your mobile apps. (And hey, if you have any ideas or suggestions, I’m open to them – drop me an email, a tweet or a comment).

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


Do You Have to Know English to be a Programmer?

Painted on the wall at a temple in India: "Please remove your shoes before being entered."

In a comment to Scott Hanselman’s blog post about how Microsoft is using “crowdsourcing” to help create localized versions of MSDN, someone wrote:

If you don’t know English, you’re not a programmer.

A provocative statement like that cries out for an article and discussion, and Scott got the ball rolling with a follow-up article titled, quite expectedly, Do You Have to Know English to be a Programmer?

While a command of the English language isn’t a prerequisite for the actual act of programming, programming languages typically use English keywords, as do many development libraries. Even some popular languages written by people whose native tongue is not English, such as Ruby (Japanese) and Lua (Brazilian Portuguese) use English keywords.

I think that English is the lingua franca of business and technology today: a language often used to communicate between people not sharing a mother tongue. Just as you could have the knack for diplomacy in the 18th century and not speak a word of French, you can have the knack for programming and not know a word of English. But it’s really, really helpful if you do.


I’m Bringing Hexy Back (or: Programming Articles Will Return to Global Nerdy)


A wrench jamming a machine Soon – probably in December – in addition to pointing you to interesting tech news articles and bits of geek culture, I will also be returning to writing development articles. And yes, that includes the long-on-hiatus Enumerating Enumerable series of articles cataloguing the methods in Ruby’s Enumerable module.

The past couple of months have been disruptive as all Hell, what with:

And now,

  • Working like mad to acclimate myself with a new employer — my first Fortune 500 company, and my first with over 200 employees!)
  • Readjusting to a new work style: working largely from home, with runs out into “the field” and the Mississauga and downtown Toronto offices
  • Re-acclimating myself with Microsoft development tools, which I haven’t used since early 2002

It’s been exciting and fun, but there are only so many hours in the day and so much energy one can muster to do things, which meant that the programming articles, which take a lot of work, testing and verifying, had to fall by the wayside. But they’re coming back soon.

Country First

Joey deVilla poses with a Mountie outside the Canadian Embassy in Washington, DC
Me and a Mountie at the Canadian Embassy
in Washington, DC in 2000,
a.k.a. the “experimenting with nutty hair colour” year.

“We hired you first and foremost for Canada,” said my boss, John Oxley, Director – Audience Marketing at Microsoft Canada, “and for Microsoft second.”

That means that while I’ll be writing a lot about Microsoft developer tools and technologies, my primary goal as Microsoft Developer Evangelist is to use my tech evangelism powers to encourage, assist, grow and cast a spotlight on the Canadian software industry. I get it; a healthy Canadian software ecosystem is good for all players, including “The Empire”.

If you’re a software developer in Canada, whether you’re writing enterprise software for a big corporation or a one-person shop operating out of your den, a full-time employee or a student in high school, or a Microsoft tech “true believer” or a hardcore Free Software/Open Source type, you are the person I’m trying to reach.

So if you’re a developer, watch this space – some meaty development articles are coming soon!


Evans Data Survey: Less Than 1 in 10 Developers Writing Apps for Vista

c|net cites an Evans Data report: “A recent report from Evans Data shows fewer than one in 10 software developers writing applications for Windows Vista this year. Eight percent. This is perhaps made even worse by the corresponding data that shows 49 percent of developers writing applications for Windows XP.” Here’s VentureBeat’s take on this report.