The “Race to Market Challenge” for Windows Mobile

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.

The Race to Market Challenge

Here’s a quick little video that explains what the just-announced Race to Market challenge is all about:

If you’ve been thinking about developing for Windows Mobile, now’s the time! We’re now accepting submissions of applications for Windows Marketplace for Mobile, the on-phone store where people with Windows Mobile phones can buy and install mobile applications easily. Better still, we’re making it a contest – submit your Windows Mobile app between now and 11:59 p.m. on December 31st and you’ll automatically be entered in the Race to Market Challenge where you’ll have a chance to win one of 4 Surface tables (developer edition, of course) like the one pictured below with the dashing Developer Evangelist…


…along with a lot of online marketing and promotion for your application and a really cool trophy.

Winning applications will fall into one of these categories:

  • Most downloaded
  • Most valuable (where “value” is the number of downloads multiplied by the price)
  • Most useful, as judged by a Microsoft panel
  • Most playful, as judged by a Microsoft panel

The Race to Market Challenge runs from now until December 31st, and the sooner you get started, the more likely you shot at one of the grand prized. For full details about the contest, visit

Getting Started with Windows Mobile Development

Between now and the end of the contest, I’ll be posting articles on Windows Mobile development and the Race to Market Challenge. In the meantime, here are some tips that should help you get started.

What You Need

Here’s a snippet from an earlier article of mine that shows you what you need in order to get started with Windows Mobile development. In order to build an application for Windows Mobile 6, you’ll need the following things:

Visual Studio 2008, Professional Edition or higher
This is the development environment. It’s not the only one that you can use to develop Windows Mobile apps, but it’s the one we’re using.

You can also use Visual Studio 2005 – if you do so, Standard Edition or higher will do. If you don’t have Visual Studio, you can download a trial version of Visual Studio 2008.

The Windows Mobile 6 SDKs
The Windows Mobile 6 SDKs contain the templates for building Windows Mobile 6 projects and emulators for various Windows mobile phones.

There are two such SDKs to choose from:

  • The Standard SDK. The general rule is that if the device doesn’t have a touch screen, its OS is Windows Mobile 6 Standard, and this is the SDK for developing for it.
  • The Professional SDK. The general rule is that if the device has a touch screen, its OS is Windows Mobile 6 Professional, and this is the SDK for developing for it.

    I recommend downloading both SDKs. You never know where you’ll deploy! 

  • .NET Compact Framework 3.5 Redistributable
    The .NET Compact Framework 3.5 Redistributable is the version of the .NET framework for mobile devices. It only needs to be sent to the device once.
    A Windows Mobile 6 Device
    You can get by in the beginning with just the emulators, but you’ll eventually want to try out your app on a real phone. I’m using my phone, a Palm Treo Pro.

    As the saying goes, “In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; in practice, there is.”

    The mobile device syncing utility that works with your operating system
    If you’ve got a Windows Mobile 6 device, you’ll need the application that connects your mobile phone to your OS:

  • For Windows 7 and Vista, use Windows Mobile Device Center.
  • For Windows XP and Server 2003, use ActiveSync.
  • Previous Articles on Windows Mobile Development

    Here are links to my earlier articles on Windows Mobile development:

    I’ll be posting more soon, but these should help you get up and running in the meantime.

    If you’ve got any questions or comments about Windows Mobile development or the Race to Market Challenge, feel free to drop me a line or leave a note in the comments!


    Windows Mobile Gets Widgets!

    This article originally appeared in Canadian Developer Connection.

    There’s been quite a bit of good news on the Windows Mobile front lately. First, there’s the considerably improved user interface coming with Windows 6.5, including the “hexagon” menu (the rationale for which is explained quite well by Long Zheng). There’s also the upcoming Mobile Incubation Week, where startups are invited to come down to The Empire’s Silicon Valley Campus and workshop Windows Mobile 6.5 apps.

    There’s even more good news, as shown in the photo below:

    Various Windows Mobile screens showing widgets in action

    They’re widgets: little web applications that run within IE Mobile 6 with the “chrome” (that is, the standard browser controls) removed. They’re HTML/CSS/JavaScript-based web applications in the same spirit of the desktop/sidebar gadgets in Windows, Dashboard widgets in Mac OS, or web apps on the iPhone (which aren’t getting as much love now that native apps are all the rage).

    This is a very important development for Windows Mobile. You don’t need Visual Studio Pro (as far as I can tell, the Pro edition is the lowest-level version of Visual Studio that supports mobile development) to make widgets for Windows phones; all you need is your favourite web development tool set. At long last, Windows Mobile development will be open to just about everybody, regardless of their platform.


    Windows Mobile Incubation Week: April 13 – 17 in Mountain View

    Two Japanese schoolgirls showing off their cellphones to Darth Vader

    I’ve written before that the current state of Windows Mobile makes me feel sad, and I’ve also written that recent developments like the new hexagon interface for the upcoming version 6.5 have given me reason to hope. Here’s another sign that The Empire is getting their mobile act together: TechFlash has a story about the upcoming Mobile Incubation Week, which will take place at the Silicon Valley Campus in Mountain View, California from April 13th through 17th.

    Incubation Week - Microsoft

    This will be the first Mobile Incubation Week, a jam session where startups are invited to meet with “technical gurus from Microsoft, technology veterans who have built their own Windows Mobile applications, and influential venture capitalists and industry experts”. They’ll see demos and presentations, get advice and assistance with the Windows Mobile platform and even start putting together Windows Mobile apps. At the end of the week, a winner will be selected from the participants, and s/he’ll be eligible for prizes and publicity.

    The event is free as in beer; you just need to figure out how you’ll get to Mountain View and find a place to crash. Your group can be as large as three people – one or two technical people and one suit. All startups are eligible, whether or not you’ve built a mobile app. The only requirement is that you’re planning on building a Windows Mobile app.

    Space at Mobile Incubation Week is limited, so if you’re interested, apply as soon as you can! You can find more details about Windows Mobile Incubation Week in this article in Microsoft Startup Zone.


    More Thoughts on Windows Whatever-it-is-That-Runs-on-Phones

    The Developer Angle

    A sad-looking kid in a Darth Vader sitting at a fast food restaurant table

    In case you don’t recognize the photo on the right, it’s the “Sad Darth Vader” photo from my earlier article titled This is How the Current State of Windows Mobile Makes Me Feel. I posted it in response to The Empire’s seemingly directionless efforts with its phone platform, Windows Mobile. Or, as it’s called now, Windows Phone. Or, as it used to be called, Windows CE. Or was that Windows Embedded?

    Therein lies the first problem as far as developers are concerned: finding documentation on the subject of developing for Windows Whatever-it-is-that-runs-on-phones. It’s confusing because it’s hard to even figure out what the name of the SDK you’re supposed to use is – they all sound applicable. Is it Windows CE? Windows Mobile? Windows Embedded?

    (By the bye, for current phones, it’s Windows Mobile, which is based on Windows Embedded CE. Now that this new brand, Windows Phone, is kicking around, there’s a chance that it’ll get filed under that name soon.)

    Joey deVilla's Palm Treo

    As an evangelist for The Empire, it’s my job to help developers figure their way around our various platforms, and I’m hard-pressed to think of a platform that appears more shrouded in mystery and confusion than Windows Whatever-it-is-that-runs-on-phones. Over the next little while, I’m going to post pointers to existing Windows Mobile/Windows Phone development articles as well as articles based on my own experiences developing for the Windows-based phone I picked up while at the recent TechReady 8 conference in Seattle. It’s a Palm Treo Pro, pictured on the left, and I chose it because out of all the mobiles at the Expansys booth (they always have a booth at the big Microsoft developer conferences), it was the one with the best “feel”.

    My first pointer is to Microsoft’s own Windows Mobile 6 Documentation, located a couple of levels into the MSDN site. The main page for this section presents a giant point-and-click map of key topics for developers who want to write apps for Windows Whatever-it-is-that-runs-on-phones. I’m going to try out some of the exercises on that site and report back with stories of my experiences of getting started with Windows phone development, and whatever tips and tricks I pick up along the way.

    If you’ve got any questions about developing for Windows Whatever-it-is-that-runs-on-phones, feel free to ask me, whether in the comments or via email. I may not have the answers myself, but since I’m on the inside at Microsoft, I can say that “I know a guy who knows a guy,” if you get my drift.

    The User Angle

    The upcoming 6.5 version of Windows Mobile – or more appropriately, Windows Phone – was announced earlier today at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.  It features a user interface that’s considerably more finger-friendly than the current 6.1, whose stylus-reliant design seems stuck in the era of the Palm Pilot. Gizmodo’s Jesus Diaz seems to really like it, as evidenced in the video he shot for his article titled Windows Mobile 6.5 Hands On: The New Interface Rocks:

    Windows Mobile 6.5 Running on HTC from Jesus Diaz on Vimeo.

    Diaz ends his article on a positive note, a rare thing for a writeup on Windows Whatever-it-is-that-runs-on-phones:

    From this first touch on, it looks like Microsoft is back in the game. They don’t have the upper hand yet, but they are clearly waking up. We will see what happens and how deep these changes really are once it gets released.

    The Developer Angle, Once More

    The apparent improvements in 6.5 and promised continued improvements in Windows Whatever-it-is-that-runs-on-phones version 7 are a good sign, but a lot of the success story I’m hoping for rests with applications for these phones. For that, there has to be a developer community that has the tools, resources and encouragement to develop for Windows Whatever-it-is-that-runs-on-phones. Building that community is a challenge that I’m taking up. What can I do to help?