The New Windows Phone 7 Ads and a Big Hint for Your App Designs

The Ads

Rather than tell you how great-looking and clever the new ads for Windows Phone 7 are, I thought I’d show them instead. Here’s the first one, which features Donovan’s song, Season of the Witch:

Here’s the other one, which asks this question: “Really?” (In case you were wondering, the tune is In the Hall of the Mountain King by Edvard Grieg.)

The Hint


The message in both these ads is pretty simple: Smartphones eat up a lot of your attention and time. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was one that didn’t do that?

There are lots of little goodies in Windows Phone 7 that address this issue. The ones I can think of off the top of my head include:

  • The lock screen. You don’t have to unlock your phone just to find out what the next appointment on your calendar is. The lock screen displays it, along with the date, time and the number of voice and text messages you have.
  • The Start page. The start page is where you pin your favourite and often-used items so you can access them quickly, so you don’t have to riffle through page after page of apps.
  • What you can pin to the Start page. You can pin more than just apps to the Start page. Is there someone – a spouse, significant other, friend or family member – whom you phone, text, or email often? Pin that person to the Start page! Is there a website you hit many times a day? Pin it to the Start page!
  • Communicating quickly with people. The People Hub on your phone makes looking up and reaching people fast and easy. Tap on a person for all the ways to reach him or her and tap on any of one of those ways to start communicating. A quick swipe shows you that person’s Facebook updates. Getting in touch and keeping up is pretty easy with this UI.
  • Finding. The context-sensitive Search button is all about finding what you need, whether it’s some information on your phone, on the web or in the real world, and you get this all from a single button press.

In all these cases, it’s about getting what you need from the phone, as quickly as possible.You should ideally be able to “glance and go”: fire up your phone, get the information you need, then put it away and go do what you set out to do. The phone is supposed to augment your life; it’s not supposed to be your life.

And therein lies the hint for your app designs. If you’re designing an informational, non-game app for Windows Phone 7, take a cue from its “glance and go” philosophy and ask yourself this: What one question does my app answer for the user, and does it answer this question quickly?

Examples of questions that apps can answer include:

  • Where’s the nearest Tim Hortons?
  • Should I take an umbrella with me today?
  • Am I getting a good deal from this store, or should I be shopping elsewhere?
  • Given a choice of three different wines, which one should I buy?
  • What interesting stuff is happening in this city tonight?

If you’re thinking of building a WP7 app, think of a question it can answer for the user, provide the answer and then get out of the way. Let that be your guide and you just might code up a winner.

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


Windows Phone 7 Launch Today

Windows Phone 7 Launch

It’s Canadian Thanksgiving today, which means it’s a day off here, but it’s a regular working day for our American neighbours, and it’s the day that a lot of big announcements about Windows Phone 7 get made at an event in New York City.

As Mary Jo Foley points out in her article on today’s event, today is about announcements and not about phones hitting shelves, but the day when you can go buy a WP7 phone isn’t far off. You’ll find out more about the phone today starting at 9:30 a.m. Eastern, and I believe a lot of your questions will be answered. (And if you have questions, you can always ask us, either here on the blog or in person at the various TechDays, Coffee and Codes or other opportunities to have a face-to-face chat with us.)

I think you’ll find that Windows Phone represents a tremendous opportunity for phone app developers and designers. Consider that:

  • Gorgeous design. In starting from the ground up and redesigning what it means to be a Microsoft Phone, the WP7 team came up with a design that isn’t just “me too”. Even Jon Gruber, the ultimate fanboy for the Esteemed Competition, says it’s really nice.
  • It’s early in the game. The phone app market for WP7 is a new one, and it’s your chance to make your mark and shape the app market with your ideas, designs and coding skills.
  • You’re working with great developer tools. Even the most die-hard fanboys of the Esteemed Competition grudgingly acknowledge that Visual Studio is a great IDE. Combined with Expression Blend, you’ve got a killer combo for developing, designing and debugging phone apps.
  • It’s not just great developer tools, but great frameworks. First, there’s the .NET framework, which gives you a big library with loads of built-in functionality. Then there’s the fact that you have not just one, but two app frameworks! You have Silverlight, for more “application”-like app development with controls and an event-driven model, and XNA for game development with its game loop programming model.
  • Windows Phone Marketplace. It’s your chance to directly sell apps to customers, and it’s straightforward. The rules for submitting apps and what is and isn’t an acceptable app are spelled out clearly. If your app isn’t accepted, you’ll know why. Telling this stuff to app developers is such a crazy idea that it might catch on!
  • Here’s something that we need to point out: You are important. As developers, you shouldn’t feel like pseudo-competitors who are barely tolerated by the people behind the phone platform. You should feel like a key part of Windows Phone 7, because you are! WP7 doesn’t happen without you. Your creativity, hard work and passion as app developers is as much a feature as anything else that goes into WP7. What you do is our best feature!

Keep an eye on the announcements coming out today, and if you have any questions, ask away in the comments!

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


Get Your Windows Phone 7 Apps Ready for Marketplace!

My laptop computer connected via USB to my Windows Phone 7 device, running "Kick-Ass App!"

Hey, Canadian mobile developers:

  • If you’ve got an idea for a Windows Phone 7 app, whether it’s brand new or a port of an existing mobile app, start working on it now!
  • If you’re working on a Windows Phone 7 app, get it ready for Marketplace, which will be accepting submissions soon!
  • If you haven’t even tried the Windows Phone 7 developer tools, download them and take them for a spin!

And finally, if you’re planning on submitting a Windows Phone 7 app to Marketplace, get in touch with me! I want to hear from you, help you through the process and help publicize your app. Just drop me a line – the email address is

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


A Scene from Today’s Windows Phone 7 Coffee and Code

My LG Windows Phone 7, with "Smiles" displayed on the screen.A test version of Smiles running on my WP7 device.

In between chatting with developers who dropped by today’s Coffee and Code in downtown Toronto and getting some work done, I’ve been playing Smiles (pictured above), an incredibly cute and incredibly addictive puzzle game by London, ON-based development shop Sykhronics.

Here’s a video of Smiles’ gameplay in its “Drop” mode:

Mike Kasprzak of Sykhronics was kind enough to send me an early test version of Smiles to show off the Phone’s game capabilities as well as the level of “polish” that Windows Phone 7 developers should be aiming for in their apps. Mike’s got some pretty high standards and is working to make sure that Smiles for WP7 meets them, and it shows! Even in this test version, Smiles looks and feels like a polished arcade classic, and when it’s done, it’s going to be a must-buy.

Keep writing those apps, and aim high! We’ll do what we can on our end to help out, which includes:

  • Articles on Windows Phone 7 development in Silverlight and XNA
  • Articles on good mobile user interface design and marketing your apps
  • Announcements of upcoming Coffee and Codes and WP7 Deployment Clinics across Canada
  • Coverage of “Phone Heroes”: People building apps for Windows Phone 7 – and hey, you could be one of them!
  • Pointers to useful tools, resources and other things to help you build WP7 apps

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


“BieberSmash” at Tonight’s Canada’s Technology Triangle .NET User Group Meeting

bieberTonight, I’ll be in Kitchener speaking at the Canada’s Technology Triangle .NET User Group Meeting, where I’ll be talking about game programming on Windows Phone using XNA.

Assisting me – albeit indirectly – will be Justin Bieber, in sprite form. Starting from the humble “File –> New”, I’ll code up some simple 2D gaming fun where we’ll learn about XNA and 2D game development basics and play with pop’s most annoying star in the process!

Some details about the event:

  • Where: Manulife Financial (25 Water St. South, Kitchener)
  • Day: Wednesday September 29th, 2010
  • Time: 6:00pm-8:30pm
  • Note: Please Register for the Event as we order Pizza and Pop based on Registration as of 12pm (Noon) on the day of the Event.

Photo of Justin Bieber courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


Montreal Coffee and Code Today!

Coffee and Code: Cup of coffee and a milk server on a wooden table

Today, Wednesday, September 29th, join “les bons gars”, Developer Advisor Christian Beauclair and Regional Director Guy Barrette, who’ll be holding a Coffee and Code at Le Café de la Cité on 75 Queen. They put on a professional appearance, but we all know qu’ils vont ecrire des «fart apps»! They’ll be doing it in both official languages: Silverlight and XNA!

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


Windows Phone 7 Hands-On Lab in Ottawa: Saturday, October 2nd

Windows Phone Hands-on lab: photo of hands on a computer keyboard

If you’ve been meaning to take up Windows Phone 7 development but didn’t know where or how to get started and you’re in the Ottawa area, this event is for you! Join Microsoft Developer Advisor Christian Beauclair and DreamDigital’s Colin Melia as they present a hands-on lab this Saturday where they show you how to write apps for our new phone.

At this lab, you’ll:

  • Learn how to develop apps for Windows Phone 7 in Silverlight and XNA
  • Follow along at a workstation as Christian and Colin walk you through WP7 development
  • Get familiar with the software tools: Visual Studio 2010 or Visual Studio Express for Windows Phone, Expression Blend and the WP7 emulator
  • Have an opportunity to try out a real live Windows Phone

This training lab will take place at Algonquin College (1385 Woodroffe Avenue, Ottawa). It’s free of charge, but you must register in order to be able to attend.

This is a hands-on lab, so space is limited – if you want to attend, register now!

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.