While CeBIT is no Mobile World Congress, it is nonetheless a pretty big tech show focused on digital technology. While it is not shocking to find Microsoft there demoing Windows Phone, it looks like they came up with a unique way to get people to try the devices: lend 50 of them out for the day. (They're also giving away 10 in a contest)
Yup, evidently you can sign up (and we imagine exchange some kind of collateral) to carry around and use a Windows Phone all day at the conference. Gives new meaning to "hands on experience" and we think this is a great way to spread the word, because if it's one thing we know, when people actually try Windows Phone 7, they always walk away impressed. And getting the phones into the hands of analysts, tech writers and company execs is a smart way to sell your product.
In this case, user Jessica Engstrom, who picked up the Swedish release on launch, had no cases immediately available. So being the creative person she is, she made one up, using the Metro/Tile interface as inspiration (heck, even her blog is based on it).
All we have to say is someone should mass produce these things because the idea is as obvious as it is brilliant.
Time for our usual punch-in-the-arm reminder that growth in the Marketplace is a steady as a ninja's hand, hitting the 9,000 mark today. Like clockwork, the addition of 1,000 new apps and games comes exactly two-weeks after the last mini-milestone.
We noted in early January that if the trend keeps up, the Marketplace will hit 10,000 by mid-March. We're now certain that will happen. The big question we have is will the 500 per week number ever increase? (Oh, regarding the image...it's a silly 4Chan meme. 'Aww Yeah Guy' will be back in two weeks)
We already know that one of the big goals of Windows Phone in 2011 is expansion: more languages, more markets. In fact, it was stated by Andy Lees that they want 88% of the languages covered this year. Japan is obviously a huge part of that market, so it is not too shocking that Microsoft plans to launch there this year.
In an interview with one of Japan's largest papers, Sankei, Jean-Philippe Courtois, president of Microsoft International said "Japan is next on the list" for support. The big hurdle if implementing the Kana/Kanji writing system, something that takes some time. Adding Japan to the Windows Phone roster will help tremendously to WP7 expansion and adoption.
Meanwhile, there are some 3rd party solutions for those wishing to use Japanese now in an unofficial capacity--see 'Flickpad X2' (homebrew) and 'JPinput' (Marketplace).
We've heard rumors that the HTC Trophy would land at Verizon sometime in March. Pictures of the new Windows Phone are now beginning to surface.
It is our understanding that the pictured Trophy is running the updated version of Windows Phone 7, complete with copy/paste. To help complete the Verizon branding, HTC has also changed the yellow underside to red.
The Verizon Trophy is expected to be introduced with the pricing point of $200 (more than likely $199.99) after contractual discounts.
Since we initially mentioned Haypi Kingdom, the first Massively Multi-player Online game for Windows Phone 7, the game has been updated twice. These updates come as no surprise - MMOs are huge, constantly evolving games. Let's look at what's been added or tweaked. Note that we've edited these a little for clarity and inserted our own comments.
Haypi Kingdom version 126.96.36.199 change log:
Enhancement system added: You can improve your current equipment with enhancement stones, which can be attained via hunting, daily gift, competition or purchased from NPC. The enhancements can be made to create additional attribute points to your current equipment, enhancing your prowess on the battlefield.
Two new chest types (Gold and Silver) added: These special chests can be gained from war or as daily gifts. They need to be unlocked by coins and there are many alluring surprises in them including coins or valuable treasure. You can also choose to sell the chest to get money.
We have learnt of some fantastic news for any England based developers (abroad too if you can get to the events by March) with two local hackathons based solely on Windows Phone 7 development. The one-day events - which are entirely free – are built on the previous successful DeveloperDeveloperDeveloper sessions that focused on developers learning, interacting and sharing unique ideas in a relaxed and informal atmosphere. The event is hosted in Manchester on March 18th, with Birmingham following on the 25th. Both beginning at 18:00 (6pm) on a Friday.
The events have one single goal: to get as many apps ready for Marketplace submission as possible (within the 24 hours), while having fun along the way, learning tricks and networking with fellow developers. As mentioned on the official website, one should attend if:
You’ve got a great idea for an app and need help getting started
You’re building an app but need help on implementing some features
You have an app that’s nearly ready and need advice on how to get it through the Marketplace submission process
You want to collaborate with other WP7 devs and contribute to the creation of open source libraries, controls or components
If you used 'Browser Plus' or the photo-sharing app 'Bubblegum', two of our favorites around here, then you've used programs developed by Microsoft employees on their spare time. In this case, 'Browser Plus' was written by Sriram Krishnan and 'Bubblegum' was written by Sriram and his wife Aarthi Ramamurthy, on their honeymoon. (Aarthi recently announed her departure from the company).
But what makes that dynamic so unique is that these engineers (and over 3,000 others) were able to write these apps in their spare-time and profit from their work. That's different because usually software engineers are encouraged not to work in their spare time, since their ideas and creative energy get company priority. In other words, this was a big shift for Microsoft who went from discouragement to literally throwing pizza parties and openly promoting their employees work.
The change is due to the effort of many on the WP7 team who pushed for allowing employees to work in their spare time and to make money from it. Now we're starting to see the results from the reversal and truth be told their seems to be a re-invigoration behind the company and its employees, something that Google learned awhile ago (they still allow 20% of their employees' paid time to be devoted to personal projects). To that end, we say to everyone at Microsoft, keep up the good work.
Nokia recently held an online poll (unscientific, of course) of their user base regarding what is the most interesting aspect/feature are that they most looking forward to with Windows Phone 7.
The choices ranged from Xbox games, Internet Explorer, updates, Silverlight, etc though the top choice amongst users is probably the most obvious feature of WP7: the UI. Yup, understandably Nokia users by 22% think the UI is the most unique facet of their new mobile OS (though "other" also took 22%). Perhaps we shouldn't find it too surprising, but it does validate, to a lesser extent, the power of the appeal of Metro. In second was Xbox games, also an obvious but nice choice.
It's also weird for us to step back and remember that soon, millions of ex-Symbian users will potentially be a part of our crew (and hopefully vice-versa). It's like we have a new, huge family out there.
We mentioned that the popular Twitter app 'Birdsong' (video hands on) got a price drop to $0.99 yesterday. As it turns out, it is temporary, but in addition the app just hit v1.2 with a bunch of new features and some bug fixes. But probably the bigger news is that the developers, Red Badger, are prepping their v1.3 which promises to bring those push notifications/live tile to the much talked about app. Here are a few of the changes though in v1.2:
Multiple accounts – via accounts.
Geo-tagging – you can attach your location, exact location or a nearby place to tweets.
Via settings you can control whether to always auto geo-tag all you tweets and whether you want to share your exact location by default. These settings are account specific.
Looks like the lucky folks at Engadget got a sneak peak at Sprint's first Windows Phone, the HTC Arrive (aka 7 Pro). They took a few snazzy shots and even did a quick video demonstrating copy and paste on the device.
Of course C&P is there because it's tied into ">the NoDo update, which also brings CDMA support to the OS. While the copy and paste demo is nice, unfortunately they did not film the device in landscape, meaning those mysterious Xbox LIVE shots in the horizontal zone cannot be confirmed/disconfirmed just yet. So close, yet so far.
Verizon could be preparing to announce a possible March WP7 device launch, as soon as this coming Monday (28th February). The device that will be introduced is the HTC 7 Trophy for $200 on a two-year contract. Verizon, attempting to combat Sprint with their announcement of the HTC Arrive, plans to offer their WP7 entry at around the same period of release.
Both networks will have the "NoDo' update for WP7 on their device, which will allow customers to use copy & paste amend other highly anticipated amendments. This is great news for newcomers and already established WP7 owners.
Microsoft stated back in September that no CMDA versions of Windows Phone 7 would be available until 2011 while they focused resources on prioritised tasks. The coming months will prove to be an exciting time for the community, and the addition of Verizon and Sprint can only increase market share within the industry.
Editors Note: We've received a fair number of anonymous tips this week saying the same thing. We didn't run them because there was nothing to back them up outside of "highly plausible/duh". Still, it helps in our mind to corroborate this current story.
Microsoft has been continuously in the community and critic spotlight with their handling of the recent update issues. Now heads are turning to the decision in no longer enforcing support contact means to be supplied in apps for users to use to approach developers. Was this a wrong move by the software giant?
The Harvest, an Xbox Live action-RPG from Luma Arcade, received an update recently. Hey, when it rains, it pours. How has Luma's Windows Phone 7-exclusive title improved?
The Harvest v188.8.131.52 change log:
Fixed a bug that could cause a random crash to hub when loading save games due to non-thread safe access of Leaderboards
Fixed a bug in the French language version that would cause specific breakable objects to not be visible
Fixed a bug introduced in version 1.1 where players would start at the level entrance when loading a save game, if it was a game saved during game dialog
Fixes to the Teleporters in The Ancient City and The Catacombs to allow them to not cause players to be blocked if they had been affected by the level start save load bug from v1.1
Fixed a bug with game music not always starting properly after the Intro movie
As you can see, this update consists of numerous bug fixes. Luma Arcade actually submitted the update a month ago, but Microsoft’s slow approval process kept it from releasing until now. Shame on the big MS for the heel dragging, but kudos to Luma Arcade for further perfecting an already very impressive game.
The Harvest is an action-RPG set in a distant future in which aliens have conquered humanity. Thanks to the development of armored mech suits, the remaining pockets of humans finally have a chance to fight back. Our review praises the game’s beautiful 3D graphics, easy controls, multiple playable characters, and diversity of upgrade options.
The Harvest carries the lofty $6.99 price tag, but it’s definitely a top-tier Windows Phone 7 game. Buy it or try the demo here (Zune link) at the Marketplace.