One area that is crucial for Microsoft's success with Windows Phone 7 is in the browser. As the iPhone has demonstrated and Opera fans know, if you have a good browsing experience, you'll have a dedicated following.
Mobile IE has never really been great and while it's better on WP7 e.g. containing
...four-point multitouch fully enabled, zooming in and out by a pinching finger gesture on the screen, so-called "deep zoom" for extreme, high fidelity closeups, a remarkably clear typography, and very smooth, fast operation
...well, it doesn't inspire that much confidence. In fact, with greater enthusiasm for the desktop IE9, the mobile version (based on IE7, little bit of 8) seems like last-year's technology (and that's being generous).
Q:Will the browser in Windows 7 get more updates more frequently than only with full firmware updates?
Yes, we are building in the ability to update the browser independently of firmware.
While we knew OTA updates for the OS were a big deal, selectively upgrading just the browser can give Microsoft more flexibility in getting Mobile IE current. Of course that doesn't guarantee that those updates will give us a killer browser, but hey...options are good.
Yesterday at IndyTechFest, William Steele of Microsoft held a session on "Building Applications on Windows Phone 7 with XNA" which was recorded on UStream for all to watch.
While geared for developers, there were a few nuggets of information made available that many of you may find interesting. And once again, we'll save you the hour with a summary of the new information:
Regarding orientation, Silverlight is portrait by default; XNA is landscape, though of course they can be altered
XNA games are limited to 30 FPS, but that's also the limit on the physical screen's refresh rate
Only Silverlight can use on-screen keyboard; not yet available for XNA but you can write your own custom keyboard in XNA
Games built on XNA 4.0 will NOT run on the Zune (there's a "real reason" and one they're telling us publicly. Hmmm...)
Silverlight app shows up in the Apps Menu; XNA apps shows up in the Games Menu or some special hub
XNA is obviously geared towards gaming; Silverlight is "user event driven", but both can basically do the same things
For buying software, Windows Phone Marketplace will be in dollars; Xbox Marketplace will be Points ("funny money")
Two separate markets (Xbox and Windows Phone Marketplace), meaning you'll have to buy the same game/different platform twice, no way to link (?)
"Featured" area of Marketplace = paid promotion of application by developer
Trial-ware will provide link to buy, pause game, hop to marketplace to buy and then continue game (like Xbox)
No in-game purchasing yet (e.g. bonus levels, avatars, etc.), but definitely something they are looking at
Some revealing tidbits there.
We're not at all thrilled with the purported fragmentation of the Marketplace between Xbox and Windows Phone. While developers will only have to write the software once for PC, Xbox and Phone (the first two go to one market, the latter to another) there seems to be no way to connect purchases for the consumer. That seems like a bad idea. It's also baffling as to how you can't purchase the two together but they can interact across platforms (we suppose it has to do with the backbone "cloud services"). We suggest one solution would be for developers to offer "redemption codes" to consumer who buy on one platform, to "purchase" on the other. That system already exists on Xbox, though it could be a hassle.
We also now have confirmation that the Zune HD appears to be locked out of all of future development, despite being able to run XNA 2D (and unofficially 3D with some tricks). Evidently Microsoft has a real reason, which they are not telling the public--we speculate that it's because the Zune hardware has an expiration date.
The questions were mostly geared for developers, but even you non-programmer types will be able to make heads and tales of the conversation. We have to say, Brandon seems to be a stand up guy and he was more than honest in answering questions, not using typical PR language. Plus he was pretty darn entertaining (watch for his "joke" 46 mins in).
For those who want the gist, we've summed up the 60 minute talk below:
Final version of developer tools will be available "months" before final release of hardware. Plenty of time for developers to feel comfortable.
New builds of WP7 developer tools every month or two
Developers: Do expect access to WP7 phones! More info coming soon...
Hundreds of thousands of downloads of WP7 dev tools already
2 million C# developers in the US --> all potential WP7 developers
If you're a competent Silverlight developer, you should be able to build WP7 apps in just a few hours. (But read this -Mal)
3rd party apps won't be able to use email attachments
No support for in-browser Silverlight at this time, didn't make the cut
Business experience was not "main concern" with this initial release; consumer UX was (Translation: business focus coming later -Mal)
Rejection of apps will feature a bullet list of things to fix to get it in, no vagaries (Clear shot at Apple's policies -Mal)
OEM applications can't multitask either
No restriction on programming tools as long it compiles down to their common language runtime (C# only, more languages later)
We've been hearing rumors about Dell working on a Windows Phone 7 device, the Lightning, for a while now. During a recent earnings conference call, Dell CEO Michael Dell kept hopes alive that Dell hasn't given up on the Lightning.
Dell stated, "We're very much working with Android and Windows Mobile 7 and we see those platforms as more attractive alternatives to other suggestions that you may have offered." The alternative he is referring to is likely the option for Dell to buy or develop their own OS.
It's rumored that Dell's Android phone is likely headed to AT&T later this summer and if the renderings do the Lightning any justice, it would be a nice addition to the Windows Phone 7 lineup this Fall.
Primarily he was responsible for Zune and a lot of aspects of the Xbox platform, including Live, various add ons and the overall direction of the system. Most recently he was heavily associated with the wildly-popular "in incubation" product known as the Courier. If Microsoft has a 'Steve Jobs', i.e. someone who put as much effort on design as well as functionality, it would be Allard.
But if Allard has left Microsoft (for whatever reason), dare we say we're pretty crushed as his role and influence in Microsoft, at least from our perspective, seemed like a breath of fresh air. His indirect influence on Windows Phone should be evident from WP7. Lets hope cooler heads prevail and something positive comes from this situation.
A lot of hay has been made of Sprint and their new 4G network based off of WiMax, especially with the imminent launch of the HTC EVO.
But the fact remains, in terms of 4g technologies, WiMax may be the first but it's far from the default choice by many carriers in the U.S., let alone world-wide. Some feel this may be a dead-end for Sprint in the long run and if it's one thing Sprint doesn't need, it's another dud (cough, Palm Pre, cough).
Thankfully, Sprint was smart enough to leave options on the table.
To the point, Sprint has "...issued a "next generation network" request for proposal (RFP)" on their current fiber and they're looking at LTE:
"There's nothing that prevents us from... moving to LTE," said Kevin Packingham, senior VP of product and technology development at Sprint, speaking at the LTE event here. "We're doing a technology evaluation and making a decision on our core network and how we want to evolve that going forward."
And what about ol' WiMax? Looks like Sprint could have its cake and eat it too as they don't consider the two technologies "mutually exclusive". One could envision WiMax being deployed as a "hotspot" technology where LTE more ubiquitous. Of course, timing is everything and that could snag them a bit. But options are always good and at least Sprint didn't totally paint themselves into a corner. We hope.
In an open letter to customers, AT&T has announced they will be increasing Early Termination Fees (ETF) on smartphones and decreasing them slightly on other phones. AT&T will raise the fee from $175 to $325 on contracts for smartphones as well as netbooks. The ETF will be reduced for non-smartphones to $150 from $175.
These changes will only take effect for new and renewing customers. The ETF will be prorated $10 a month for each month ($4 for non-smartphones) that passes in the two year agreement.
AT&T is stating this increase had no relation to any specific phone and instead states the modifications are in response to the overall cost of smartphones that require a larger subsidy.
Heads up, folks: We're going to take the week off to rest up and flash a ROM or three. We'll be back next week to tackle what's left in Windows Mobile, what's new in Windows Phone 7, and, of course, your e-mails and voice mails. See you then.
We gave a brief review of CloudFiles, the first Dropbox client for Windows Mobile, a few days ago. Bottom line: we're impressed, very impressed.
As we mentioned, we expected it to "1.0" any day now and sure enough, that day is upon us. The app is priced less than $10, which is fair. In fact it is normally priced at $6.99 but till at least May 25th, you can grab it for 20% off at $5.49.
Too much? Too little? All depends on how much you rely on Dropbox. For some, it's a requisite and that $5.49 is well worth the cost. They accept (thankfully) PayPal and you can grab it right here.
Paul Thurrott (SuperSite for Windows) is busy writing a book on Windows Phone 7, specifically its deepest, darkest secrets. Actually, it's not so much a dirty exposé as a thorough treatment of the fledgling OS. In doing so, he's spending some time in Redmond, toying with the new OS and gathering data for his book. It's there he was able to sit down and talk with Microsoft partner group program manager Charlie Kindel and senior product manager Greg Sullivan.
When those folks talk, you listen. And truth be told, they actually give some solid answers to plaguing questions like copy and paste, Mozilla and Skype skipping the initial release and even tablets with WP7 (see our resolution/DPI discussion).
We won't spoil all the answers as they're actually quite thorough, so you should read the whole thing. However, in response to all the naysayers and those lodging a lot of complaints, we will leave you with the main gist of Microsoft's position on such criticisms:
We have to have focus. And we made a decision around what we would focus on for this turn of the crank, for the first version. We knew this would create difficulties for certain third parties to build on. It's impossible to build a high performance race car on a mountain bike frame. They're good for certain things only. But we made the decision to focus on things we will do really, really well. For those that we didn't, we feel that we're better off waiting until we can do them really, really well.
Apple took the same approach: nail the basics, don't take shortcuts and build off of a solid core. Sure, when Apple did it, the marketplace was vastly different--they had time to kill. Then again, Android took the exact same approach and it paid off too. Will the market be as forgiving towards Microsoft and Windows Phone 7? We're not sure, but to be honest, we rather like this slow, deliberate approach that they are taking. Lets just hope it pays off.
Pharos is showing off their newest Windows phone, the Pharos 565. It's a ruggedized Windows phone that meets Industrial IP54 standards (can survive drops from 4-5 feet).
The Pharos 565 claims to be the first rugged Windows Mobile 6.5 phone (the iMate 810 runs WM6.1) and sports a 3.5" 240x320 TFT touchscreen, 624mhz processor, 512mb ROM/256mb SDRAM as well as GPS, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth. The 565 measures 5.7" (L) x 3.1" (W) x 1" (D) and is powered by a 1880mah battery. No word on how hefty this phone is but it does have a 3.5mm headphone jack.
The tough Windows phone is listed for $529.95 (MSRP) on Pharos website.
The other day we mentioned how beneficial it will be for programmers to be able to write Windows Phone 7 applications in Silverlight (see "DroppyPop"), specifically we can run them in a web browser to demo them first or as an expansion.
Today we have a few more apps to show from the blog by Sigurd Snørteland. Even the code is provided in case others are curious about writing apps Silverlight. Sigurd weighs in on the whole process by stating thus:
To make it clear right away: Silverlight development of WP7 is incredibly easy and fun. If you have coded a little silver light before you are productive from the start. Virtually the only difference from the normal Silverlight development is that you use any other visual studio templates, and that you get access to some new APIs such. gps, accelerometer, camera, etc.