Developer interview: Dave Amenta of Send to WP7

This week we have the pleasure in being joined by Dave Amenta, who's the brains and developing power behind the likes of Send to WP7. Check out the insightful interview after the break. 

Tell us about yourself, what you do, background around programming etc.?

Hi, I’m Dave Amenta. I graduated from Central Connecticut State University in May, and as of 3 weeks ago, I’m an engineer at Microsoft working on the next version of Windows. In 2002 I decided that I wanted to be a software engineer and that I wanted to build Windows.

Fast forward through thousands of late nights, lots of VB, C#, C/C++, Java and others, 4 years of college, and I’m here. I love technology and I’m especially excited for the ubiquitous computing revolution. I was an iPhone enthusiast until I could get my hands on a Focus, and I can’t see a reason to go back.

What path(s) led you to develop for Windows Phone?

Having various Windows development skills, it was an easy sell to switch from WPF to Silverlight for the phone. I didn’t know what app I’d write, but I knew I had to put something in the marketplace once I got my phone. The inability to easily shoot a link to the phone was an obvious target, and I figured I’d close that gap with a nice free app.

How do you find the development process on WP7?

For the most part, I really like it. The tools are fantastic; the emulator is fast and fluid. I especially like how quickly one can get up and running with new applications. It’s actually possible to go from zero to a working app in just an hour or so. I’ve built a ton of apps, but most of them won’t ever make it into the store. I had a blast doing homebrew, but the managed framework really is fantastic.

The most shocking thing I found is that, after writing Windows Phone apps, I felt that desktop development was just so much more tedious. It’s fantastic that so many of the implementation details are removed, so you can really focus on the app you want to create.

Has the you developed for other platforms and if so how does their development process compare?

I’ve done iPhone development, and just a little bit of Android. I thought Apple had done a pretty good job with Objective-C and UIKit, but as is often publicized, the Windows Phone tools really blow it away in some key aspects. I think we’ve already got a lock on the most developer friendly platform.

What do you think of the platform (from a user perspective), and how do you compare it to competitors?

I really like how connected Mango feels. I’ve found it much easier to keep up with everything (mail, messages, Twitter and Facebook) than I did with iPhone. I often find myself thinking “well, I don’t have anything else to check on my phone now.” The “glance and go” advertising didn’t work well, but it really is that way in practice. I love it; I just hope our competition doesn’t catch on soon.

What's the number one feature you love the most in Mango?

That’s a tough choice; Mango was really a “improve everything” update, so I find that I was surprised with new stuff all over the phone. I think it’s a tie between the messaging hub and IE9.

What other WP7 projects are you working on or planning to start?

I’ve had an Orb streaming client ready for months, but it needs some work and I’m not sure when it’ll be in the store. I’m thinking about Send to WP7 v2, but I’m not sure exactly what that’ll entail—the most requested feature is something that is completely out of the scope of the app. Whatever I do next, it’ll probably interoperate with Windows 8, though.

Send to WP7 is a highly successful app, what's your secret?

I recognized the need early on for a “Chrome to Phone” type application, and I simply filled the gap. My 1.0 wasn’t very good, but I’m happy to have filled a niche and provided a valuable service for those who want to shoot links or files from their PC to their phone. No secret here.

How do you feel about the overall quality of apps in the Marketplace?

I think we’ve made fantastic progress in the past 10 months, and I’m excited to see more popular apps entering the platform. Getting a 1.0 is key; most of the iPhone 1.0’s were not of great quality, but they iterated and have fantastic experiences today. It’s really about gaining traction, and I think we’re going strong.

What advice would you give to aspiring WP7 developers?

My advice to any aspiring programmer is the same: keep at it. Put in your 10,000 hours and you’ll be an accomplished expert before you know it. Persistence is key in software; everything can be solved by applying more effort. Remember that there is always a solution.

What do you think about the future of Windows 8 and Windows Phone integration?

I can’t comment on this. :)

Thank you for your time. Any closing words about WP7's future?

Thanks for the interview, I absolutely love WPCentral! We’re off to a great start, and I’m confident that the smartphone war is only just beginning. The foundation is strong; we’ve got a great platform to move forward.

There you have it folks, unfortunately our trick question about Windows 8 didn't fool Mr Amenta. Should you wish to find out more about his projects, head on over to his personal website and follow him on Twitter.

Rich Edmonds
Senior Editor, PC Build

Rich Edmonds was formerly a Senior Editor of PC hardware at Windows Central, covering everything related to PC components and NAS. He's been involved in technology for more than a decade and knows a thing or two about the magic inside a PC chassis. You can follow him on Twitter at @RichEdmonds.