Welcome!

Microsoft Cloud Authors: Elizabeth White, Mihai Corbuleac, Pat Romanski, David Bermingham, Steven Mandel

Related Topics: Silverlight, Microsoft Cloud

Silverlight: Blog Feed Post

Windows Phone 7 Series – Initial Developer Impressions

You can choose to either develop for the platform in Silverlight or you can use the XNA toolkit

Windows Phone 7 Series (hereafter I'll just call it WP7) debuted a while ago at a press event but it's true coming out party was this past week at MIX 2010. This conference is a designer-developer hybrid conference and, of all the Microsoft development conferences I've ever attended, this has consistently been the most informative and exciting of the bunch.

In case you've been hiding under a rock this past week, Microsoft has been showing off WP7 and the development experience for it. I'm going to oversimplify here, but this is the basic idea: You can choose to either develop for the platform in Silverlight or you can use the XNA toolkit normally used for building XBox and PC games in C#. WP7 has all the trimmings including push notifications, rich GUI (hardware accelerated), rich audio, the full power of Silverlight's media control, and it even has Xbox live integration allowing you to unlock achievements by playing games on the phone. Development tool is standard Visual Studio and for the Silverlight model you can use Expression Blend 4 to build you GUI (and there are some fantastic new improvements in Blend 4).

I'm going to talk mostly about the Silverlight experience here since the last time I used XNA it was in beta and XNA has come a long way since then and I couldn't possibly do it justice. Your application is made of up pages (this concept should be familiar to SL3 developers), with each page acting like a specialized SL user control. These pages can have an application bar, which is similar to an iPhone tab bar control. The difference is that when you tap the elipsis ("...") on the WP7 app bar, the app bar expands without you losing context while the iPhone tab bar "more" button transitions you to a fairly bland table view controller. At this point you can do pretty much anything you would normally be able to do in Silverlight, but you also get things like raw access to audio from the microphone, pickers for all native types of data on the phone like contacts, etc and the ability to send e-mails and SMS - all the stuff you'd expect to have.

So, how does it feel to code for this thing and, more importantly, how does it compare to writing iPhone apps? First, let me preface this by saying that I've been writing iPhone apps off and on since before the SDK came out and we had to "fake it" with clever CSS and HTML and for the past few months I've been seriously writing heavy duty iPhone apps for real businesses. On many occasions over the past few months, I've said that developing for the iPhone was 'fun' and 'what coding should be like'. That said, I have also forcibly rammed my head into my desk out of frustration with certain aspects of the iPhone development process.

Writing apps that look and feel like iPhone apps that look just like every other iPhone application is a task that takes little to no effort. I can go from empty project to a data-driven table view controller on the iPhone in pretty much no time at all. I can also do the same thing on the WP7 tools in about the same amount of time. Where the two begin to diverge is when I want to start customizing. I won't go into painful detail here because I plan on making a bunch of blog posts about WP7 and comparing it to the iPhone later. There are a few points that I want to make, however:

Push Notifications

As I said, I plan on delving into individual topics as I blog more about this, but I wanted to bring this up specifically. Dealing with the App Store and with the Developer Portal in general on the iPhone is a headache at best. When you add into it the juggling, management, and eventual botching of certificates and provisioning profiles, the mess gets even worse. Now you add into it the debacle of getting certificates based on provisioning profiles that are used by your servers to send push notifications to registered iPhone devices and it can bring the strongest of men to weeping on his knees. From firsthand experience, the act of getting your first push notification to work on an iPhone/iPod touch application is akin to climbing mount everest and when you get to the top you're thinking, "#@*! I have to do this again!?" With Apple, the phone contacts Apple to get a notification token (assuming the application is using a provisioning profile configured for notifications), the token then has to be sent by the app's code to the app owner's server for storage. That server needs to be configured with the right certificates to that it can send a proprietary binary package of goo containing the notification to Apple's servers, which will eventually make its way down to your app. Trust me, getting this to work is a victorious moment, preceded by weeks of eye-gouging pain.

Here's how it works with WP7: App gets a unique notification URI that represents notifications for that app on that device. App sends the URI to the app owner's server. When you want to send a notification, HTTP POST the contents of that notification (XML payload) to Microsoft's notification server. That's it. Done.

Small side note here: I like that you can send unobtrusive toasts with WP7 far better than sending modal dialog boxes with iPhone, they feel more like the Palm Pre notifications than iPhone dialogs. There are no certificates and private keys to manage, there are no provisioning profiles to deal with, there are no certificates required to be present on the notification sending server and there is no management portal you have to go to in order to maintain this stuff. For the first time recent history, Microsoft took the "it just works" approach whereas Apple's is hideously and unnecessarily complex.

GUI Customization

I alluded to this earlier in the post. If what I want to do is display two rows of textual information in a table view cell, then the iPhone gives me that out of the box and my application will feel perfectly at home on the device. However, when I want to mix in some icons and some other gauges and indicators that might not fall into the existing line-up of controls, I quickly drop from feeling safe and secure to feeling like I'm back in the low-level Windows programming days of yore where everything I do needs to be a custom view with a custom render/paint method. It gets tedious, difficult, and time-consuming FAST.

Because WP7 lets me do all this stuff in Silverlight, I can use the advanced, composited, declarative UI to do truly remarkable things in very little time at all. I could make the cells in my table view (list view or grid in SL) have three rows and put whatever controls I want in there. Creating a type of UI that doesn't exist in the stock toolbox in Silverlight is easy... doing the same in the iPhone feels positively primitive by comparison.

Overall Experience

As you'll see in the blog posts I'm planning on doing, WP7 development is like a  breath of fresh air. It's funny, because I remember saying that when I first got my hands on the iPhone SDK and I was comparing iPhone development to Compact Framework for Windows Mobile. Cast aside all your preconceived notions about all previous versions of Microsoft mobile OS development - this is something entirely new. Also, keep in mind that when you build your mobile app in Silverlight, if you do it with a little forethought, you could potentially share 90+% of your code for an app that works on WP7, on a PC, and on a Mac.

I will still build apps for the iPhone, but only because people continue to want to pay me to do so. From now on, my mobile development for pleasure is going to be entirely WP7 based.

 

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Kevin Hoffman

Kevin Hoffman, editor-in-chief of SYS-CON's iPhone Developer's Journal, has been programming since he was 10 and has written everything from DOS shareware to n-tier, enterprise web applications in VB, C++, Delphi, and C. Hoffman is coauthor of Professional .NET Framework (Wrox Press) and co-author with Robert Foster of Microsoft SharePoint 2007 Development Unleashed. He authors The .NET Addict's Blog at .NET Developer's Journal.

@ThingsExpo Stories
In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Klein, CEO and Co-founder of Rachio, will discuss next generation communities that are using IoT to create more sustainable, intelligent communities. One example is Sterling Ranch, a 10,000 home development that – with the help of Siemens – will integrate IoT technology into the community to provide residents with energy and water savings as well as intelligent security. Everything from stop lights to sprinkler systems to building infrastructures will run ef...
Artificial Intelligence has the potential to massively disrupt IoT. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, AJ Abdallat, CEO of Beyond AI, will discuss what the five main drivers are in Artificial Intelligence that could shape the future of the Internet of Things. AJ Abdallat is CEO of Beyond AI. He has over 20 years of management experience in the fields of artificial intelligence, sensors, instruments, devices and software for telecommunications, life sciences, environmental monitoring, process...
The demand for organizations to expand their infrastructure to multiple IT environments like the cloud, on-premise, mobile, bring your own device (BYOD) and the Internet of Things (IoT) continues to grow. As this hybrid infrastructure increases, the challenge to monitor the security of these systems increases in volume and complexity. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Stephen Coty, Chief Security Evangelist at Alert Logic, will show how properly configured and managed security architecture can...
We’ve worked with dozens of early adopters across numerous industries and will debunk common misperceptions, which starts with understanding that many of the connected products we’ll use over the next 5 years are already products, they’re just not yet connected. With an IoT product, time-in-market provides much more essential feedback than ever before. Innovation comes from what you do with the data that the connected product provides in order to enhance the customer experience and optimize busi...
A critical component of any IoT project is the back-end systems that capture data from remote IoT devices and structure it in a way to answer useful questions. Traditional data warehouse and analytical systems are mature technologies that can be used to handle large data sets, but they are not well suited to many IoT-scale products and the need for real-time insights. At Fuze, we have developed a backend platform as part of our mobility-oriented cloud service that uses Big Data-based approache...
The increasing popularity of the Internet of Things necessitates that our physical and cognitive relationship with wearable technology will change rapidly in the near future. This advent means logging has become a thing of the past. Before, it was on us to track our own data, but now that data is automatically available. What does this mean for mHealth and the "connected" body? In her session at @ThingsExpo, Lisa Calkins, CEO and co-founder of Amadeus Consulting, will discuss the impact of wea...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Ericsson has been named “Gold Sponsor” of SYS-CON's @ThingsExpo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York, New York. Ericsson is a world leader in the rapidly changing environment of communications technology – providing equipment, software and services to enable transformation through mobility. Some 40 percent of global mobile traffic runs through networks we have supplied. More than 1 billion subscribers around the world re...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Peak 10, Inc., a national IT infrastructure and cloud services provider, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Peak 10 provides reliable, tailored data center and network services, cloud and managed services. Its solutions are designed to scale and adapt to customers’ changing business needs, enabling them to lower costs, improve performance and focus inter...
The IoTs will challenge the status quo of how IT and development organizations operate. Or will it? Certainly the fog layer of IoT requires special insights about data ontology, security and transactional integrity. But the developmental challenges are the same: People, Process and Platform. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Craig Sproule, CEO of Metavine, will demonstrate how to move beyond today's coding paradigm and share the must-have mindsets for removing complexity from the development proc...
We're entering the post-smartphone era, where wearable gadgets from watches and fitness bands to glasses and health aids will power the next technological revolution. With mass adoption of wearable devices comes a new data ecosystem that must be protected. Wearables open new pathways that facilitate the tracking, sharing and storing of consumers’ personal health, location and daily activity data. Consumers have some idea of the data these devices capture, but most don’t realize how revealing and...
trust and privacy in their ecosystem. Assurance and protection of device identity, secure data encryption and authentication are the key security challenges organizations are trying to address when integrating IoT devices. This holds true for IoT applications in a wide range of industries, for example, healthcare, consumer devices, and manufacturing. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Lancen LaChance, vice president of product management, IoT solutions at GlobalSign, will teach IoT developers how t...
There is an ever-growing explosion of new devices that are connected to the Internet using “cloud” solutions. This rapid growth is creating a massive new demand for efficient access to data. And it’s not just about connecting to that data anymore. This new demand is bringing new issues and challenges and it is important for companies to scale for the coming growth. And with that scaling comes the need for greater security, gathering and data analysis, storage, connectivity and, of course, the...
Increasing IoT connectivity is forcing enterprises to find elegant solutions to organize and visualize all incoming data from these connected devices with re-configurable dashboard widgets to effectively allow rapid decision-making for everything from immediate actions in tactical situations to strategic analysis and reporting. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Shikhir Singh, Senior Developer Relations Manager at Sencha, will discuss how to create HTML5 dashboards that interact with IoT devic...
So, you bought into the current machine learning craze and went on to collect millions/billions of records from this promising new data source. Now, what do you do with them? Too often, the abundance of data quickly turns into an abundance of problems. How do you extract that "magic essence" from your data without falling into the common pitfalls? In her session at @ThingsExpo, Natalia Ponomareva, Software Engineer at Google, will provide tips on how to be successful in large scale machine lear...
Digital payments using wearable devices such as smart watches, fitness trackers, and payment wristbands are an increasing area of focus for industry participants, and consumer acceptance from early trials and deployments has encouraged some of the biggest names in technology and banking to continue their push to drive growth in this nascent market. Wearable payment systems may utilize near field communication (NFC), radio frequency identification (RFID), or quick response (QR) codes and barcodes...
The IETF draft standard for M2M certificates is a security solution specifically designed for the demanding needs of IoT/M2M applications. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Brian Romansky, VP of Strategic Technology at TrustPoint Innovation, will explain how M2M certificates can efficiently enable confidentiality, integrity, and authenticity on highly constrained devices.
You think you know what’s in your data. But do you? Most organizations are now aware of the business intelligence represented by their data. Data science stands to take this to a level you never thought of – literally. The techniques of data science, when used with the capabilities of Big Data technologies, can make connections you had not yet imagined, helping you discover new insights and ask new questions of your data. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Sarbjit Sarkaria, data science team lead ...
Manufacturers are embracing the Industrial Internet the same way consumers are leveraging Fitbits – to improve overall health and wellness. Both can provide consistent measurement, visibility, and suggest performance improvements customized to help reach goals. Fitbit users can view real-time data and make adjustments to increase their activity. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Mark Bernardo Professional Services Leader, Americas, at GE Digital, will discuss how leveraging the Industrial Interne...
Whether your IoT service is connecting cars, homes, appliances, wearable, cameras or other devices, one question hangs in the balance – how do you actually make money from this service? The ability to turn your IoT service into profit requires the ability to create a monetization strategy that is flexible, scalable and working for you in real-time. It must be a transparent, smoothly implemented strategy that all stakeholders – from customers to the board – will be able to understand and comprehe...
You deployed your app with the Bluemix PaaS and it's gaining some serious traction, so it's time to make some tweaks. Did you design your application in a way that it can scale in the cloud? Were you even thinking about the cloud when you built the app? If not, chances are your app is going to break. Check out this webcast to learn various techniques for designing applications that will scale successfully in Bluemix, for the confidence you need to take your apps to the next level and beyond.