Welcome!

Microsoft Cloud Authors: Liz McMillan, Pat Romanski, John Basso, Elizabeth White, Mihai Corbuleac

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
Big Data engines are powering a lot of service businesses right now. Data is collected from users from wearable technologies, web behaviors, purchase behavior as well as several arbitrary data points we’d never think of. The demand for faster and bigger engines to crunch and serve up the data to services is growing exponentially. You see a LOT of correlation between “Cloud” and “Big Data” but on Big Data and “Hybrid,” where hybrid hosting is the sanest approach to the Big Data Infrastructure pro...
A critical component of any IoT project is what to do with all the data being generated. This data needs to be captured, processed, structured, and stored in a way to facilitate different kinds of queries. Traditional data warehouse and analytical systems are mature technologies that can be used to handle certain kinds of queries, but they are not always well suited to many problems, particularly when there is a need for real-time insights.
"My role is working with customers, helping them go through this digital transformation. I spend a lot of time talking to banks, big industries, manufacturers working through how they are integrating and transforming their IT platforms and moving them forward," explained William Morrish, General Manager Product Sales at Interoute, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
With 15% of enterprises adopting a hybrid IT strategy, you need to set a plan to integrate hybrid cloud throughout your infrastructure. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Steven Dreher, Director of Solutions Architecture at Green House Data, discussed how to plan for shifting resource requirements, overcome challenges, and implement hybrid IT alongside your existing data center assets. Highlights included anticipating workload, cost and resource calculations, integrating services on both sides...
"We are a well-established player in the application life cycle management market and we also have a very strong version control product," stated Flint Brenton, CEO of CollabNet,, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
Unless your company can spend a lot of money on new technology, re-engineering your environment and hiring a comprehensive cybersecurity team, you will most likely move to the cloud or seek external service partnerships. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Darren Guccione, CEO of Keeper Security, revealed what you need to know when it comes to encryption in the cloud.
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...
What are the successful IoT innovations from emerging markets? What are the unique challenges and opportunities from these markets? How did the constraints in connectivity among others lead to groundbreaking insights? In her session at @ThingsExpo, Carmen Feliciano, a Principal at AMDG, will answer all these questions and share how you can apply IoT best practices and frameworks from the emerging markets to your own business.
Ask someone to architect an Internet of Things (IoT) solution and you are guaranteed to see a reference to the cloud. This would lead you to believe that IoT requires the cloud to exist. However, there are many IoT use cases where the cloud is not feasible or desirable. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Dave McCarthy, Director of Products at Bsquare Corporation, will discuss the strategies that exist to extend intelligence directly to IoT devices and sensors, freeing them from the constraints of ...
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 ...
Extracting business value from Internet of Things (IoT) data doesn’t happen overnight. There are several requirements that must be satisfied, including IoT device enablement, data analysis, real-time detection of complex events and automated orchestration of actions. Unfortunately, too many companies fall short in achieving their business goals by implementing incomplete solutions or not focusing on tangible use cases. In his general session at @ThingsExpo, Dave McCarthy, Director of Products...
Traditional IT, great for stable systems of record, is struggling to cope with newer, agile systems of engagement requirements coming straight from the business. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, William Morrish, General Manager of Product Sales at Interoute, outlined ways of exploiting new architectures to enable both systems and building them to support your existing platforms, with an eye for the future. Technologies such as Docker and the hyper-convergence of computing, networking and sto...
WebRTC is bringing significant change to the communications landscape that will bridge the worlds of web and telephony, making the Internet the new standard for communications. Cloud9 took the road less traveled and used WebRTC to create a downloadable enterprise-grade communications platform that is changing the communication dynamic in the financial sector. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Leo Papadopoulos, CTO of Cloud9, discussed the importance of WebRTC and how it enables companies to focus...
With an estimated 50 billion devices connected to the Internet by 2020, several industries will begin to expand their capabilities for retaining end point data at the edge to better utilize the range of data types and sheer volume of M2M data generated by the Internet of Things. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Don DeLoach, CEO and President of Infobright, discussed the infrastructures businesses will need to implement to handle this explosion of data by providing specific use cases for filterin...
IoT generates lots of temporal data. But how do you unlock its value? You need to discover patterns that are repeatable in vast quantities of data, understand their meaning, and implement scalable monitoring across multiple data streams in order to monetize the discoveries and insights. Motif discovery and deep learning platforms are emerging to visualize sensor data, to search for patterns and to build application that can monitor real time streams efficiently. In his session at @ThingsExpo, ...
Early adopters of IoT viewed it mainly as a different term for machine-to-machine connectivity or M2M. This is understandable since a prerequisite for any IoT solution is the ability to collect and aggregate device data, which is most often presented in a dashboard. The problem is that viewing data in a dashboard requires a human to interpret the results and take manual action, which doesn’t scale to the needs of IoT.
Internet of @ThingsExpo has announced today that Chris Matthieu has been named tech chair of Internet of @ThingsExpo 2016 Silicon Valley. The 6thInternet of @ThingsExpo will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
SYS-CON Events announced today the Enterprise IoT Bootcamp, being held November 1-2, 2016, in conjunction with 19th Cloud Expo | @ThingsExpo at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Combined with real-world scenarios and use cases, the Enterprise IoT Bootcamp is not just based on presentations but with hands-on demos and detailed walkthroughs. We will introduce you to a variety of real world use cases prototyped using Arduino, Raspberry Pi, BeagleBone, Spark, and Intel Edison. Y...
Much of IT terminology is often misused and misapplied. Modernization and transformation are two such terms. They are often used interchangeably even though they mean different things and have very different connotations. Indeed, it is somewhat safe to assume that in IT any transformative effort is likely to also have a modernizing effect, and thus, we can see these as levels of improvement efforts. However, many businesses are being led to believe if they don’t transform now they risk becoming ...
CenturyLink has announced that application server solutions from GENBAND are now available as part of CenturyLink’s Networx contracts. The General Services Administration (GSA)’s Networx program includes the largest telecommunications contract vehicles ever awarded by the federal government. CenturyLink recently secured an extension through spring 2020 of its offerings available to federal government agencies via GSA’s Networx Universal and Enterprise contracts. GENBAND’s EXPERiUS™ Application...