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Audible?
32

Audible for Windows Phone is certainly possible, so where is it?

I like experimenting and tinkering with software. A lot like how a circuit bender tries to get electronics to emit beautiful music, I attempt to coerce software into doing things it wasn’t designed to do. Often, like my recent Windows Phone Hackathon, I fail spectacularly. But rarely, I do make notable progress. Cue Audible.

Audible.com (Audible for short) is a service owned by Amazon that provides digital audio books. They put out software that works across a slew of devices such as the iPod, Kindle Fire, Blackberry, and even PC. Old hats may even recall that Audible supported Windows Mobile 5 devices such as the HP iPAQ Pocket PC. One platform void of support, however, is Windows Phone.

We – along with our readers – have been keeping the pressure on Audible for quite some time now, to no avail. Support technicians would say an app is in the works but has no ETA. Now they're saying this month. Who knows when this is really coming out? More importantly, what’s taking so long?

I sat down one day and decided to figure out why this was taking so long, or at least try. I started by downloading the old Windows Mobile 5 software. In the dusty CAB were a number of skins and resources, to support the fragmented Windows Mobile market, along with some key application files. Disassembling the Audible Player executable revealed they all relied on a single dynamic link library (DLL) to perform all the needed functions: AAXSDKWin.dll.

AAXSDKWin.dll is a library compiled for devices containing a StrongARM processor, like the iPAQ mentioned earlier. Without going too deep, it was compiled using an instruction set (ARM4i) that is still used in today’s ARM (e.g. Cortex) processors. At this point, you’re probably thinking “Hey… doesn’t Windows Phone sit on top of ARM too?” Yep, it sure does.

I took the library and started weeks of disassembly, study, and boozing, excruciatingly dissecting bit after bit until I had enough of their APIs worked out to use the damn thing in a proof of concept. I jiggered it into a Silverlight for Windows Phone application project and deployed it onto my Samsung Focus test phone. I was able successfully parse an Audible book and light up my UI with relevant metadata (e.g. title, author, etc.). I remember thinking “Holy crap, it worked.” (The app shot below is not a functional application.)

Audible for Windows Phone (concept)

How Audible for Windows Phone could look like.

I continued my research efforts, with the goal of playing a book in mind, but stopped short for two reasons: One, Audible’s books are protected with a DRM scheme. This meant I needed to reverse engineer their account activation, authentication, and decryption logic – something I wasn’t keen on doing. Two, we reported that Audible was warming up for a late March release. I had no intention of busting hump to later be superseded by a better and official application. But with the success of the concept application, I couldn’t answer the original question – What’s taking Audible so long to put out an app?

I can only surmise as to why. We know getting legitimate native access on Windows Phone is easy and possible. I also know that all the APIs they need are there. So from a technical perspective, an Audible app is possible. But perhaps Amazon, in a move to increase Kindle interest, decided to not continue porting Audible to newer mobile devices. Or maybe there’s some behind-the-scenes political or logistical clashing we’re not privy to. Or more likely, Audible just didn’t have the Windows Phone marketplace numbers to justify paying a team to rework their ancient source code into something usable on Windows Phone.

Regardless, an Audible application official or otherwise is coming.

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Comments

There are 32 comments. Sign in to comment

rodneyej says:

Ok, Ok, speaking of audio, does anybody out there want or have a need for a HDMI A/V out on a future higher end WP device? I do.. We better start asking for this now if we want this in WP8...

Nataku4ca says:

I kind of thought DLNA would make more sense, until I realized my TV doesn't have one and needed to get an adapter lol...  (when is wireless HDMI going to get cheap anyways =..=)

rodneyej says:

To be honest, if I can get even unofficial confirmation that WP8 will have some form of AV out it would ease my mind. But, it needs to output at least 720p

Bruno H says:

Amazon is apparently not into promoting the kindle app. We in Sweden have still no access yo the kindle app although it is accessible on windows. I have mailed amazon several times that all they need to do is to republish the app and add all countries. They gave responded that they are working on it. But 9 months later, still no kindle for us. So have no big hopes for amazon, they apparently are busy doing other stuff. :-(
Now I am using freda and got my e-books from other sources than Amazon...

Nakazul says:

Troligt rättigheter som vanligt i detta land :'(

joecatskill says:

Nice job Raf! This is an app I've been looking forward to since I got my Trophy from Verizon and I have an hour communte. I've of course been disappointed by Amazon and Verizons lack of OS update support.
I've acutally substituted books for podcasts over Zune and really encjoy most of the tech podcasts there (I listen to WPCentral over the WPCentral App - love it). Having an Audio app will be nice and long over due. Unfortunately, I think this article just shows a lack of interest on Amazon's behalf. They've obvioulsy the resources to have rolled this out a year ago, even with forking the andriod for the Kindle Fire. Too bad I couldn't download books from Zune... or whatever media player comes packaged with Windows Phone 8. :-)

edoug says:

It's not a function of backgrounding is it?
I know until Mango it just wouldn't have worked --and i certainly wouldn't have wanted to keep it in the foreground.  
 
I think its as simple as "user base" though.
 
 

Seems like a rather easy feature to implement.

chadtheman says:

I used to be hooked on Audible; would listen on the bus ride into work. Subscribed to the two book a month plan for $25. After numerous emails to Audible support asking about Windows Phone 7 support I got fed up and canceled my service last fall. I know the Windows Phone market share is small but it still amounts to millions of potential customers. I would think that the revenue generated from, say, 10k users would more than pay to develop an Audible app for Windows Phone. These days I am happy to listen to podcasts and don't see this changing even if Audible decides to support this platform. 

cedarlog says:

here is the message i received from audible when i asked about supporting wp       

" I understand you're wondering about the compatibility of Windows Phone 7 and Audible. At this time, the Windows Phone 7 media player does not allow playback of Audible content. We are continuously looking for opportunities to expand the Audible platform and would be thrilled to bring additional wireless access to our customers in the future.

If you would like to be a part of any future beta testing or to be notified of a future Windows Phone 7 application, please send an email to audiblewireless@audible.com

I hope this has answered your question. If you need any further assistance, please don't hesitate to contact us.

Sincerely,
Ralph R.

Audible Customer Support "

hugheshilton says:

Yeah I received a nearly identical message from Audible about a year ago or so.  I wrote an e-mail to that e-mail address as well since I am a registered WP7 dev and could easily beta test or them, and I never received so much as a confirmation that they received my e-mail.  I think that e-mail address is where they send people that they never plan on replying to.  It's not even an e-mail address that makes any sense as far as a beta program goes.
Great work Raf!  I briefly tried to do what you've done with the old audible DLL files a while back, but I was pretty over my head.  My expertise is definitely not in disassembling low level code like that.
Hughes

I got the exact same email less than a fortnight ago... I cursed their lack of support in a very direct manner:) This blows and I will cancel the service if they don't get their heads out soon...

Fortnight? Wow, the 19th century is calling and they want their word back! :)

Renigade16 says:

I keep hearing alot of my British friends using that all of a sudden. Maybe its a come back word lol.

paulomalley says:

Actually, its the correct term for a two week period. Learn the English language please.

dakranii says:

No one was stating that it wasn't the correct term for a two-week period.  They were stating that it's rarely used anymore.  To assume they were unaware of its definition isn't fair.  Learn some manners please.

schlubadub says:

*rarely used in the US. "Surname" is also rarely used in the US but it is widespread in English speaking countries. I used to work in a UK call centre and was baffled as to why US customers didn't know what a 'collar size' was (for a shirt). I had to say 'neck size' just for them.

Just having some fun over silly words :)

This is funny:) I just like practical words... Less writing, but not as stupid as brb:) Keep up the good work Mr. Rivera!

q21701 says:

@Torchxit - how recent is that email.

cedarlog says:

two days ago

Why the hell are devs so lazy and reluctant when it comes to making apps? Shouldn't they love doing that?

I find it more than a little bit ironic that Audible is one of the advertisers for the Windows Weekly podcast featuring Leo Laporte and Paul Thurrott, who are both big Audible fans. Of course, Paul is also a big Windows Phone 7 fan, too.
Every time I hear their ad, all I say is, "Yeah, call me when you support the Windows Phone". And then I fast forward to skip the ad. This has left such a sour taste for me, that I doubt that I would ever buy their books even if they do eventually support the Windows Phone.

rich4A1 says:

I don't think Amazon as a company is too keen about Windows Phone as a whole.  I always point to their pricing on AmazonWireless as my proof.  Look at their price on Radar, and try to convince me otherwise.

On the app for Kindle the books are more expensive on sale:) So I guess you're right

bpgui says:

Their pricing on the Focus Flash disagrees with you.

@rich I purchased my last two WP7'S from Amazon Wireless both for a penny. Samsung Focus & Focus S.

eastbayrae says:

They need to get this done. They act like it's some act of God to make an app. It can't be that hard to make an app, just look at the 60k or so apps on the marketplace. I have to lug around my kindle fire, which is a piece of shit to begin with, just so I can listen to my audio books.

MediaCastleX says:

Hey! Amazon...I don't care what the #&// your reasons are. HURRY. UP. Oh, I'm sorry...do you NOT want my money? THIS is the ONE thing I am waiting for to use your damn service in earnest...a Windows Phone application. I'm sick of you tech head, suits messing around with my...emotions...*sob* :'(

Tahiti Bob says:

If they're going to make it US exclusive like the Amazon app, they might as well not bother.

LaNiQuE says:

Ive been through all this already with web0s so i know how you guys feel i contacted audible and they told me about beta testing i email the beta testing people and was never contacted i wasnt surprised it's crazy that audbile had relationships with both palm and windows and now they could care less about supporting our devices so im looking to buy a lumia 900 and im stuck with 30 plus audiobooks i cant listen to on my phone with my only solitions being to carry my kindle everywhere or to switch to a Os i have no intress in but it feels like im punishing myself i need a hulu app netflix app kindle app and audible app some of these wp has but all of these android and apple have so once again i guess im a sucker for punshiment and a unique os vs a Os thats going to give me all the apps i need i wish microsoft with their billions would just pay off every developer thats how this country really works lol

big_jakers says:

Rafael Rivera you will have achieved the status of 'Super Hero!' if they drag there feet and you end up helping release an audible app for the masses.  This is the quintessential app I've been waiting for, for WP7.  Thanks for keeping my hopes up for the app anyway.  One of my first google/bing searches of every day is "WP7 Audible" trying to find some kind of status update.  I hope something happens soon.  The sad thing is I'd pay a good price for an audible app if I had to, to get it on my Windows phone.