marketplace

Our friends over at Windows Phone Geek, the developer-based community, have announced their new marketplace (link) that caters for developers who requires tools to help them build apps on the platform. This beta (currently invite-only) Windows Phone marketplace enables developers to buy / sell UI controls, developer tools, SDKs, app templates, source code and more.

So why launch a developer marketplace? The goal is to help developers build high quality apps and offer tools in a single location. For those who have already crafted such tools and projects, they can release them for free or earn a little revenue on the side by selling the tools to other platform developers. Submissions are stated to be free. Boryana Miloshevska, Founder and CEO of WPGeek Ltd, had the following to say:

"Our purpose is not just to list thousands of low quality components, but to list only those that really can bring value and can help developers to build better apps. So, quality and not just quantity is what we aim to achieve with the WindowsPhoneGeek Marketplace!"

Be sure to head on over to Windows Phone Geek to check out the resources available and show interest into the newly announced developer marketplace.

Source: Windows Phone Geek

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We've heard through the tip line during the last few days that the latest Tango ROM updates for Lumia devices features a slightly new Marketplace.

In short, the 'Nokia Collection' is being renamed to 'Nokia Market' on all Lumia phones, a move that we applaud ("Collection" never really fit). The move is accompanied  by a icon change for the Marketplace as the traditional bag is flattened for a more Metro look but also features a big 'n' logo emblazoned on the side.

The new logo can be seen in an unboxing video for the Lumia 610 in Vietnam at about the 3:25 mark

Certainly this is an unprecedented move by Nokia obviously done with the blessing of Microsoft. It also shows how deep the Nokia-Microsoft partnership can go with Nokia slowly but surely exerting control over the OS and user experience with the focus on Lumia and less on "Windows Phone". Even with all the advertising here in the US for the 710 and 900 the words "Microsoft" and "Windows Phone" are never mentioned, which is probably a good thing for now.

Users of the AT&T Lumia 900 should probably expect their Marketplace to be updated with a future software update which will most likely include Tango.

Source: Nokiapoweruser, XDA forums, Verge forum; Thanks, Dave S., and Simon G., for the tip!

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Nokia has made moves to gain some big titles (and leverage) for their hardware. Who does it hurt? Who does it benefit and is it a good thing?

With yesterday’s announcement from Nokia describing a planned set of “exclusive” apps and even more games for their Lumia line of Windows Phones (and presumably anything else they have up their sleeve), Nokia has won both praise and some scorn for their bold move.

The concern, as echoed by some in the tech press, is that Nokia’s move will cause that dreaded “F word” to happen. No, no that one, the other one – fragmentation.

Fragmentation is the boogey word of the year due almost entirely to Google and their Android OS. But as ex-Microsoftie Charlie Kindel astutely pointed out, there isn’t just one type of fragmentation.  Rather, there’s at least six ways you can divide up the terms with some of it being positive and some of it negative, affecting consumers or developers. Point is, they're not the same and what is causing problems for Android is not the same as what Nokia is doing.

The real question is, will Nokia’s strategy to get these apps and games on their hardware hurt Windows Phone?  We say “no” and here’s why.

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Want to get a whole new Live ID and start fresh with Microsoft? Here's how to transfer your account.

Microsoft's Live ID (soon to be renamed "Microsoft Account") is the key to all things from Redmond these days. Whether it’s your Xbox 360, SkyDrive, Live Mail, Zune Pass, App Hub account, Messenger or Windows Phone, your Live ID is at the heart.

The question is what if you want to change your Live ID?

Here we don't mean switching just on the phone, which unfortunately requires a hard-reset (and no, we don't have a work around for that, sorry). Instead, we're talking about what if you have an old Hotmail.com email account and you want a new Live.com one instead? Maybe you're not happy with your current user name or like us, you have used your Hotmail account since 2002 as a glorified spam experiment.

We'll walk you through the process of getting a new Live ID and making sure all your other services back-propagate to reflect the change keeping all of your services intact.

Read on after the break for our guide...

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According to a Brazilian Nokia blog, Microsoft has reportedly added over 300 games to the regional Marketplace boosting it from just over 90 games the other day. Most thoughts will now be: "wait, what?" and rightfully so. It would appear as though the Brazil Marketplace is restricted by tighter certification regulations than other markets. This requires a clear guide to be published on each title that is available on the Marketplace detailing censorship (much like PEGI) and approval by the Ministry of Justice.

Google with their Android Play market reportedly gets around this by hosting the content in the US and having it only accessible via web (and paid in US dollars).

We'd like to chime in with a quick search performed by us reveals that some of these newly added titles don't sport visible ratings -- The Impossible Game being a good example, though it's good to see more content being added for markets to download and enjoy. There's nothing worse than owning a smartphone, yet not being able to access the catalogue of content.

With the new additions, the Brazilian Windows Phone Marketplace now boasts over 7,000 titles which is a start.

Source: TouchNokia (translation); thanks Little Angry for the tip!

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Guitar Hero Mobile ($6.99), an Xbox Live title, was released over on the Windows Phone Marketplace back in October 2010. Guitar Hero Mobile ($2.99), a non-Xbox Live title, hit the Marketplace a few days ago.

Microsoft recently announced an increased effort to maintain Marketplace quality which included looking closer at copyrighted material. Is this a discounted version of Guitar Hero Mobile or a pirated copy that slipped in under the Marketplace radar? 

Our first impression is that the $2.99 is a pirated copy. First, the Marketplace description for the non-Xbox Live version comes up in Chinese where the Xbox Live version is not. Then you have the developer listed as Glu Games Inc. and it is the only title under Glu Games Inc.

Glu is the developer of the Xbox Live version but is listed as Glu. Glu also has other titles on the Marketplace listed in similar fashion.

Lastly, the Xbox Live version has a trial version, the non-Xbox Live version does not. It doesn't make sense for one to have a trial and the other not to if they were coming from the same source.

We've reached out to both Microsoft and Glu to see if we can get more information on things. We'll update the post should we hear anything different but for now, we'll call this one a risky investment of $2.99.  We recommend you stick with the original Xbox Live version of Guitar Hero Mobile that you can find here at the Windows Phone Marketplace.

Thanks, everyone, for tipping us on this!

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Recently, Microsoft announced some recent changes to the Windows Phone Marketplace for developers that would also affect consumers. The changes were divided into four areas, including trademarks, bulk publishing, keywords and content policy. What concerns us here is the trademarks section.

In short, apps that violate trademarks of other companies are now subject to more restrictive oversight in the Marketplace. Microsoft had this to say on the matter, which is a fair position:

"When a trademark or copyright owner contacts us about a suspected violation, we investigate and pull apps when the complaint is valid. Lately we’ve been doing more of this, especially for trademark misuse. Sometimes the requests come from the owners of big, well-known brands. Other times they come from new brands. Either way, we often find trademark violations are unintentional: some developers just aren’t clear on what constitutes a violation. But these investigations—and the time and money they can cost—can be avoided by doing a little homework before submitting or updating your app."

A few curious examples of this actually do exist in the Windows Phone Marketplace, some of which you'll be familiar with including YouTube Pro, gMaps, YouTube Live and YouTube Downloader.

Did you notice anything in common with those? If you said those sound like Google names, you would be right and evidently Google are rightly flexing their muscle on the matter, sending out copyright infringement complaints to numerous developers over their use of their trademarked names.

The developer of YouTube Live, which we've covered before, just received such a notice which is partially re-printed below:

"This message is to notify you that Microsoft has received Content Infringement Complaint (“Complaint”) regarding your application Youtube Live. A copy of the Complaint is attached for your review.

Remove Application Access Immediately

You must remove access to the application from the Marketplace within one business day.  If your application is still available for download after one business day,Microsoft may remove the application without further notice.  Please note that under certain circumstances Microsoft may remove your app immediately without providing you the opportunity to remove it."

While this is certainly a blow to many of our favorite developers on the platform, it should not come too much as a surprise that these apps infringe on Google's ownership of those names. Of course, being as we're more of a Microsoft site and Google is not on good terms with Windows Phone this will certainly rub people the wrong way. Especially since Google has not bothered to support Windows Phone at all with their services.

Having said that, Google is technically in the right here and we don't begrudge them for taking action. We also want to let devs know that Microsoft is serious about this copyright stuff so give some thought to your app's name before Marketplace submission, m'kay?

We hope to see these outstanding apps back in the Marketplace soon but under new names.

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We all want to see quality apps and games in the Windows Phone Marketplace.  With that in mind Microsoft is working to beef up the enforcement of existing policies to keep the "quality bar" high with the Marketplace.  While policy compliance will be expected across the board, Microsoft notes four areas where the concern is slightly higher.

Trademarks: While trademark complaint investigations find that the violation is unintentional, most can be avoided. Microsoft reminds developers to do their due diligence in researching any potential trademark issues. Resource suggestions from Microsoft include the Marketplace's content policy and the U.S. Trademark and Patent Office.

Bulk Publishing: We've seen plenty of bulk publishing where developers submit hundreds of similar apps with slightly different titles. While Microsoft has reduced the number of titles a developer can submit per day, they are still seeing violations.

Developers are submitting the same app to multiple Marketplace categories (a policy violation). Microsoft's position, if a developer submits the same app to multiple categories, the app will be pulled from the Marketplace.

The other issue on bulk publishing that Microsoft brings up is duplicating the Marketplace title image with closely related apps. The title images can not be duplicate or near duplicates of each other.  They use this as an example of what isn't acceptable title images.

Keywords: Marketplace policy allows for a developer to submit five keywords for an app. The keywords are short phrase or word to help describe the app and helps with... well... keyword searches.

Some developers are violating this policy by submitting more than five keywords. Microsoft is beginning to enforce this policy not only with the number of words but also the relevancy of the words (for example using Skydrive for a recipe app). Any app with more than five keywords will have all the keywords deleted. Any keyword not relevant to the app will be deleted.

Content Policy: This may be the most challenging area for Microsoft to control. What some may see as acceptable, others may see it as inappropriate. Here's Microsoft's approach:

Our content policies are clearly spelled out: we don’t allow apps containing “sexually suggestive or provocative” images or content. What we do permit is the kind of content you occasionally see on prime-time TV or the pages of a magazine’s swimsuit issue.

Microsoft will begin reviewing Marketplace apps with respect to icons, titles and the content of the apps. They will be looking for more "subtle and modest" imagery and wording. Here are a few tile images that would pass certification:

Content not meeting the standards will need to be modified or pulled from the Marketplace.  Microsoft will begin reaching out to developers with more specific details on how to get apps within compliance.

It's nice to see Microsoft continue to take steps to maintain the quality of apps and games we find on the Marketplace.  Should you run across Marketplace listings that violate Marketplace policies, you can report them by emailing reportapp@microsoft.com. Include the URL with details of the issue and Microsoft will investigate.

Source: Windows Team Blog; Thanks, Sabita, for the tip!

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Best Windows Phone Photography Apps from WPCentral

We've taken a look at the best free apps, the must have games, the must have apps and the best weather apps for your Windows Phone. We now turn our attention to the best photography apps for your Windows Phone.

Now that you have some insight on how your Windows Phone camera works, these apps will help you edit and add a creative touch to your photographs. Some of these apps will even have an in-house camera function to keep everything under one roof.

As with all our "best of" lists, this list contains the apps that stand out in our opinions. If we've missed an app that you think should be included, please sound off in the comments.

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Whatever the reason for the Windows Phone Marketplace had for not playing nice earlier, the problems appeasr to have been resolved. We've been able to access the Marketplace online as well as from our Windows Phones.

Even the links to Marketplace apps are behaving as they should. The glitches we've experienced today as well as over the weekend could simply be the result of Microsoft working under the hood.

None the less, all appears to be corrected and we hope everyone is now able to access the Marketplace.  Sound off in the comments if you're still having problems.

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Although we're of the camp that doesn't mind that the Windows Phone Marketplace for apps has been retired from Zune Desktop, we imagine some of you think otherwise.

Luckily, Windows Phone guru Den Delimarsky has you covered. He figured out exactly what the change was that Microsoft pushed on to us all yesterday. More importantly, he also figured out to block that change so you can get back the Marketplace for those apps.

Unfortunately the change is a little tricky. Evidently the "update" comes from a simple modification in the configuration.xml that is sent from Microsoft every time you launch Zune Desktop. All you need to do is switch a "disabled" setting to "enabled" but the tough part is you have to intercept that .xml file.

That's where you'll need a mini-server (or something analogous). Basically you redirect your Zune Desktop to a local server where you can have it fetch your modified .xml file and boom, you're in business. Now of course, this is only works so long as you stay with version 4.8. If you update the Desktop client (and Microsoft is sure to push one eventually) you can probably kiss this trick goodbye.

Anyway, cool stuff just remember, you're using this at your own risk (sorry Microsoft if you get mad!). Go read the whole thing at Den's site for all the details.

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In a surprising move, Microsoft announced today on the Windows Phone blog that in the near future starting today you, won't be able to purchase or browse apps using the Zune Desktop software. (If you launch Zune Desktop, you'll be notified of the changes). In addition, you'll need Windows Phone 7.5+ to access and purchase new apps in the Marketplace, basically forcing users who are still on NoDo to finally update.

The Zune Desktop move seems odd until Microsoft explains that the overwhelming majority of users browse and purchase apps right on their phone or at the very least, use the Web Marketplace. So trying to focus their engineering efforts where it matters, Microsoft has decided to concentrate their efforts on those two areas and to forsake the Zune Desktop client.

Of course, we've also heard a lot of rumblings that come Windows 8 (and Windows Phone 8), Zune Desktop as we know will be completely gone. Instead, purchasing Windows 8 apps and music will be handled more natively by the OS itself and plugging in your phone will be more akin to the Active Sync experience back in the Windows Mobile heyday.

The other requirement, needing Windows Phone 7.5 "Mango" to access the store is also an interesting move. Without going into specific details, Mazhar Mohammed explains "Requiring Windows Phone 7.5 is part of a larger effort aimed at improving Marketplace performance and security, and paving the way for even faster growth and more new features."

We're not sure what the engineering limits are that are forcing these changes but evidently Microsoft considers it a priority enough to enforce it in the Marketplace.

Regarding  the Zune Desktop situation we have mixed feelings. On the one hand, we have to recognize that it is very likely to be a thing of the past in 6-8 months and we need to move on. On the other, one could argue that Zune Desktop absolutely killed iTunes as far as usability and it was one of Microsoft's really innovative desktop apps, so we're sad to see it slowly loose functionality.

How do these changes affect you? Sound off in comments and let us hear your thoughts.

Source: Windows Phone Blog

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What could be a very temporary glitch, we're seeing the Windows Phone Marketplace erring out for new downloads of apps. Numerous reports have just been sent in to us that users cannot download new apps to their Windows Phone.

Upon trying it ourselves, we repeated the error, listed as c101abb9, numerous times on a few devices.

We're not going to get too worked up about this as Microsoft could be updating some of those backend servers (and Saturday nights are probably lowest in traffic) or maybe it could be something bigger.

Update: Seems to be widespread as it is affecting Xbox 360 and some general LIVE services at the moment. Hotmail is working though.

Update 2: As of about 9:45pm EST, the Marketplace on our phone and others has started to work again

We'll keep an eye out but for now, if you're experiencing the same, you're not alone. Thanks, XboxOmac and Kalet B., for the tips

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Best Weather Apps for your Windows Phone

WPCentral's list of the best weather apps for Windows Phone

Your Windows Phone is a great way to stay in touch with what is happening in the world and with things that impact your daily grind. The weather is one thing most of us will have a need to keep track of.  There are plenty of weather apps to choose from over at the Windows Phone Marketplace but which one will work out best with your shiny new Nokia Lumia 900 or trusty old Samsung Focus.

We've tossed together a small collection of weather apps we like that offers a wide range of choices.  What might be useful for your needs might not match someone else's. We have the basic weather app that shows you the current conditions and extended forecast and the weather apps that would make your local weatherman jealous.

So hit the break and see out selection of the best weather apps out there for your Windows Phone.

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If you're an extremely busy developer with little time available to submit your app(s) to emerging markets that are being added to the ecosystem, then Microsoft is ready to lend a hand. Developers (including our Jay Bennett) have or will be receiving an email from the software giant requesting permission to submit apps to the new markets with no effort required from the developer. From the email:

"We are reaching out to ask your permission to cross-submit each of your Windows Phone apps into the markets* identified below, which includes more than 25 new markets.  We realize that the process to cross-submit takes time out of your busy schedule, so we are requesting your permission to submit all of your applications on your behalf to save you time and effort.  This will provide an opportunity for your apps to get additional exposure in new markets which may lead to more downloads and more revenue for your app(s)."

Markets included in the cross-submission are Bulgaria, Costa Rica, Croatia, Estonia, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Turkey, Ukraine, and Venezuela and will announce UAE, Bahrain, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kazakhstan, Israel, Thailand, and Vietnam. For paid apps, Microsoft will convert the base USD pricing set to local currencies.

Developers who receive the email have until April 27th to respond. It's good to know the team is looking at ways to aid the app building community whenever possible.

Thanks Scott and Dave for the tip!

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We reported a few days ago that Microsoft was experiencing a unique problem: the Windows Phone Marketplace has grown so much, so fast that their servers and backend getting hammered, resulting in app-publishing slowdowns. Everything from submissions, to certifications to the App Hub itself was getting slower.

Today, Microsoft's Todd Brix addressed the problem in a blog post noting that they have an immediate method for addressing these problems and a more long term one. The addition of all those new markets over the last few months has taken its toll on the App Hub experience, more than they had anticipated. As a result they will be re-working their backend, which will take some time:

"We’re already in the process of developing a more robust and scalable Marketplace service that will address current problems and pave the way for the even more rapid growth we’re expecting in the years ahead. But engineering work this significant doesn’t happen overnight. Our plan is to have it complete by late summer."

For the short term, they already have started to work on these two areas:

  • Adding more server capacity to better handle the increased load.
  • Streamlining our processes to accelerate the rate at which apps can be ingested, certified, and published.

As a result, developers are now seeing shorter turnarounds from their submission to publication dates, which is a good thing. However, the more substantial changes won't be felt until later this summer.

So once again, good news and bad news as Microsoft is adjusts to the sudden influx of new developers and markets for Windows Phone.

Source: Windows Phone Blog

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Best free apps for Windows Phones

WPCentral's list of the best free apps for Windows Phone

We've taken a look at must have games and must have apps for your Windows Phone, now we turn our sights on the best free apps that might interest every Windows Phone owner. Everyone likes free stuff, right?

The Windows Phone Marketplace is full of free apps and games. Some good, some bad. Some with ads, some without.  We've compiled a short list of free Windows Phone games and apps the we found interesting and thought you would too.

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A friendly reminder to our beloved Windows Mobile 6.x users: the Windows Mobile Marketplace is to be discontinued on May 9th, 2012. From that date on, users will no longer be able to access the service to download content. All apps and games already installed on handsets will continue to work as expected after the Marketplace is closed down, but further downloading of already purchased apps will no longer be available.

Microsoft recommends users review apps and games installed on any Windows Mobile handsets and install all available updates in advance. According to the reminder email sent out by the company, all apps and games that are compatible with the platform may still be available from developers directly or via third-party Marketplaces.

Should you be looking to upgrade and leave the golden days behind, now is a perfect opportunity with Windows Phone. The Lumia family of handsets are rolling out globally, with devices from popular OEMs including HTC, Samsung and LG. Be sure to check out our reviews of any device you may be interested in for more information and a detailed walkthrough. Check out the reminder email after the break.

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Over this past weekend Nokia hosted a hackathon in Durban, South Africa. Previously they have held similar events at other cities across the country, and are still having one up in Johannesburg soon. So there are many just like it, but this one was mine.

For those of you who don't know what a "hackathon" actually is, you might be surprised to hear that it's got nothing to do with hacking in the security sense. It's actually just a bunch of people hacking away at whatever the objective is, for a period of time. So, this particular Windows Phone hackathon was coders getting together and making phone apps from 4:30pm on Friday, straight through to the same time on Sunday - essentially 48 hours straight of coding joy.

The Durban event was held at the Moses Mabida Stadium - the stadium built for the Fifa 2010 soccer/ football (fight!) world cup. It wasn't on the actual field or anything- rain and computers just don't go- but rather in the room that the players do their glory walk onto the field from.

This hackathon differed from some of the international ones I have seen because this was exclusively for students (I had to use my slate as a cleaver just to get past security). Very few of them had prior knowledge of the platform, and many were actually rather new to programming. Over the weekend the guys from Microsoft did WP7 workshops to get them up to speed, and a bunch of us were there to provide support when people were stuck. The point in the whole thing was to get students excited about the platform, and to give them a jumpstart onto the WP7 bandwagon. They were each given a Microsoft DreamSpark account (which gives students all the MS software free, including a free AppHub account), and encouraged to publish at least one app onto the Windows Phone Marketplace by the end of the weekend. Nokia definitely succeeded in both of these, as many people told me how impressed they were with the platform after the weekend even though they had previously written it off, and most got at least one app submitted for certification on the Marketplace by Sunday.

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We've noticed in our Twitter stream and from interacting with developers that there have been quite a few delays with Windows Phone Marketplace submissions. Before, it would take around 72 hours from submission to approval to publishing of the app. Now, it's taking significantly longer and there have been a few hiccups along the way too (see Rowi's recent update woes).

In the latest Windows Phone Developer Newsletter (April 2012), Microsoft confirms that indeed "due to high submission and update volumes, the app certification process is continuing to take longer than it has previously." Just how long? Microsoft states it can now take up to seven days which is quite an increase from the previous 72 hours. In turn, Microsoft is recommending to developers to plan accordingly by submitting as early as possible if they want a certain publishing date.

Of course this is a good news/bad news situation. It's a bit frustrating to developers who now have to wait significantly longer than it did a few months ago to get their app or app update to market. On the other hand, these delays are caused by a nice problem: a huge increase in app submissions to the Windows Phone Marketplace.

For point of reference, nearly 340 new apps are being published daily in addition to over 400 app updates which has resulted in just over 70,000 apps being available in the Marketplace (the 80,000 number is a bit misleading since it aggregates worldwide and doesn't count removed or inactive apps).

We imagine that if the Nokia Lumia 900 is successful, new app submissions could also increase over the next few months -- an issue we'll return to soon enough. Finally, Microsoft probably won't let this delay get any longer as they are trying to scale appropriately to meet the demand.

Marketplace statistics provided by WP7AppList

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