sdk

Take heed developers, you'll want to go update your Windows Phone SDK to the official 7.1.1 version which was just released today.

This latest update offers support for 256MB RAM devices aka "Tango" phones like the Nokia Lumia 610 and ZTE Orbit.:

"The Windows Phone SDK 7.1.1 Update provides additional functionality to the existing Windows Phone SDK 7.1. Using this update, you can more easily develop apps and games that are optimized to run on 256-MB devices. This update includes a new 256-MB version of Windows Phone Emulator, an updated 512-MB version of Windows Phone Emulator, and IntelliSense support."

As noted by Microsoft, 95% of the apps currently in the Marketplace will have no problems running on these lower-end Windows Phones, but those remaining 5% will need to think about optimizing their app if they want it to run on these news devices. Microsoft began contacting developers who's apps won't be able to run the new Tango update back in February so as to avert any confusion on the matter.

Grab the new 7.1.1. SDK update right here from Microsoft and the read announcement on the Windows Phone Dev Blog.

For further information and tips on developing your app for Tango device, check out Nokia's developer guide and Best Practice Tips which should go a long way in making this an easy transition.

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With the release of the Windows 8 customer preview last week, the Windows Phone team have published an article on the official blog detailing a few issues that occur when running the Windows Phone SDK on the new desktop operating system. Due to the release being at the preview stage, some software incompatibility is to be expected.

The team have provided the following confirmed issues:

  • XNA Game Studio. On an attempt at installing the Windows Phone SDK, the user will receive error messages with regard to components of the XNA tool chain. These components will fail to install on Windows 8; the workaround for this has been blogged about by Aaron Stebner.
  • Windows Phone Emulator. Windows 8 cannot currently run the Windows Phone emulator, which will make it very difficult to debug your code. There are two issues in addition to the simple fact that the emulator does not run on Windows 8, having to do with specific emulator functionality.
  • .NET 3.5. Capability.exe and slsvcutil.exe will not run on Win 8 unless you separately install .NET 3.5.

As well as the above, many have noticed that the latest developer preview of Visual Studios 11 (download link) does not include the support for Windows Phone app development. The team have assured that this support will be included by the time the software RTMs. Prior to the above, the Windows Phone 7.1 SDK will have its incompatibility with Windows 8 fixed in the coming months.

Source: Windows Phone Developer Blog

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It looks like Microsoft has started to get in touch with developers behind the 5% of apps which "do not run satisfactorily on 256 MB devices", just as promised. The intention behind these e-mails is to give developers time to profile their apps, optimise them, and then test out any improvements on the new 256MB emulator.

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PlayPhone adds Windows Phone support

PlayPhone Social Gaming Network announced at Mobile World Congress yesterday that they now support Windows Phone.  And in doing so, it appears to have become the first social gaming service to support all major operating systems.  PlayPhone, which already supports Android, iOS, HTML5, Adobe AIR and Unity, is an online community for multiplayer and social gaming.  It allows its 35+ million users to interact, play games and consume virtual goods in a cross-platform environment.

“Microsoft and its partners have put extensive resources toward the rapid adoption of the Windows Phone 7 platform worldwide” said Anders Evju, SVP and GM of PlayPhone.  “PlayPhone is committed to cross-platform mobile gaming. Gamers on all leading mobile devices – Android, iPhone, iPad, WP7, etc. – can jump into the PlayPhone SGN to play some of the best games out there with their friends.  We call this the PlayPhone advantage."

The PlayPhone Social Gaming Network SDK for Windows Phone is now available to developers.  Visit their website for more info.

Source: Mobile Entertainment

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Earlier today we called attention to new changes being brought about with the release of Windows Phone SDK 7.1.1, the release supporting 'Tango' in all it's low-end/budget glory.

We also mentioned in that article that only 5% of apps wouldn't run in the new hardware configuration, which is down to the amount of memory they utilise whilst active. However looking over this msdn page we wanted to make it crystal clear to our community that in fact there is a limitation for our new friend the Lumia 610: it won't run Background Tasks.

Specifically, generic background tasks are not supported for devices with 256MB of memory. A perfect example would be the background task used to update the live tile and cache in our own app. These types of tasks are known to developers as Periodic tasks and Resource Intensive tasks (if you want to understand the difference I recommend reading this overview). The potentially good news is that some types of background task, such as the background Audio agent which is used for playing music or podcasts after the app has been de-activated, look to be supported still.

A question therefore which I put to our readers, is this the first sign of platform fragmentation? Can we still state that "you get the same great Windows Phone experience on any handset"? Or is this a reasonable omission for the sweeter price spot?

Update: A quick clarification as some of our commenters aren't too sure, this does not affect fast app switching (part of the multitasking functionality) and nor does it affect push notifications which generate live tiles or toast messages. I'd also like to state that if apps make use of Background tasks Microsoft have provided methods for developers to identify when a "mid-tier" device is being used before trying to enable the task, thus allowing users to continue using all other features of the app in question.

Update 2: Justin Angel argues (very well) that this is not mobile fragmentation, as technically developers will write code once which can then be run on any Windows Phone platform, although developers may still be required to test for these mid-tier devices and run functions of their apps in accordance. Instead Justin suggests that this classifies as 'device differentiation', in the same way as not having a gyroscope or front facing camera in your device.

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Well known Windows Phone hacker Heathcliff74 announced an upcoming revision to his homebrew suite of tools on Twitter today. He noted WP7 Root Tools 0.9 will bring additional device support and allow homebrew developers to mark their applications as "trusted", opening up unfettered access to the file system and Windows APIs.

He also noted that he'll release a mini SDK, allowing developers to use both Windows APIs and use model-specific functionality without infringing on the copyright of any major carriers, OEMs, or Microsoft [ed: like Julien Schapman's TouchXperience].

Keep your ear to the ground, we'll let you know the moment it's ready!

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Ah, another week and another Windows Phone team member is moving on to other things. Yes, Jeff Wilcox who's a Senior Software Development Engineer at Microsoft and who was responsible for many aspects of the Windows Phone SDKs (7.0, 7.1) is moving to Microsoft's Azure team to work on their cloud services. From his personal blog:

"I’ve decided that for 2012, I would like to move to the Windows Azure team to focus on the open source story for Microsoft’s cloud. At Microsoft we’re becoming more and more involved in exciting new success stories and tech such as Node.js – along the way we’ve even started using GitHub to accept community open source contributions and make these things better. There’s a great opportunity here and I want to be there to be a part of it all."

Wilcox's work has been key to making Windows Phone devs happy by giving them the necessary tools and tricks to make their jobs easier. Our own Jay Bennett often refers to him as "Gandalf" out of admiration for his work to the platform, so his moving will surely be missed. In turn, we asked Jeff what his proudest contribution to the Windows Phone SDK was:

"My proudest contribution is the Pivot control for the Windows Phone team - I worked hard to bring it to developers in 7.0 and it turned out pretty well. The few bugs (yeah, like SelectedIndex sometimes getting angry) were frustrating, but we did an awful lot with the time allotted and I'm happy to see it in the tens of thousands of Windows Phone apps in the Marketplace. Yeah, there was a time we weren't sure that we would provide the Pivot and Panorama controls to developers :-) we've come so far. It's been a blast."

Many of you non-devs will know his work from something else though: 4th & Mayor. Yes, Jeff is the man behind the super popular Foursquare client which started off as an alternative and now with 60,000 regular users, it has quickly become one of the top apps on the platform. The good news here is Jeff will continue working on 4th & Mayor in 2012 and 2013 with regular updates, including a Windows 8 desktop version for the Microsoft Store. Eventually he'll open source it using the Apache 2.0 license which should be an exciting contribution.

We'd like to personally extend out thanks to Jeff for his work on Windows Phone over these last few years. He's helped in solidifying the foundation for this OS and in making developers content with their tools. We wish him the best of luck on the Azure team and we look forward to more 4th & Mayor goodness in the future.

We're also told that he's not completely done yet with WP7 and has some "powerful developer phone stuff coming up soon". Stay tuned...

Source: Jeff Wilcox's blog

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Good news for your shutterbugs out there, Aviary (Aviary.com), a photo-editing startup company will be releasing an SDK within the next two months for Windows Phone. The company specializes in image enhancements and providing effects for on-board photo editing on mobile phones. The system is already available on iOS, Android and web applications, so Windows Phone seems like the next logical step.

The company's decision was partially driven by Nokia's focus on photography, especially their use of Carl-Zeiss lenses. According to Paul Murphy, a vice president at Aviary, “At a hardware level they’ve just done everything right".

Interestingly, Paul Murphy is also an ex-Microsoftie and used to work under current Nokia CEO Stephen Elop, so we imagine having some of those connections played a roll too. The SDK will be free to anyone for all Windows Phones but will be first "showcased" on Nokia to show the potential of their software. While the SDK is free, the company brings in revenue by offering more premium features at a cost to developers. Finally, the company has close to 400 partners which they hope to leverage in getting more Windows Phone photo apps created.

Good news all around and we look forward to seeing Aviary tech in future software packages from devs.

Source: GeekWire; Eiffel Tower image via Shutterstock; Thanks, Stephen M., for the link!

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Yet another step in the right direction has been carried out for multiplayer gaming on Windows Phone. Already available on other platforms, Exit Games have released a free Windows Phone SDK that will use their socket-based network engine. While Microsoft was working on "Switchboard", a solution to mobile real-time multiplayer gaming, this solution will be welcomed by developers who wish to implement such functionality into their titles.

Some quick-glance features:

  • Develop in C# .NET 4.0
  • Easy UI creation and view-management via Silverlight/XAML
  • On device debugging
  • Demo containing sample code for easy integration in your Windows Phone Apps 

What's more is that this technology supports cross-platform connectivity. You can head over to the Exit Games website and check out the free SDK for yourself. For consumers, this could mean an MMO (or online FPS) title could be around the corner.

Source: Exit Games

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We have what looks like great news for current and potential Windows Phone developers. Now that Microsoft has made great strides with Windows Phone 7.5, they appear to be turning their attention to native access for developers, at least in some form. Up till now, developers have had no access to certain aspects of the OS, including telephony, codecs, graphic engines or deeper file access. Reasons for such restrictions were thought primarily to revolve around OS-stability and security. Now, Microsoft seems to be seriously considering opening up some native code to developers--either as part of a reconsideration of the policy or perhaps just being able to focus on implementation.

Stemming from a discussion on the Microsoft WPDev Feedback site, one of the most requested features is native development. In a subsection titled "How can we improve the WPDev application platform?" a suggestion of a Native SDK is sitting in the 4th spot with 1,000 votes. The thread is quite revealing as devs discuss how the current  limitations of the platform are hurting their work. One example comes from an iOS developer who states "I want to do DSP on WP7. My DSP algorithms in Tunepal (my app) take fractions of a second on IOS and Android (written in C++) and about 10 seconds to run on WP7." Likewise, others discuss the need for 3rd party gaming engines e.g. Unreal or Unity, both of which are currently not allowed in the OS.

Cliff Simpkins, Senior Product Manager for Windows Phone 7, posted a response to the native SDK request and didn't pull any punches:

"...we are interested in providing developers with more options to develop great apps for Windows Phone, and native is one item that is high on the radar."

The goal of his post, dated just three days ago, is to solicit specific feedback on what exactly developers want most e. g. C++, third-party gaming engines, etc.. As he points out, while it would be nice to give developers everything, Microsoft is on a fixed schedule needing to prioritize any such opening up of the platform. Clearly Microsoft would need time to develop the SDK, APIs and do what they do best which is make premium, easy to use developer tools. Putting that aside, it seems quite clear that Microsoft wants to open up the platform to developers, resulting in more feature-complete apps and games for consumers.

Microsoft's only hesitation at this time seems to be:  What parts do you want now and what do you want later?

Source: WPDev Feedback/User Voices; Big thanks to Amir, for the tip!

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A few weeks ago, Windows Phone and Silverlight developer Justin Angel (see site) made a proof-of-concept app for Pandora Radio--the famed music streaming randomizing service--on Windows Phone. We gave it a spin and due to its popularity, Justin agreed to not only make the app, but make an SDK for developers. The latter would allow others to make 3rd party Pandora apps for the platform as Justin laid out the instructions for the backend/streaming part.

Now, the Metro Pandora SDK is finished and available for others to go take a gander at. We could imagine all sorts of cool applications of this, including other media streaming apps incorporating Pandora as a "feed". And now that the groundwork is laid out, Justin can presumably start working on the app itself, which we imagine will raise a few eyebrows at Pandora. Of course if the Marketplace rejects or pulls it, like Cracked Reader, there is always the burgeoning Homebrew scene which will gladly take it.

Source: Codeplex

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This is interesting to say the least. The Japanese version of the Windows Phone SDK 7.1 RC is now available to download for developers based in the country of the upcoming IS12T handset from Fujitsu, which is to launch in the next couple of days. Reported reasoning for the addition of a second language is the high priority for Japanese developers to get apps built for the platform.

We covered the release of version 7.1 of the SDK yesterday, as well as the opening of "Mango" app submissions. All systems are green and our Daniel Rubino rightfully put it: 'go, go, go!'. You can download the Japanese version of the SDK from the Microsoft Download Center.

Source: MSDN (Microsoft Translator)

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For the developers out there, you'll be psyched to know that the release candidate for the Windows Phone SDK is now available.

"The Windows Phone Software Development Kit (SDK) 7.1 provides you with all of the tools that you need to develop applications and games for both Windows Phone 7.0 and Windows Phone 7.5 devices. This download is the Release Candidate (RC) and provides a ‘Go Live’ license that enables you to develop and publish applications to the Windows Phone Marketplace."

This along with the ability for developers to submit Mango apps to the Marketplace (opening tonight) means 'go go go!' for devs out there who want to update their apps. As to what's news with the RC, you can head right here for humungo list.

To get the RC tools, you'll want to grab 'em from Microsoft. Read more at the Windows Phone Developer Blog.

Update: The RC comes in just two languages, English and Japanese. The reason for the latter, according to Shinobu Takahashi, Windows Phone developer evangelist of Microsoft Japan, is because of the high priority of getting Japanese developers to push out new apps for the IS12T, launching in two days. Thanks, tezawaly, for the heads up!

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More juicy peach for Windows Phone developers who are enjoying Mango - we know our Daniel Rubino is with updating his entire device inventory to the developer build. First off, build 7712 is now being pushed to developers (kudos to Jay Bennett with providing us with the above screenshot), be on the lookout for update notifications on Zune to move on from 7661.

Here are some instructions posted by Cliff Simpkins, in the official announcement over at the Windows Phone Dev blog:

  1. Make a copy of the backup you took when you updated to the Mango Beta 2 pre-release (which I’m sure you did) and put it in a safe place, if it isn’t in one already
  2. Return to Connect.Microsoft.com (we’re using the same program you were invited to join last month) and download the freshly posted files, which includes a new Zune client and a new UpdateWP executable
  3. Head to the Control Panel and uninstall the Beta 2 software (Zune client and UpdateWP) and tools (WPSDK) that you installed last month
  4. Install the new software and tools that you just downloaded from Connect
  5. Fire up the new Zune client beta (4.8.2134.0) to check for the new update
  6. Zune will then update your phone from 7661 to 7712

We recently covered the rumors surrounding the 7712 build that developers will be receiving prior to the public release of "Mango", one must note however that this build isn't final, which is 7720. For those wondering as to why this is the case:

"First, the phone OS and the tools are two equal parts of the developer toolkit that correspond to one another. When we took this snapshot for the refresh, we took the latest RC drops of the tools and the corresponding OS version. Second, what we are providing is a genuine release candidate build, with enough code checked in and APIs locked down that this OS is close enough to RTM that, as a developer, it’s more than capable to see you through the upcoming RC drop of the tools and app submission. It’s important to remember that until the phone and mobile operator portion of Mango is complete, you’re still using a pre-release on your retail phone – no matter the MS build."

As well as an update to "Mango" that developers are running to get their apps ready for consumers, Microsoft have also refreshed the second beta of the Windows Phone SDK. Why the refresh? check out the following goodies:

  • Application platform APIs are now locked; you can feel confident to start getting ready for submitting your apps next month.
  • Emulator now has a nifty screenshot capability built in, allowing you quickly snap quality images of your app without the need of separate tools or cropping time. The images are great for use in app submission process or to share on your blog or with folks such as my team (hint hint).
  • The profiler has been greatly improved and provides memory profiling.
  • As of this drop, you can install NuGet into the free version of the WPSDK tools. I find NuGet to be one of my favorite productivity boosters and I’m happy to see the extension supported in the free tools.
  • The drop includes an initial peek at the Marketplace Test Kit; with the RC release, you’ll be able to use the included version of this toolkit to test your XAP file against the same certification testing tools that we use when ingesting apps for the Marketplace. For this refresh, it’s there but not fully functional; but more on this in a future blog post.

The SDK RC (release candidate) is expected to surface in the next month. So there we go folks, Mango goodness all around. Let's hope this speed of development continues.

    Source: Windows Phone Developer Blog, thanks to everyone who tipped us!

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    Mango SDK documentation live

    Russell Clark has just announced on Twitter that the Mango SDK documentation is available on MSDN, listing a large number of new APIs. We'll be keeping an eye out for the Mango SDK release and will announce any information we receive. If you're not already, check out our live blog coverage, which also features the preview event stream.

    Source: MSDN, via: @Russell_Clark

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    Ad based app or paid app? That is the question many developers have faced. Do I charge a one time cost for my app or do I hope the user run the app with enough frequency to generate a decent level of ad revenue?

    Windows Phone ads pay by impression in that you don't have to click on the ad banner for the developer to receive credit/revenue from that view.  The downside is that not everyone likes to see that ad banner regardless of how discrete they are placed.  If you choose the ad supported option, there are a few options available and Improvisoft has compiled a listing of their favorites along with rankings (in Jewels).

    • Millennial Media SDK (0/5 Jewels): While the API was highly customizable, the SDK proved to be unstable. Shutter animation would be closed more times than not, obscuring the ads. "Millenial had a lot of promise. This company has a good website and SDKs for 10 platforms including well-known 4.2.X versions for Android and iPhone. But it didn’t take long to realize that there is little delivery on that promise..."
    • AdDuplex SDK - version 1.1 Beta (3/5 Jewels): Described as a simple SDK with minimal documentation and a minimal API, it may be too minimal for some. Improvisoft notes that AdDuplex works, but there is room for improvement ranging from better ad appearance to better SDK documentation.  To give AdDuplex a little credit, it is still a Beta and these improvements may be in the works.
    • Smaato SDK v1.2 (2/5 Jewels): Smaato serves advertisements to over 220 countries. With no other functional ad-network for WP7 XNA games providing ads outside the US, that's a strength you have to recognize. Otherwise, Smaato is described as being the ugliest ad-network the reviewer has seen for Windows Phone.
    • Microsoft Advertising pubCenter SDK v5.1.0.166 (3.5/5 Jewels): Described as the best ad network for displaying ads on U.S. based Windows Phones, pubCenter does have some limitations. PubCenter is U.S. based only, the number of advertisers are fewer (more repeat ads), and while ads can be text or graphical they are not rich-media capable or to the size requested.

    The skinny of it is that not every ad network is perfect and it seems that there isn't a "one size fits all" solution. Some may provide better coverage, cleaner appearance or simply easier to manage.

    So...for the developers in the crowd what ad network do you find works best? Or do you prefer to avoid ad supported apps all together.

    Source: Improvisoft

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    Scoreloop coming to a WP7 near you

    Scoreloop has announced that they will be supporting Windows Phone 7 and will be including the platform within their cross-platform social gaming system. Why is this big news for developers? Social games developed for WP7 will have the ability to allow players to compete against Android or iPhone owners.

    The basic breakdown of what features the social "middleware" offers are cross-platform leader-boards, challengers, or virtual currency that developers can implement into their games for all mobile platforms. Opening up not only a much larger audience for players to engage with (or against), this will help bring the different operating systems together and make it more attractive for developers on other platforms to bring their projects to WP7.

    Platforms that are currently covered by Scoreloop include Android, Bada, Airplay and iOS (iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch). As for WP7, Marc Gumpinger, CEO of Scoreloop said, "WP7 is an important step in our goal to encourage and support connected gaming across the entire mobile landscape. As the first cross-platform social gaming ecosystem to add support for WP7 this means we can offer the largest reach, greater revenue potential and increase the impact of developers using the Scoreloop SDK," 

    This is exciting news for Microsoft and Windows Phone 7 as a whole. Scoreloop is expanding rapidly, and for them to show support in the OS should hopefully hush some critics about the appeal of the software and devices to not only front-end users, but also the developer community. Currently Scoreloop are providing a limited number of developers early access to their SDK before publishing it to the public.

    Source: Gamasutra

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    Cloud based SDK for WP7 released

    Microsoft has been busy on the researching side of the border for some time with their mobile platform. It has yet ceased to halt at its lightning pace. An interesting update with this path is the release of a Software Development Kit (SDK) for cloud services on WP7, which is designed to aid with Project Hawaii

    “Our current platform consists of a Windows Phone 7 smartphone and several cloud services, including existing Microsoft offerings and some prototype services. The existing Microsoft offerings include Windows Azure for computation and data storage, Bing Maps for mapping services, and Windows Live ID for user identification.”

    This all sounds quite interesting, and would be great to see how WP7 can interact with Microsoft’s cloud – imagine having the processes and services that take majority of your smartphone resources to be carried out on a remote platform.

    The Hawaii team is working on speech-to-text, OCR in the cloud that allows photos to be taken and any text present in any given image will be returned as a Unicode string, and more. You can check out the SDK, which has been released here.

    Source: ZDNet

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    Title says it all: the final version of the Windows Phone 7 Developer Tools is slated for a September 16th release, giving, we imagine, a good 4-6 weeks before the finalized hardware goes on sale.

    Needless to say, for developers and the Microsoft team, this is a huge milestone. Seeing as there have been no delays so far, Microsoft's execution of WP7 seems to be almost unprecedented.

    Also worth noting is that the beta developer tools have been downloaded 300,000 times. Not too shabby.

    Check out Brandon Watson giving the details on Microsoft's Channel 9.

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    OK, OK. Just about everybody — and we, admittedly, were one of the first — screamed "The Windows Mobile 6.5 SDK is out!" And now the Windows Mobile team is gently rapping our knuckles over the improper use of the acronym.

    And so, they're educating us on the difference between an SDK (Software Development Kit), DTK (Developer Toolkit) and DRK (Developer Resource Kit). And those are all good things to know.

    So, consider us learned. And grateful that none of this involved the word "Pro."

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