On Saturday 28 July I attended the first Windows Phone dev day that was hosted at Redweb in Bournemouth, and organised by Scott Lovegrove (Ferret Labs) and Dan Thomas (Moov2). This event was designed to give developers an overview of some of the features of the Windows 7 platform, the upcoming Windows 8 release, and to increase interest. Luckily as the day was hosted by our agency Redweb it was very easy to attend and I was also lucky enough to have my housemate and fellow .NET developer James Britter who was also interested in the platform, to accompany me. The day kicked off early with Redweb staff Ashley, Tom and Andy getting in to meet Scott and Dan, as well as make sure everything was set up and ready for what looked to be an exciting day.
Previous experience in mobile
I get to work with .NET day in, day out in my professional life and despite making a simple test app for the Windows Phone platform, have had little experience working with Windows Phone so I was very interested to see what the benefits and pitfalls of working with the platform would be. Personally I have been an Android user for a good few years and have played around with developing on this platform a lot more, but as Android is Java and not where my expertise lies, it would be interesting to see if the day’s events would persuade me to change to a Windows Phone 8 device when my contract expires late November, allowing me to build my own apps.
Kick off and agenda
We kicked off around 10:30am when the majority of the developers had turned up and were raring to get started. The general plan for the day seemed to be mostly different developers talking about apps that they have built for the platform, and their experience on working with Microsoft, the Windows Phone API and general development issues.
The agenda was ram packed with lots of talented developers and would end with a talk from Paul Foster from Microsoft which would hopefully give us a lot more insight on real work developing against the platform.
Show and tell
After the welcome from Scott and Dan we kicked off with a brief show and tell session. This involved some of the guys who had put forward their apps going through them as an example of the possible applications that could be created.
Atoms (Ross Gouldthorpe – gouldfishgames) – this is the first application we saw, and was a reimagining of a classic Amiga game that has been recreated and updated into a Windows Phone game called Atoms. The game is an up to six player turn-based puzzle in which each player places an atom on a grid-based area. In some areas you can place multiple atoms where the purpose of the game is to dominate the map. More info at WPCentral here: http://www.wpcentral.com/windows-phone-game-atoms-preview
FerretPic (Scott Lovegrove) – this is a picture browser that allows the browsing of photos on twitter; commenting, sharing, saving and other such features. http://www.windowsphone.com/en-GB/apps/da3d9bfe-8a8a-4fe8-a550-2403121eedbb
Dan Thomas – my first WP app
Dan was presenting a simple game he has created called Code Breaker. In this game the purpose is to guess and remember a sequence of shapes to test your memory. Users who have progressed the highest have their names in a score table to show that they are the ultimate code breakers. http://www.windowsphone.com/en-GB/apps/f7b91331-ffeb-457e-afba-0dc0f2a19a04
Scott Lovegrove – SketchFlow
Scott was up to show off a feature of Expression Blend Ultimate called SketchFlow. SketchFlow is a rapid application prototyping tool for expression that allows you to knock up rapid prototypes for xaml-based applications. Scott talked us through using templates created for Windows Phone and how to quickly knock up a prototype. It was highly interesting to see how quickly an idea could be turned in to something you could present to others, and definitely a tool that would help in the development of ideas. http://www.microsoft.com/expression/products/SketchFlow_Overview.aspx
Show and tell 2
We had another brief session during the day seeing another application:
Pepper (David Hamilton) – this talk was quite interesting and was about David’s full time application called Pepper (http://www.pepper-app.com/). This application is a social mobile app that allows you to connect through friends, social networks and venues to find out about music. It allows you to find information on artists, activities and venues and all the information you want on a band. Also, unlike other applications, all the data is sourced by them and not pulled in via social sites, meaning there is no duplication of events, which was really cool. During this talk David went through the pitfalls of working with the platform including having to write custom xaml renderers to get around slow performance issues, as well as numerous other cool aspects that he had used to make his app responsive, fast and fit in with the Window Phone platform. This talk was my personal favourite and I found it informative, exciting and really loved the app.
Robert and Rich – WPCentral
In this talk were the guys from WPCentral (http://www.wpcentral.com) who are the two content authors of articles on the WPCentral website. In their talk they went through the benefits of using the WPCentral community, including being able to look for Beta testers and the different features that are currently available on the site. They also talked a bit about the sort of apps that they get asked to review. It was an interesting talk on a great resource that I think would be handy for any developer on the Windows Phone platform.
Hermit Dave – Windows Phone to Windows 8
In another interesting talk Hermit Dave spoke about the upcoming features that will be available in the upcoming release of Windows Phone 8, and the possible things that might change. Although some of these features are not certain it was interesting to see how the platform is moving.
Angry Mango – making Mush
Angry Mango is a group of friends that started working with creating games in the Windows Phone platform while at University. During this time they came up with an idea for an emotion-based game which gained a lot of interest, and they formed Angry Mango for the creation of this game. The game became Mush (http://mushgame.com/) and along with all the interest around it, they were approached by Microsoft who partnered with Angry Mango to help them make the game an exciting experience on the Windows Phone platform. This game has been released and looks to be a really fun, exciting and quite cool. The guys from Angry Mango also talked to us about their experience building on the platform and with working so closely together with Microsoft, which was very interesting to hear about.
Paul Foster – latest from HQ
Finally in the day we had Paul Foster from Microsoft on what we can expect from the upcoming platform. There were a few strong hints but nothing concrete which was to be expected, however what he could talk about sounded very exciting and it looks like Microsoft is set to push the Windows platform as much as possible.
The day was lots of fun. I got to meet lots of cool people and see a plethora of exciting applications and games on the Windows Phone platform. It definitely looks as if the platform will just get stronger and from the looks of the types of people I met, there are many very talented and passionate developers for this platform currently making some excellent products. The future looks exiting for the .NET developers and the Windows Phone platform.