MIX10: Microsoft Releases Silverlight 4 RC, Showcases Windows Phone 7
The opening keynote of Microsoft's fifth annual MIX10 conference focused on Silverlight and its role in Windows Phone 7 Series app development. The first Windows Phone 7 devices are expected to retail this fall.
The Windows Phone 7 app development platform is based on Silverlight (XAML), XNA Framework (games) and the .NET Compact Framework, according to Microsoft. It supports Windows Azure cloud services, Zune apps, Xbox Live and third-party Web services such as social networking.
"This isn't Silverlight-lite. This isn't Silverlight different. This is Silverlight," said Scott Guthrie, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Developer Division, during Monday's keynote. Developers can use the same programming skills and tools to create event-driven apps for Windows Phone 7.
During the keynote, Guthrie announced that the Silverlight 4 release candidate (RC) is now available for download. The final release is slated for April, he said. The RC follows the first and only Silverlight 4 beta release at Microsoft's Professional Developers Conference in November. Since then, the Silverlight-installed base has jumped from 45 to 60 percent of all Internet-connected devices worldwide, Guthrie said.
The fourth iteration of the technology since its introduction in 2007 adds support for webcams, microphones, rich-text editing, drag-and-drop capability, right-click mouse and scrolling, elevated trust, and out-of-browser online and offline apps.
'Phone Developers, Phone Developers, Phone Developers'
Microsoft has described the Windows Phone 7 platform as a clean break from Windows Mobile 6.5, which it says it will still support (though current apps will not run on the new operating system). However, Microsoft also said its mobile strategy is focused on enabling developers to use familiar tools and skill sets to build Windows Phone 7 Series apps.
Joe Belfiore, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Windows Phone division, gave an overview of Windows Phone 7's UI. According to Belfiore, the Windows Phone 7 Series devices, despite having different manufacturers, will all use one application processor, a unified graphics subsystem and only two screen sizes, as well as support capacitive touch. "Every Windows Phone 7 Series device is a Zune," he reminded the audience.
One of Microsoft's goals is to make life easier for developers and designers, according to Belfiore. And indeed, Guthrie announced that all Windows Phone 7 development tools are free and will remain free for Windows Phone developers.
The Windows Phone 7 Series supports standard smartphone functionality that developers can tap into, such as location (Wi-Fi, cellular and GPS) and map control (Bing), microphone, push notifications, sensors and accelerometers. The location API works with Azure cloud services.
Several Windows Phone 7 apps were demoed during the keynote, some developed in as little as three weeks, according to Microsoft. Cynergy Systems Inc. developed an out-of-browser app in Silverlight 4 for eBay sellers called Simple Lister, which allows users to use their webcams to scan barcodes, list items or upload and resize photos. Archetype Inc. designed an AP Mobile News Reader Silverlight app that takes advantage of the Windows Phone UI and its "panoramic experience" by allowing users to pan across the screen to see shared articles and comments. A Shazam app identifies music tracks based on sampling and offers band, album, video and tour information.
Silverlight supports IIS Smooth Streaming, hardware-accelerated video and digital rights management. Scott Stanfield, chief executive of design firm Vertigo, demonstrated an Instant Watch Netflix app for watching video content. Silverlight's DeepZoom functionality was showcased in an app by Graphic.ly, which allows Windows Phone 7 Series users to zoom in or out on comic books from well-known publishers.
Guthrie had some fun with a Coding4Fun cannon app, which remotely controlled an actual "cannon" that shot red polo shirts into the audience (an open source sample of the code will be available for download). Guthrie also demonstrated a JibJab-style marionette app that depicted a marionette with Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer's head dancing around the screen and saying, "Phone developers, phone developers, phone developers."
The Windows Phone 7 Series UI features a Windows Phone Marketplace hub for apps. The phones will have a "try" and a "buy" button. Developers can use a single binary, according to Guthrie, and still control the app functionality in the trial and paid-for versions. People interested in Windows Phone development can use their Windows Live IDs to register and get the tools for the Developer Portal. Application packages need to be certified by Microsoft before they can be published to the Windows Phone Marketplace. Developers will receive 70 percent of the proceeds from their app sales, as previously announced by Microsoft.
As many as 12 technical sessions on app development for the Windows Phone 7 Series platform are scheduled this week at MIX10. The sessions will be posted online after the conference.
Kathleen Richards is the editor of RedDevNews.com and executive editor of Visual Studio Magazine.