Evernote Comes to Windows Phone 7#
Post By Steve "fyiguy" Hughes

One pinnacle must have application that Don and I have both been waiting on for the Windows Phone platform has finally arrived in the the WindowsPhone Marketplace

EVERNOTE !

winphone_evernote panorama

Evernote has been committed to building native desktop, web and mobile versions. In the past three years, we’ve build over 13 different versions of Evernote for just about every major platform out there. Today, we’re adding another. Say hello to the much-anticipated Evernote for Windows Phone 7!

Evernote for Windows Phone 7 lets you save and find your ideas and memories any time, anywhere. As you would expect, it seamlessly syncs with every other version of Evernote you use, but there’s so much more. In fact, this is the most feature-rich debut we’ve ever had. Not only is it packed with capabilities, but it’s also beautiful—taking advantage of the innovative Windows Phone 7 Metro interface and its Pivot panels. And, as always, Evernote for Windows Phone 7 is free and available now from the App Hub.

For more information on this monumentous release check out their blog post here on all the features packed into this long awaited app.

Note:

If you are previous user of Evernote and have many notebooks already setup be sure to connect via Wi-Fi first and sync your notes or you will experience the white screen of death.

06/16/2011 20:34:32 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00) #     |  Trackback

 

Windows Phone Garage–May 9th#
Post By Steve "fyiguy" Hughes

Coming May 9th to the Microsoft New England Research and Development Center (NERD).  Dani Diaz and Dave Isbitski will be presenting a free, full-day program focused on developing for Windows Phone 7. It’s a great way to get familiar with the current platform and learn about the upcoming features announced for “Mango” at MIX 11 just a couple of weeks ago. To the link to register for the Windows Phone Garage.

 

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Agenda

9 – 10 a.m.  Introduction to Windows Phone Development

No experience with Windows Phone 7 development?  No problem.  During this optional session at the start of the day we will cover the fundamentals of Windows Phone Silverlight and XNA Development.  We'll explore the various core components and tools available and leave you with some resources to take you to the next level.

10 – 10:30 a.m.  What’s new for Windows Phone Developers

This session will highlight some of the new developer features coming for Windows Phone Developers. We’ll also take a look at AppMakr, a dynamic new tool that enables you to generate a simple Windows Phone application from one or more online data feeds.

10:45 – 12:30 p.m.  Windows Phone Application Jumpstart

To give you a jumpstart on application development, we’ll walk through in detail building an app, styling it, and adding advanced capabilities.  We’ll also cover submitting it to the marketplace and monetizing your app.

12:30 – 1:00 p.m.  Lunch

1:00 – 5:00 p.m.  Windows Phone Garage Open Lab

Bring your laptop fully loaded with Visual Studio 2010 and the latest version of the Windows Phone Tools. Get some help with an app you are working on or use the information from the Jumpstart to build an app around your favorite data feed. No ideas? No worries – we’ll have a few starter templates that you can build on.

05/05/2011 17:50:00 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00) #     |  Trackback

 

Windows Phone Developer Tools Final will be Available Sept.16th,2010#
Post By Steve "fyiguy" Hughes


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Microsoft announced that the final build of the Windows Phone 7 developer tools will ship on September 16th and that the current tools have already been downloaded over 300,000 times (CTP and Beta versions).

Developers have been waiting patiently for the final release of these tools especially controls like Pivot,Panorama,List,Bing Maps, etc (Developers have had to build their own controls or use open-source versions available on the web to replicate the final build,look, and feel of Wndows Phone 7 apps).

Over at the WindowsTeam blog the following has been mentioned:

While our developer community has been busy stretching the capabilities of the application platform and developer tools, we have been working very closely with some amazing application and game developers to ensure that Windows Phone 7 customers have the applications they expect, across a wide swath of the categories they value. Here’s a just small sample of the variety of companies with whom we have been working:

Adenclassifieds, Allociné (including sister brands: Screenrush, Filmstarts, Sensacine), APPA Mundi Ltd, Artificial Life, Inc., ebay, Inc., Esurance Insurance Services, Inc, Flixster, Intelligent Touch Solutions Ltd., Jobsite UK (Worldwide), Limited, Kelley Blue Book Co., Inc., Le Figaro group, My Interactive Limited, Open Table, Inc., Pageonce, Inc., Panoramic Software, Inc., photobucket inc., REALTOR.COM® Real Estate Search  (Move, Inc.), Red Badger Consulting Limited, rising systems networks GmbH, Seesmic, Sequence Collective Ltd, TBS Field Mobility Solutions, The Associated Press, Touchnote, Trip Mate, Inc., Tx3 Solutions, vente-privée.com, Viadeo S.A

Of course, it’s not just the big names in development who are going to bring great titles to Windows Phone 7 customers. There are many multiples more of lesser known developers who are looking to be in the Windows Phone Marketplace. Large or small, all developers will have equal opportunity to capitalize on the first mover advantage of having their apps or games ready at launch. In order to do that, there are a few things developers will need to do:

  1. Register at the marketplace today

  2. Finish you application or game using the Beta tools

  3. Download the final Windows Phone Developer Tools when they are released on September 16th

  4. Recompile your app or game using the final tools

  5. Have your XAP ready for ingestion into the marketplace in early October when it opens

The final tools will likely have some minor breaking changes from the Beta tools, so developers may have to fix some bugs that arise. The final tools will also include several highly requested Silverlight controls which will make it even easier for developers to deliver high quality Windows Phone 7 experiences. Also in the September 16th final release, the panorama, pivot and Bing maps controls will all be available to drop into applications.

The developer tools, controls and application platform are great, but we also recognize the need for smart training. Just last week we released a course called the Windows Phone 7 Jump Start, delivered by two of our MVPs, Andy Wigley and Rob Miles. It includes 12 hours of classroom training and supporting exercises. We have also recently updated theWindows Phone 7 Developer Training Kit. We will be releasing many more hours of training in the coming weeks and months. For the XNA developers, the XNA Creator Club announced today a new set of educational materials.

08/23/2010 17:10:00 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00) #     |  Trackback

 

Windows Phone 7 Firestarter & Garage Events#
Post By Steve "fyiguy" Hughes

MSDN will be holding some Windows Phone 7 developer tech events at various MS Offices
around the country.

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The first event is an In-Person Event called a Windows Phone 7 Firestarter

Dream It. Build It.

The power to build smart, visually stunning games and applications is
right in your hands with Windows Phone 7. Want to see what’s under
the hood? This full-day series of learning events for developers
will take you behind the scenes with an inside look at the
philosophy, design language, and the fundamentals of Silverlight and
XNA coding for Windows Phone 7. You’ll also see how the Windows
Marketplace provides exciting new distribution and monetization
opportunities for developers and application publishers.
Join your local MSDN Events team and get ready to amplify your
creativity, productivity and market opportunities.

Morning Sessions:

Introduction to Windows Phone Development and the WP7 platform
Meet Windows Phone 7! We’re proud to introduce the innovative Windows
Phone 7 platform and explain the philosophy behind its all-new user
experience design. We’ll also outline the Metro design principles
and cover the basics of building applications for Windows Phone 7.
Finally, you’ll tour the Windows Phone Marketplace and get an
overview on its exciting revenue opportunities for developers and
application publishers.

Building Windows Phone 7 Applications with Silverlight
You’ve heard the fundamentals; now it’s time to dig a little deeper.
This session will focus on building Windows Phone 7 applications with
Microsoft Silverlight. You’ll see first-hand how to use Visual Studio
2010 and Expression Blend to develop and debug projects. You’ll also
learn about the built-in templates and the many available controls
and styles for WP7. We’ll wrap by covering how to consume services in
the cloud.

Building Windows Phone 7 Applications using XNA
Microsoft XNA has been a favorite with game developers for many years.
Now game developers will be able to harness the power of the XNA
framework to create highly immersive and responsive games for
Windows Phone 7.. We’ll charge full-speed into XNA to outline the
basic Windows Phone model, explore its core device characteristics,
and review the highlights of the XNA phone framework. Finally, we’ll
show you some of the cool and impressive games that have been
developed specifically for Windows Phone 7.
Lunch (included)

Afternoon Sessions:

Monetizing Your Apps with Marketplace
Windows Phone 7 will launch with a fully loaded Marketplace and the
opportunity for developers to sell or distribute their applications.
. In this session, you’ll get the details about how to navigate the
certification process and publish your application including updates.
Learn how to increase discoverability as well as deepen your
connection with your customers through the powerful business
intelligence capabilities of the marketplace.

Windows Phone 7 Services
Get ready to build more engaging user experiences with Windows Phone 7
and several powerful cloud- and phone-based components. First up is
the Microsoft Location Service, which allows you to obtain location
information based on GPS, cell and Wi-Fi signals. Next, we’ll cover
the Microsoft Push Notification Service, which provides “live”
updates for apps running on the device.

Light Up Windows Phone 7!
Device integration is how an application becomes an experience. In
this session, you’ll learn how to create the compelling and
interactive mobile experiences which users have come to have expect
by tying into device hardware such as the keyboard, touch input and
accelerometer. You’ll also learn how to incorporate audio and video
into your rich media solutions.
If you can dream it, you can build it with Windows Phone 7!

The second event is MSDN WP7 Evening Hands On Phone Garage Workshop

Stop Dreaming. Start Building.

Can’t wait to build the next big Windows Phone 7 application? We hear
you. The Windows Phone 7 platform represents a truly revolutionary
new opportunity for mobile app developers. That’s why we’re hosting
the evening Windows Phone Garage – and you don’t want to miss it.
This hands-on event immediately following the daytime Firestarter is
your chance to work through interactive learning labs and get
step-by-step instruction on developing for Windows Phone 7. Microsoft
and community experts will be on hand to share their wisdom and
provide one-on-one assistance as you work. You’ll also see “quick
hit” presentations throughout the evening that tackle key Windows
Phone 7 topics.

This is a great opportunity to design and implement your own
applications and (where available) deploy them to an actual Windows
Phone 7 device for testing, so gather your ideas and get ready to
code.

Prerequisites: Bring your ideas and design specs and prepare to build.
You’ll also need a computer installed with the Windows Phone
Developer Tools available here .
Seating is limited, due to the hands-on nature of this lab and the
opportunity for one-on-one instruction from Windows Phone 7 experts.

Register today – this event will sell out.

To find these and more WP7 related events in your area(sorry the US
only link) head here.

Here are some other Firestarter/Garage events coming up in the US.

8/24 - Atlanta - fire/garage
8/24 - Waltham - fire/garage
9/7 - New York - fire/garage
9/8 - Raleigh - fire/garage
9/21 - Charlotte - fire/garage
9/21 - Chevy Chase - fire/garage
9/22 - Philadelphia - fire/garage
9/28 - Pittsburgh - fire/garage
9/30 - Farmington - fire/garage

08/19/2010 18:13:00 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00) #     |  Trackback

 

Xbox LIVE Titles Announced for Windows Phone 7#
Post By Steve "fyiguy" Hughes

At Gamescom 2010, Microsoft announced the first wave of Xbox LIVE game titles headed for Windows Phone 7, set to launch this holiday season. Attendees received a glimpse of the gameplay experience on Windows Phone 7 devices with over 50 titles announced, a mix of exciting new games and old favorites for both the casual and hardcore gamer. Some that were announced were: “Halo: Waypoint” an Xbox LIVE hub where Halo fans can go to watch videos and engage with the Halo community, also will be available on the phone, for example. And games like “Crackdown 2: Project Sunburst” will be mobile companion games that offer different gameplay than the console versions, but will be set in the same universe. In addition, hits from Xbox LIVE Arcade like “Rocket Riot” also will make their exclusive mobile debut on Windows Phone 7.

The company also announced that its Windows Phone 7 games will be closely linked with the XBOX platform via Xbox LIVE, and said that gamers will be able to extend the experience of some of their favorite console franchises to the phone. Mobile users can earn achievements on-the-go, update their avatar and keep track of their gamerscore extending the Xbox experience on the go.

“We’re really approaching this as we would a console, so we have to deliver the breadth of games and the quality people expect from Xbox,” Unangst said. He said that’s why starting out with a strong portfolio of games is so important. “To have this quantity and quality of games committed this far ahead of launch, with even more to come, is a statement of support that says Windows Phone 7 will be a big success,” he said.

Among the first titles are familiar casual games like “Bejeweled” and “Uno” as well as new ones like “Game Chest” - a collection of card and board games. Those games should appeal to the target audience that’s all ready to buy a Windows Phone 7, Unangst said.

Microsoft’s mobile gaming portfolio also will appeal to Xbox’s millions of gamers, he said. Popular games like “CarneyVale: Showtime” will be ready to play this fall when the phone launches, for example. But going beyond bringing Xbox games over to Windows Phone 7, Microsoft is building mobile experiences that connect with and complement the Xbox 360 experience, Unangst said.

“Windows Phone 7 is the launch of a major gaming platform for Microsoft,” said Matt Booty, general manager of mobile gaming for MGS. “Just like we’ve done with Xbox 360, our charter is to push the envelope and deliver definitive games that maximize the platform. We will have an incredible lineup of MGS titles, and that’s just the beginning.”

The most creative minds in game development are bringing the biggest franchises to Windows Phone 7. The first wave of launch portfolio titles includes Xbox LIVE games from the likes of Gameloft, Konami Digital Entertainment, Namco Bandai, PopCap and THQ. Whether you choose to play a gem of a puzzler with “Bejeweled™ LIVE” (PopCap), bring down the house with “Guitar Hero 5” (Glu Mobile), fight off a destructive alien invasion in “The Harvest” (MGS), paint your way out of a corner with “Max and the Magic Marker” (PressPlay) or defend your city in “Crackdown 2: Project Sunburst” (MGS), the first wave of games announced in the launch portfolio of Xbox LIVE games on Windows Phone 7 has something for every mobile gamer.

Games Lineup

The first wave of games announced in the launch portfolio of Xbox LIVE games on Windows Phone 7 has something for every mobile gamer:

  • 3D Brick Breaker Revolution (Digital Chocolate)
  • Age of Zombies (Halfbrick)
  • Armor Valley (Protégé Games)
  • Asphalt 5 (Gameloft)
  • Assassins Creed (Gameloft)
  • Bejeweled™ LIVE (PopCap)
  • Bloons TD (Digital Goldfish)
  • Brain Challenge (Gameloft)
  • Bubble Town 2 (i-Play)
  • Butterfly (Press Start Studio)
  • CarneyVale Showtime (MGS)
  • Crackdown 2: Project Sunburst (MGS)
  • De Blob Revolution (THQ)
  • Deal or No Deal 2010 (i-Play)
  • Earthworm Jim (Gameloft)
  • Fast & Furious 7 (i-Play)
  • Fight Game Rivals (Khaeon)
  • Finger Physics (Mobliss Inc.)
  • Flight Control (Namco Bandai)
  • Flowerz (Carbonated Games)
  • Frogger (Konami Digital Entertainment)
  • Fruit Ninja (Halfbrick)
  • Game Chest-Board (MGS)
  • Game Chest-Card (MGS)
  • Game Chest-Logic (MGS)
  • Game Chest-Solitaire (MGS)
  • GeoDefense (Critical Thought)
  • Ghostscape (Psionic)
  • Glow Artisan (Powerhead Games)
  • Glyder 2 (Glu Mobile)
  • Guitar Hero 5 (Glu Mobile)
  • Halo Waypoint (MGS)
  • Hexic Rush (Carbonated Games)
  • I Dig It (InMotion)
  • iBlast Moki (Godzilab)
  • ilomilo (MGS)
  • Implode XL (IUGO)
  • Iquarium (Infinite Dreams)
  • Jet Car Stunts (True Axis)
  • Let's Golf 2 (Gameloft)
  • Little Wheel (One click dog)
  • Loondon (Flip N Tale)
  • Max and the Magic Marker (PressPlay)
  • Mini Squadron (Supermono Limited)
  • More Brain Exercise (Namco Bandai)
  • O.M.G. (Arkedo)
  • Puzzle Quest 2 (Namco Bandai)
  • Real Soccer 2 (Gameloft)
  • The Revenants (Chaotic Moon)
  • Rise of Glory (Revo Solutions)
  • Rocket Riot (Codeglue)
  • Splinter Cell Conviction (Gameloft)
  • Star Wars: Battle for Hoth (THQ)
  • Star Wars: Cantina (THQ)
  • The Harvest (MGS)
  • The Oregon Trail (Gameloft)
  • Tower Bloxx NY (Digital Chocolate)
  • Twin Blades (Press Start Studio)
  • UNO (Gameloft)
  • Women's Murder Club: Death in Scarlet (i-Play)
  • Zombie Attack! (IUGO)
  • Zombies!!!! (Babaroga)

Additional titles in the launch portfolio will be released between now and the Windows Phone 7 launch this holiday season; once the phone launches, new Xbox LIVE titles also will be added to the games portfolio every week.

For the latest news on Windows Phone and Xbox Live titles head here.

08/16/2010 18:49:00 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00) #     |  Trackback

 

Rethinking Device Convergence–The Video Experience#
Post By Don Sorcinelli

If one is to consider using a single mobile device for all their multimedia needs, serious consideration has to be paid to the capabilities of the device for video purposes. In my first article on my decision to give mobile device convergence a serious try for the first time in many years, I listed video viewing as a key reason for carrying and using a dedicated portable media player (a Zune HD). In all honesty, video viewing takes up a small portion of my usage on a mobile device, especially when compared to listening to audio (described in my last article on this topic).  When the desire arises, though, I have always been a bit picky when it comes to the viewing experience.

From a video perspective, there are basically two major usage scenarios for me -

  • Viewing video stored on the device.
    Whether it is recorded TV, movies or home video, I like having the ability to store video on the device for watching “on demand”. While I don’t expect “theatre-quality”, I do expect a pleasurable viewing experience. The video should not be constantly subjected to stutter and buffering (this is as annoying to me as pixilation when watching live TV), and the audio quality should be at least acceptable stereo quality.
  • Viewing video streamed through the Internet.
    While the first thought that comes to most people’s minds when viewing Internet video is YouTube. For me, this is actually a rarity. I have a slightly more unique requirement in mind, and it is something I could not do with a dedicated media device. More on this in a moment…
    As with local video, I do have some expectation of quality of the video. I am a realist and understand that streaming video (especially when using a cellular connection as opposed to a WiFi connection) can suffer due to bandwidth. That doesn’t translate to blind acceptance, however.

In my previous attempts at device convergence and video usage, I seemly always came upon the following limitations -

  • Inadequate hardware.
    Limited CPUs and memory often meant stutter, buffering and occasional device freezes. I also include the limits of storage in this category. While storage cards did exist “in the day”, they were very limited in capacity and very expense. As a result of hardware and storage limitations, I found myself encoding video to compensate for the limitations. The result – grainy video and diminished experience.
    I should also note that displays on phones have often left a bit to be desired with regards to video. Small screens, lower resolutions and restricted display technologies did not help in making video viewing a pleasant experience.
  • Inadequate software.
    While hardware was a primary culprit in the mobile phone video experience, it was not entirely to blame. Native applications were limited in video codec support, and third-party applications often complicated matters by requiring extra hardware and memory usage on top of the video requirements.
  • Inadequate bandwidth.
    This was far and away the greatest constraint when it came to streaming video through the Internet. While many devices had WiFi capabilities, I rarely found myself in a location where WiFi was available when I wanted to view video. And cellular networks were nothing like they are today. For those that complain about network speeds and quality, think back 5 years ago. 3G networks were barely in existence. EDGE and 1XRTT were the norm, with sub-100Kbps speeds and unstable connectivity a way of life. Trying to watch video through the Internet was often painful at best.

With the painful memories of the converged device video experience still fresh in my mind, I was prepared to give this experience another try in 2010. A lot has changed over the past 5 years. I still could not help going in to my experiment that this would be the greatest challenge for a mobile device convergence test.

Gather Up Requirements

The requirements for a positive video experience on a mobile phone basically boiled down to the goal of overcoming past limitations. That meant -

  • Appropriate device hardware.
    Big screen, fast processor and lots of storage capacity. For me, the device is my T-Mobile USA HTC HD2. With a 1Ghz Snapdragon processor and a large WVGA screen, the basic needs appeared to be met. From a storage capacity, the T-Mobile USA variant of the HD2 came with a 16GB microSD card. Remembering the days when a 256MB Compact Flash card was considered a luxury, the 16GB total seemed like it should suit my needs Winking smile
  • Appropriate software.
    Be it native to the device or via third-party, I would need software that made it easy and enjoyable to view video on the device. There were 3 pieces of software I would try -
    • Windows Media Player for Mobile
      Standard on Windows Phone devices, it would be interesting to try the “out-of-the-box” video solution to see how it would fare.

      WMPMobile
    • Kinoma Play
      In my previous article covering the audio experience, I discussed Kinoma Play as an audio solution. Well, from a video perspective, Kinoma Play works as well.

      KinomaPlayVideo01
    • Sling Media Sling Player for Mobile
      Here at BostonPocketPC.com, we have talked about Sling Media’s fantastic Slingbox solution many times in the past. Providing a hardware solution that allows you to “placeshift” (watch and control a home system while outside the home), the Slingbox and associated Sling Player software allow you to access your home TV no matter where you are. Slingbox is flexible; it allows you to connect in to any number of home entertainment configurations.

      SlingPlayer01
      For me, a Slingbox is connected to and controls a Comcast cable receiver. While this box is not a DVR (if you hook into that, you could watch your recorded shows remotely), it does provide me access to all of my Comcast channels as well as Comcast On Demand.  

      SlingPlayer02
  • Appropriate bandwidth.
    I would need a device and carrier that could provide acceptable speeds, coverage and reliability to allow me to watch video through the Internet when I wanted. As a longtime T-Mobile USA customer, the issues of bandwidth and coverage were rather numerous over the years. From a bandwidth perspective, even as T-Mobile rolled out 3G coverage they did so on the 1700Mhz spectrum. My problem? – most of my devices (unlocked) did not use this frequency, leaving me on EDGE data speeds. My first T-Mobile 3G device was the MyTouch 3G. While it gave me the bandwidth I desired, it lacked in other performance areas.
    With the HD2 I get 3G capabilities and 3G performance. While the Greater Boston area has yet to receive the nationwide HSPA+ upgrade (which will also increase performance for 3G devices), I still am receiving data throughput rates worthy of effective streaming.

With my tools now in hand, it was time to try to live the converged device experience with video.

Evaluating The Video Experience

When you consider the fact that I consider video to be the toughest challenge for a converged mobile device experience, I will say that the HD2 exceeded most of my expectations.

When it came to local video viewing, the HD2 provided a wonderful experience. T-Mobile USA and HTC knew this would be the case, including copies of both the first and second Transformers movies on the included microSD card. Something I did notice – the video quality in terms of framerate and lack of stutter was far better using the native Windows Media Player than the third-party Kinoma Play. I suspect the combination of the higher encoding rate for the movie, combined with the age-old issue of third-party software running on top of the OS and the CPU/memory requirements made for a bit of degradation of performance. I used my Motorola HT820 Bluetooth Stereo Headphones (discussed in my previous article) for the audio, and the quality was very good.

From a streaming video experience, it was – well, spectacular! I had become accustomed to a low-bandwidth experience with past devices. Slingbox and the SlingPlayer for Mobile do a wonderful job of adjusting and optimizing to bandwidth, but the result was typically grainier and often required pauses for buffering. On the HD2, however, I rarely (if ever) had issues. This is as much a credit to the T-Mobile network as it is to the hardware and software. In addition, the higher speeds of the network allowed the SlingPlayer to stream higher quality video. The SlingPlayer is one area in a converged device scenario that really can’t be duplicated with dedicated media players. While there are newer solutions on the market (FloTV, for example), they are highly specialized and limit you to the content they provide. The SlingPlayer lets me watch whatever I have access to via my Comcast cable subscription (I am a bit embarrassed to say that means quite a lot Smile).

While a wonderful experience, only longtime issue around using a phone as a converged device still exists – battery life. While things have improved on this front, I will say that the video experience makes the battery issue most obvious. I could get about one two-hour movie in on my HD2 before becoming concerned about battery life. By comparison, I could watch at least twice as much video on my Zune HD. Being the realist, I understand why this is the case as the phone is doing so much more behind the scenes than a dedicated media player. Still, my feeling is that planning on using the HD2 regularly for video would require either a second battery or a portable charging solution.

The Final Verdict

Honestly – the jury is still out Winking smile There is no doubt that the HD2 is more than capable of handling my video needs. While I believe I lean towards using it on a regular basis, I will remain cautious in situations where battery life is important. Aside from that, I believe the score is now 2 – 0 in favor of going with a single device.

Next up (in my next article) – GPS navigation and trying to eliminate the need to carry a dedicated GPS device.  

08/07/2010 11:51:31 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00) #     |  Trackback

 

Rethinking Device Convergence–The Audio Experience#
Post By Don Sorcinelli

In my quest to try once again to use a single device for all my needs, I decided that the first real test for my T-Mobile USA HTC HD2 would be with regards to the audio experience. In my previous article on the subject, I laid out what I thought were the needs, criteria and requirements for what would be deemed an acceptable experience. With all of this in hand, I set forth to put everything in motion.

Gathering Up Requirements

There were a few criteria for the audio experience that needed to be addressed from a hardware and software experience. They were -

  • Vehicle mounting.
    I wanted to be able to have a device mounting solution that allowed me to easily put the device in place where it was accessible when in my car. In all honesty, the greatest amount of audio usage for me has been while driving, be it during commutes or on business-related trips in the New England region. Fortunately, I have had the solution to this requirement in hand for quite some time – the ProClip Vehicle Mounting Solution.

    Longtime readers of this website have seen past reviews regarding ProClip solutions. I won’t rehash that all here, but I will restate what I have said to many time and time again – ProClip provides some of the most professional and easy-to-install solutions for vehicles you will ever find. I have used ProClip with a countless number of devices over the past several years and have never been short of completely satisfied with the results. The two-part aspect of the solution (one mounting bracket and device-specific holders) combined with their Move Clip enhancement have made switching between devices an absolute pleasure. My wife, who at one time used ProClip with her vehicle with an older phone, quickly remembered the convenience of the solution herself recently. When she asked me about using ProClip with her new T-Mobile USA Touch Pro 2, my answer was simple – “Your mounting bracket is still there. It’s just a device holder away, honey.” Smile

    For my vehicle needs, the ProClip HD2 holder was the obvious answer. ProClip provides variations of holders for some devices, and the HD2 was no exception. In addition to a basic holder, ProClip also provides a holder with a built-in DC cigarette lighter adapter. This is perfect for the user who intends to use the device heavily in scenarios that increase battery drain.

    IMG_2782
    ProClip HD2 Holder with built-in charger.

    The holder also includes a swivel mount, allowing for adjustment to meet viewing needs.

    IMG_2783
    ProClip HD2 holder attached to bracket with swivel mount.

    The end result – the HD2 is in a position for easy access and “at-a-glance” readability.

    IMG_2784
    ProClip HD2 Holder with device (driver perspective).

    This is not as important for audio experiences as it is for GPS navigation and incoming call perspectives, but is important nonetheless from an overall driving perspective.

    All in all, ProClip once again proved to be an invaluable component for using a device while driving. If you are interested in ProClip for your vehicle and device, check out all of the information at the ProClip website.
  • Device-Friendly Car Stereo. 
    For any driving scenario, a device-friendly car stereo is always a big plus. Such solutions come in many forms today, from Bluetooth integration to device-specific solutions. I’ve long had a flexible solution – a car stereo with a 3.5mm auxiliary input jack in the stereo faceplate. When combined with the 3.5mm output on the HD2, I can have full stereo sound with a minimum of difficulty.
  • Audio software.
    While there are a number of pre-installed and third-party audio solutions for Windows Mobile devices, I have some rather unique requirements. My audio comes in multiple “flavors” -
    • Music. This comes is a variety of formats, including WMA and MP3.
    • Podcasts. Usually, this comes in MP3 format, but there is the occasional WMA file thrown in.
    • Audible audio books. This is the really tricky part. Audible books come in a proprietary format and require authentication. Usually, this means installing Audible’s Audible Player software. While this works, Audible Player has not always been my favorite software.

Ironically, it was my audio book requirement that led me to look into a third-party solution that helped me to deal with Audible – and provide me with so much more. The solution – Kinoma’s Kinoma Play

KP01

Kinoma Play is a virtual “Swiss Army Knife” solution for media on your Windows Mobile device. A complete review of all of Kinoma Play’s features would probably be worthy of a book Smile. There were several features which did catch my eye.

  • Audible support. Kinoma Play supports Audible audio content without the need for the Audible Player. You can authenticate with your Audible credentials from within in the interface. That’s not all, however.
    Kinoma Play allows you to download and listen to your content, but also allows you to stream your audio books and subscriptions!

    KP02
    Audible support in Kinoma Play.

    My Audible plan includes a daily subscription to the Wall Street Journal Daily Edition. While I could download it (the Audible Player includes Audible Air, allowing you to schedule downloads over-the-air), it is often simpler to just stream it while driving during the morning commute.

    Kinoma Play also allows you to sbuscribe to podcasts. Similar to Audible support, Kinoma Play allows you to either download or stream podcasts as well.

    From an music perspective, Kinoma Play provides you with everything you would expect from a music player. Sorting by song, artist, album or genre, album art – you name it, it’s there.

    KP03
    Song view in Kinoma Play (with album art).

    While a full-blown equalizer isn’t present in Kinoma Play, there are audio settings available.

    KP04
    Audio settings in Kinoma Play.

    All in all, Kinoma Play exceeded all my needs and expectations. I will say that this does come at a rather hefty price – Kinoma Play retails for $29.99 USD. For all that it provides me, the cost was well worth the investment. If you are interested in finding out more, be sure to visit the Kinoma Play website.
  • Bluetooth stereo headphones.
    I admit it – when it comes to my devices, I hate wires. I avoid them wherever and whenever possible. As a result, a good set of Bluetooth stereo headphones are a must for me. I have been a longtime user of Motorola’s HT820 headset and have been reasonably satisfied.

    MotoHT820

    My only complaint has been not with sound quality and performance, but with comfort. The headset’s “around the ear” design without passing can get a bit uncomfortable over time. From a technical perspective, however, the sound quality is good and the fact that the HT820 also serves as a hands-free headset, allowing me to answer phone calls, makes for a big plus.

Evaluating the Audio Experience

In short, I can say that the audio experience using my combination of device, hardware and software has met or exceeded my expectations. The only complication I have experienced thus far is the in-car experience. using the 3.5mm auxiliary jack works great for music, but answering a call has complications. As it turns out, the speaker phone on the HD2 works rather well, so I can leave the device in the cradle. I will say that, ideally, a complete integrated Bluetooth car kit would be perfect.

My audio experiences have also worked well when dealing with incoming phone calls. Software has recognized the incoming call and responded accordingly. Phone functionality has not suffered as a result of my device convergence.

The bottom line – I am now using my T-Mobile USA HD2 as my primary audio device Smile My Zune HD has not been entirely abandoned; there are still times when I prefer to save my HD2’s battery life (this is still a major inconvenience with convergence, especially when using Bluetooth and streaming from the Internet at the same time). However, the first device I reach for now is my HD2 when I want to listen to music, podcasts or audio books.

Next up (in my next article) – device convergence and video. Stay tuned… 

08/01/2010 12:42:48 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00) #     |  Trackback

 

Revisiting the Idea of Device Convergence#
Post By Don Sorcinelli

Way back in 2003, I wrote some articles that discussed my case for resisting device convergence (that is, trying to do everything with one device). At the time, it seemed that everyone was trying to use their Pocket PCs (yep – we still called them that back then) and Smartphones (yep – that was a Microsoft branding) to be the one device for all of their needs. At the time, I gave several reasons for my thinking -

  1. The devices just were not powerful enough.
    Sure, Pocket PCs and Smartphones could multitask – in theory. But with limited CPUs, limited memory and no real hardware assistance for graphics, more than one resource-intensive application at a time meant sluggish performance and a degraded user experience.
  2. “Jack of All Trades, Master of None” Syndrome.
    In 2003, a Pocket PC could play movies, but not as well as a dedicated device. It could play music, but not as well as a dedicated device. It could perform GPS navigation, but not as well as a dedicated device. The result was a lot of sacrifice in quality for the luxury of less devices.
  3. The need for “accessories”.
    Many functionalities around device convergence often needed a bit of assistance a few years back. Sometimes, the assistance came in the form of software designed to overcome the limitations of Pocket PC default software. One example – I was an avid user of Conduits’ Pocket Player for its robust equalizer. Other times, the accessory came in the form of additional hardware. Most notable here was GPS adapters for navigation (that’s right – GPS chips didn’t always exist on phones, kids Winking smile).

In the end, the amount of effort required for device convergence combined with the often mediocre results drove me to the conclusion that specialized hardware was the way to go. The result -

  • A smartphone for “smartphone things” – Phone, email, Internet applications.
  • A GPS device for navigation.
  • A dedicated media player – in my case, Zune/Zune HD.

A lot has happened since those days of old, but for the most part I have continued with the 3-device solution – until now. I came close a couple of times…

  • The iPhone 3/3GS had me seriously thinking about convergence. However, iTunes has never been my cup of tea and managing multiple formats for media just didn’t seem to be worth it.
  • Several Windows Mobile and Android devices caught my attention. In the end, though, the devices that met most needs didn’t meet all and that wasn’t enough.

So, what changed my mind, you might ask? Ironically, in an age where Windows Mobile is typically a “whipping boy” in the mobile device space, it was a Windows Mobile 6.5 device that did the trick – the T-Mobile USA HTC HD2. Back in June, T-Mobile USA had their one-day Fathers Day promotion going. My wife and I, both longtime T-Mobile customers (going back to the days of Voicestream) realized that 1) we were off-contract and 2) T-Mobile’s “Even More” plans would give us more than our current plan and cost us less (including finally getting an Internet data plan for my wife, something we had discussed for quite some time). While we didn’t qualify for free phones (that was only for new customers), the combination of a “Buy One Get One Free” phone offer and other rebates was just too good to pass up. My wife decided on the HTC Touch Pro 2 (she really wanted a physical keyboard and the slide out functionality of the TP2 was just what she wanted). I, on the other hand, looked at all the specs and potential of the HD2 and decided that this was my choice.

When I first fired up the HD2, my intention was not to go “all-in-one”. I still was using my dedicated Navigon GPS unit for navigation and my Zune HD for videos and music. Late in the first day of usage, though, a casual try of a feature that came with the T-Mobile USA version of the HD2 lit the proverbial lightbulb over my head. The HD2 came with a 16GB microSD card. Included on that card – the movies Transformers and Transformers 2. I decided to try out the movies on the device. To my amazement, the quality and clarity of the videos were on a par with my Zune HD, and with a bigger screen to boot. Of course, battery life on a Zune HD (or any dedicated media player for that matter) would be superior to a multi-purpose device, but still – this was intriguing. Could I possibly go one-device after all of these years? Had the time come and the hardware progressed to the point where I could change my mind?

In order to fully evaluate the possibility of device convergence on a regular basis, I decided to break down what my requirements would be. I took the approach of defining desired experiences first, then looked at more tangible requirements. The results -

  • Experiences
    • Audio on-the-go.
      This would include music, podcasts and audio books. I want to use the headphones of my choice when needed, and have a positive experience when in my car as well.
    • Video on-the-go.
      Similar to audio, except drop the “car” part. No watching video when driving, you know Winking smile. I also including streaming media into this equation, whether it is from the Internet or through it (as in “from my home”).
    • GPS navigation.
      I desire a quality and accurate experience here, on a par with dedicated GPS units. I expect audio (turn-by-turn directions) and video (accurate and readable visuals).
    • Phone usage.
      While this is considered a given at face value, the experience here relates to phone experiences while involved with other experiences. This is a huge consideration for for converged scenarios. What happens when a call comes in while listening to music or using the GPS? How easy is it to answer a call? What happens when the call ends. From my perspective, this is still often the greatest point of failure for many phone today.
  • Requirements
    • Big screen.
      Needed for an enjoyable video experience and effective GPS presentation.
    • Powerful CPU/GPU.
      A big screen is worthless without the processing power to provide the required frame rates and updates needed for video, audio and GPS.
    • Well-supported Bluetooth.
      I add “well-supported” for a couple of reasons. First – without the proper Bluetooth profile support, using a Bluetooth stereo headset or car kit is impossible or unlikely. Second – profiles without the hardware support for performance results in quantity but not quality. This was a major failing for earlier Bluetooth implementations; I could use a Bluetooth stereo but the quality was horrible or the there was a tremendous amount of buffer/stutter with the hardware trying to keep up.
    • Supporting hardware.
      This includes things like headsets for audio and car accessories for when driving. I can’t put all of the burden on the device now, can I? Winking smile
    • Supporting software.
      While there are onboard solutions for many of the experiences I desire, that’s not to say that third-party solutions cannot enhance the experience even more.

With my requirements and experiences now in hand, the grand convergence experience could commence. It is currently in process, but so far so good. The details? I will be writing them up in more focused articles shortly. The articles will include what I included from the Requirements perspective and will discuss the pros and cons of the experience. Stay tuned…

08/01/2010 10:31:40 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00) #     |  Trackback

 

Astraware Announces OddBlob and Police Range for Windows Phone#
Post By Steve "fyiguy" Hughes

The folks at Astraware have announced the release of two fun new games for Windows phone and Windows Mobile devices called OddBlob and Police Range.

oddblob_screenshot_480x640_01 oddblob_screenshot_480x640_03

OddBlob is a fun puzzle arcade game created entirely from modeling clay. Help OddBlob bound across the squishy maze to grab bonuses, chomp fruit, and win points as quickly as he can as the chasing tiles disappear behind. Bounce and double bounce tiles can help you reach your goal or throw you through the gaps to impending peril below, and cake slices earn you a try at the Cake Or Doom mini-puzzle!

policerange_screenshot_480x640_01 policerange_screenshot_480x640_05

Police Range is Astraware's take on the classic shooting range game. Put your skill and accuracy to the test as you train on the shooting range to become a crack police marksman. Choose from 2 ranges to train on: Target Practice, and Crime Alley, which between them test your accuracy, reaction speeds, eye and nerve!

Both OddBlob and Police Range include Astraware's new online high score table, which enables players to submit their best scores using wifi or data connection to see how they compare with other players worldwide. Players with non-connected devices can post their scores on the local high score table. Both games also include a range of fun awards and achievements.

OddBlob  and Police Range  are both available for devices with touchscreens running Windows Mobile or Windows phone 5 and later. Both games are priced $4.99 each, and a special discount will be available to Astraware Newsletter subscribers. To subscribe, visit: http://www.astraware.com/my/subscribe.php.

07/14/2010 04:39:00 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00) #     |  Trackback

 

Windows Phone7 Series Development Announced at MIX 2010#
Post By Steve "fyiguy" Hughes

At MIX10 today, Microsoft unveiled the long awaited developer platform for the upcoming Windows Phone 7 Series devices. Windows Phone 7 Series was announced by Steve Ballmer at Mobile World Congress last month with devices to be available for sale by holiday 2010.

WP7 MIX10

Mobile development for Windows Phone 7 will take advantage of both Silverlight 4 (the full version not a watered down “Lite” version) and the XNA Framework for games that is used both on the Zune,Windows (Vista and 7) and Xbox 360 Platform. This will provide a rich environment for both internet based applications and game development. As expected, Windows Phone 7 will use The Marketplace to deliver applications to the device and providing developers with a 70% revenue share for applications sold. Development fees will be waived for students who are members of the DreamSpark program.

Perhaps the single best piece of news is that Microsoft has listened to the developer community and will be providing Windows Phone Developer tools for free. Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 Express for Windows Phone,Windows Phone 7 Series add-in to use with Visual Studio 2010 RC, XNA Game Studio 4.0,and a Windows Phone 7 Series Emulator for application testing will be available as a single download from http://developer.windowsphone.com. Expression Blend for Windows Phone Community Technology Preview will be made available as a separate download.

(Note: to run these you will need Windows Vista or Windows 7)

Windows Phone development starts with a single download of tools, runtimes, and phone emulator. The end-to-end application development environment includes a familiar Visual Studio IDE, Windows Phone Marketplace, and optionally Expression Blend. The supported runtimes are Silverlight, XNA Framework, and .NET Compact Framework. The application platform is running on Windows Phone OS 7.0 CTP, which is focused on the consumer, the information they care about, and entertainment experiences.

The following sections provide the information you need to build Windows Phone applications:

You can watch or download the 1st Day keynote of MIX10 on demand here.

Full Press Release:

LAS VEGAS, March 15 – Today at MIX10, Microsoft Corp. showcased advancements in its platform technologies that enable the developer and designer community to deliver compelling user experiences across a broad set of devices. Building on the excitement of the recently announced Windows® Phone 7 Series, Scott Guthrie, corporate vice president, .NET Developer Platform, and Joe Belfiore, corporate vice president, Windows Phone Program Management, detailed the opportunity for developers to use proven technologies such as Microsoft Silverlight and the XNA Framework to build new mobile applications and 3-D Games.

“As the browser, server, Web and devices evolve, a focus on delivering consistently great user experiences has become paramount,” Guthrie said. “By extending our familiar platform technologies and tools to phones, Microsoft is delivering the premier application development experience across a variety of devices and form factors.”

End-to-End Application Development Platform for Windows Phone 7 Series

During the keynote, Microsoft provided the first deep dive into Windows Phone 7 Series application development. By combining Silverlight features for rich application development and the XNA Framework for games, Windows Phone 7 Series empowers millions of developers and designers to build visually stunning and immersive applications and games — one of the industry’s most profitable mobile application categories — while taking advantage of device-specific capabilities. Specifically, developers will be able to take advantage of the following features:

  • Accelerometer, an intuitive control that responds to motion
  • A Microsoft Location Service to provide developers with a single point of reference to acquire location information
  • Microsoft Notification Service for pushing information to the phone, regardless of whether or not an application is running
  • Hardware-accelerated video with digital rights management (DRM)
  • Internet Information Services Smooth Streaming for the industry’s highest quality content viewing experience
  • Multitouch
  • Camera and microphone support

“Windows Phone 7 Series brings together a rich application environment, powerful hardware, a fresh approach to software and a smart new design,” Belfiore said. “It was designed to generate incredible opportunities for developers and designers to quickly and easily deliver compelling applications and games. With the best developer tools, an established ecosystem and marketplace, and a path for developers to use their Silverlight and XNA Framework skill sets, we are delivering an application platform that is simple, powerful and inspiring.”

Free Tools for Windows Phone 7 Series Developers and Designers

To further support an end-to-end development experience, Microsoft announced the availability of comprehensive tools support for Windows Phone 7 Series. The easy-to-install package includes previews of the following:

  • Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 Express for Windows Phone
  • Windows Phone 7 Series add-in to use with Visual Studio 2010 RC
  • XNA Game Studio 4.0
  • Windows Phone 7 Series Emulator for application testing
  • Expression Blend for Windows Phone Community Technology Preview (available as a separate download)

A Marketplace for Windows Phone 7 Series Applications

WP Marketplace

Microsoft also showed how developers and designers will be able to bring applications and games to market with a new Windows Phone Marketplace. The Marketplace features a panoramic design and active merchandising to increase the discoverability of games and applications, and supports one-time credit card purchases, mobile operator billing and advertising-funded applications. The Marketplace will also enable customers to try applications before buying them and allow developers to cross-promote their applications through deep linking.

wpAPmob WPharvest wpgraphicly

Several leading companies will be creating exciting applications and games for Windows Phone 7 Series. They include The Associated Press, Archetype International Inc., AWS Convergence Technologies – WeatherBug, Citrix Systems Inc., Clarity Consulting Inc., Cypress Consulting, EA Mobile, Fandango Inc., Foursquare Labs Inc., frog design inc., Glu Mobile Inc., Graphic.ly, Hudson Entertainment Inc., IdentityMine Inc., IMDb.com Inc., Larva Labs, Match.com LLC, Matchbox Mobile Ltd., Microsoft Game Studios, Namco Networks America Inc., Oberon Media Inc., Pageonce Inc., Pandora Media Inc., Photobucket Inc., PopCap Games Inc., Seesmic, Shazam Entertainment Ltd., Sling Media, SPB Software Inc., stimulant, TeleCommunications Systems Inc., Touchality LLC and Vertigo Software Inc.

Continued Innovation With Silverlight and Expression Blend

Microsoft announced a release candidate (RC) for Silverlight 4, available for download today, which builds on the beta version released at the Professional Developers Conference in November 2009. The Silverlight 4 RC provides powerful media and enterprise application and media capabilities, out-of-browser flexibility and world-class tools support via Visual Studio and Expression Blend with Sketchflow to enable robust application development and rich interactive experiences.

In addition, Microsoft unveiled the Expression Blend 4 Beta, a design and development workflow tool. New features such as Path Layout enable developers and designers to build and animate innovative user interface design via a groundbreaking visual layout mechanism, without the need to write code. Expression Blend 4 Beta also adds support for Silverlight 4, .NET Framework 4 and Visual Studio 2010.

Silverlight Customer Adoption

Silverlight adoption has continued at a rapid pace with installations approaching 60 percent of all Internet devices worldwide — an increase of nearly 15 percentage points in just four months. Customers such as Major League Soccer, BBC, eBay Inc., Netflix Inc., NBCOlympics.com and CT Corp., a Wolters Kluwer business, demonstrated how they are taking advantage of the power of Silverlight to deliver compelling consumer and enterprise experiences.

“Microsoft Silverlight technology will be the backbone of the video platform on our newly launched MLSsoccer.com,” said Chris Schlosser, director of digital strategy for Major League Soccer. “Our work with Microsoft allows us to launch cutting-edge digital and mobile experiences for our loyal fans. As part of our increased focus on digital media, we view a rich video experience as absolutely critical to accomplishing our goal of ’super serving’ MLS supporters.”

All the latest news and links from MIX10 are available at http://live.visitmix.com/press.

03/15/2010 12:30:00 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00) #     |  Trackback

 

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