Java Pioneers Stack Up at Google

James Gosling, the original creator of Java, started a new job at Google on Monday. He made the announcement in his blog and said he is not sure what he'll be working on: "I expect it will be a little bit of everything, seasoned with a large dose of grumpy curmudgeon."

The 20-year Sun Microsystems' veteran, who bailed shortly after Sun's acquisition by Oracle in January 2010, talked with Redmond Developer News in 2008. The Q&A, which covered his start in computers, early work on Java, and views on Java Fx and mobile development can be read in its entirety here.

The interview occurred about a year after all of Sun's Java implementations were open sourced and finally available under the GNU General Public License Version 2. "The way that we ran Java from the very beginning, it was very much like an open source project. And all of our source code is published -- anybody can get it and build it," Gosling said. "We work with the community in a very collaborative way. The one thing that was different is that we had a license that some people in the open source community had a problem with, and so really all that we changed is the license."

That was then. Oracle is now going after Google, alleging patent infringements in its open source Android operating system, which is based on Java. Microsoft is also targeting Android and claiming patent violations, but so far the company has limited its lawsuits to weaker players, who are licensing Android for use on mobile devices such as HTC, Motorola and earlier this month, Barnes & Noble and its manufacturing partners.

When we asked Gosling if he thought .NET and C# were modeled after Java, he said: "Oh yeah. You just compare the languages side by side, it's pretty much a clone."

Several of Gosling's former colleagues at Sun are working for Google. Among them, Tim Bray, Sun's former director of Web technologies, who is known for coauthoring the XML spec. Bray declined to work for Oracle. He joined Google as a Developer Advocate last March to work on the Android operating system. Joshua Bloch, formerly a Distinguished Engineer at Sun who like Gosling, got his Ph.D. at Carnegie Mellon, left Sun in 2004 to become Google's Chief Java Architect.

The Java pioneers are starting to stack up at Google. How did a guy who wanted to work at Xerox PARC end up at the Googleplex? Is this a move by Google to counter Oracle? Express your thoughts below or drop me a line at krichards@1105media.com.

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 03/28/2011 at 12:54 PM0 comments


Consuming Cloud Services in Windows Phone Apps

Microsoft released the Windows Azure Toolkit for Windows Phone 7 on CodePlex yesterday. The toolkit offers class libraries for Windows Azure storage (Blobs and Tables), OData and ASP.NET Providers (Membership, Roles, Profile and Session State Store). The libraries can be used in existing or new Windows Phone apps. The toolkit also provides Visual Studio 2010 project templates (VSIX extension files) for Windows Phone and Windows Azure, a dependency checker, documentation and samples.

The Windows Azure Toolkit is designed to ease things like cloud storage, authentication and authorization, according to Microsoft technical evangelist Wade Wegner, who introduces the toolkit and shows you how to get started in his blog. For example, the Windows Phone 7 Cloud Application project wizard prompts you to provide your Windows Azure storage account number or to select the local storage emulator. It then configures the solution, which is made up of three projects: Azure storage, compute and a Web role project for your phone client.

C# is fully supported. VB.NET developers may run into limitations—read the documentation to get the details there. Visual Studio 2010 Express for Windows Phone does not currently support Visual Basic. All of the code samples are available in C# and VB.NET.

The toolkit is based on Windows Azure, Windows Phone and ASP.NET MVC 2. In order to take advantage of the project templates and samples, you need to have full blown Visual Studio 2010 Professional (or higher) or Visual Studio Web Developer 2010 Express, which supports Windows Azure and Visual Studio 2010 Express for Windows Phone.

According to Wegner, this is just the beginning. Other features in the works include notification services that run in the cloud for Windows Phone-- and other devices. Support for SQL Azure, DataMarket, NuGet packages and Azure queues is also on the current roadmap.

Check out the Windows Phone hugging the cloud "icon" that appears on Wegner’s blog and other Microsoft blogs, courtesy of Steve Marx. Just getting started is probably an understatement. If you develop Windows Phone apps, get ready to embrace Windows Azure.

Windows Azure Toolkit for Windows Phone 7 is available under the MS-PL license. Download it here.

When users can synchronize data from multiple devices (smartphones, tablets and PCs) and securely access it in real time (read find it in the cloud without too much trouble) storage and other services will start to take off. Companies like Amazon have already started to move in this direction with Kindle (read your books on any device), movies and this week, the Android App Store.

What features would you like to see in the Windows Azure Toolkit? How does Live Mesh fit into the Windows Azure scenario? Express your thoughts below or drop me a line at krichards@1105media.com.

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 03/24/2011 at 12:54 PM0 comments


Windows Phone Developer Ecosystem On Track, Platform Issues Remain

This week Microsoft is confirming that it has reached the 10,000 app milestone in the Windows Phone Marketplace. That's quite a feat.

Now if only Microsoft would fix the Marketplace so that users can find apps, and update them without running into problems, on their Windows Phones.

As the app ecosystem gains momentum, more phones are in the pipeline. On March 20, Sprint launched the first Windows Phone that runs on a CDMA network, the HTC Arrive. It supports 3G speeds and features a 3.6-inch WVGA tilted touch screen with a slide out QWERTY keyboard. People may need to know about the phone by word of mouth in order to find it near the bottom of a long list of smartphones in the Sprint lineup. The original Sprint announcement in late February was clouded by issues related to the first minor Windows Phone update. About 10 percent of end users, particularly those using Samsung Focus devices, had problems updating their software, according to Microsoft’s estimates.

As expected, the Sprint HTC Arrive features an updated Windows Phone operating system that supports the copy-and-paste functionality and Marketplace enhancements—better search and app update process--the anticipated features in the first "major" Windows Phone update, which has faced delays. That update, codenamed NoDo, has yet to reach early adopters of Windows Phone, which is causing a backlash again among some people, many of whom are ranting in the blogosphere. Microsoft watcher Mary Jo Foley reported that the NoDo update started to "trickle out" to unlocked phones in Europe on March 22. Notifications of the update are expected to roll out over the next four weeks, according to Foley.

More Windows Phones are on the horizon including the HTC HD7S, which is expected from AT&T in the United States sometime in April. That phone has a 4.3 inch WVGA LCD touch screen and "kickstand" to facilitate video consumption.

Earlier this month, Microsoft announced a Global Publishing Program for developers who are in countries where the Marketplace is not yet supported. A publisher partners with Microsoft to represent the country or region, according to Microsoft’s Brandon Watson, who blogged about the new program. The first publisher is Yalla Apps, which has signed on to support the Middle East and Africa. Read Watson’s blog for a list of the countries supported.

The unfortunate irony here is that people in many countries still can’t purchase Marketplace apps. Despite the intricacies, hopefully, Microsoft (and Nokia) are working towards opening up the Marketplace in new markets, especially countries like India.

The Microsoft Windows Phone developer tools have been available for about a year. This month, Telerik released its first components for the mobile market, RadControls for Windows Phone 7 UI development, with a special licensing offer for a limited time.

Developers have heeded the call and created more than 10,000 Windows Phone apps. At this point, Microsoft needs to start providing better data to developers about market trends, ways to design effective mobile apps and revenue.

What’s the market for Windows Phone apps based on device sales by region? What’s the profile of the customers for these devices? Which app developers are making money from the Windows Phone platform? What can other developers learn from their experiences? Watson tackled the revenue question in a blog earlier this month but the accuracy of the Windows Phone 7 versus Android numbers cited by the original source that he pointed to in the blog came into question.

What's your take on the opportunities for Windows Phone? Are you satisfied with Microsoft's progress in 2011? Express your thoughts below or drop me a line at krichards@1105media.com.

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 03/22/2011 at 12:54 PM1 comments


A Better Browser: The Verdict on IE9 Platform Previews

With the release of Internet Explorer 9 this week, Microsoft is revisiting the development process, which included seven platform previews for developers, one public beta, a bug-fix beta update and a release candidate before the final release to the Web on Monday. Whew!

Internet Explorer 9 introduced the concept of the Platform Preview, a browser frame that could be used alongside IE 8 on Windows Vista and Windows 7, as a way to promote transparency and solicit community feedback during the development process. With the first platform preview, which was released in March 2010 at Microsoft MIX, many developers were dismayed that Internet Explorer 9 did not support Windows XP, and feared that Microsoft would lose even more IE market share thanks to an Windows XP installed base that remained sizable after widely publicized issues with Windows Vista.

The Platform Previews offered an early look at some of the features that were coming in the browser such as rendering, layout, object model and new scripting engines. It also included a Test Drive site that could be used to help test out some of the new features. The initial plan was to offer updated previews about every eight weeks until the beta version of IE 9.

While the lack of support for Windows XP caught many people off guard, the promise of interoperability and standards-compliant technologies such as HTML5, CSS3, SVG and hardware accelerated graphics were welcome changes that many developers applauded.

With the release of Visual Studio 2010 Service Pack 1 last week, 11 months after the IDE shipped, we asked readers what they thought about Microsoft's dev process and release schedule in an era when Internet competitors continually update their software in agile-like sprints. Some readers responded that Microsoft needed to get with the times, others were outraged that the question was even asked and said that they could barely keep up with the current onslaught of tools and technologies.

One reader from New Zealand commented:

"MS releases seldom, but produces countless bolt-ons ("extensions") and service packs that make for an incredibly complex ecosystem. Get the mix wrong and VS becomes even more unreliable than it is out of the box (speaking from experience). This is why IE9 is doomed to failure - yes, it may have caught up to Chrome but it will rapidly fall behind again. I would far prefer the Chrome model for VS, of new features and bug fixes every couple of months, instead of painful "big bangs" every few years. Note I am NOT suggesting the underlying framework should be updated more regularly... quite the opposite. In fact I wish this pace would slow down. A lot of features released in new versions could probably be built into the compiler and/or libraries we could bundle with our software. I love .Net development but MS needs to get with the times or someone else will do it better..."

With IE 9, however, Microsoft has quickened the pace and offered a rapid succession of previews and test builds. The new process may have worked to the product's advantage. Microsoft has received an unprecedented level of developer and community feedback. According to a February 23rd blog posting written by Microsoft program manager Justin Saint Clair:

"At the time of this post, the IE9 Platform Previews have been downloaded over 3.3 million times, the Beta over 25 million times, and we’ve received over 17,000 bugs from the public via Connect. That is 23% more downloads than IE8 Beta 2 during the same period and over three times as much feedback as we received for the entirety of IE8—from Beta through RTM."

Read Saint Clair's blog for a deep dive into how Microsoft responded to community feedback by the numbers and the changes that resulted.

Express your thoughts on the IE9 Developer Platform Previews. Would you like to see platform previews continue in the next product cycle? Did community feedback make IE 9 a better browser for developers? Drop me a line at krichards@1105media.com.

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 03/15/2011 at 12:54 PM2 comments


Is Microsoft in a Development Time Warp?

Microsoft is releasing Visual Studio 2010 Service Pack 1 today to MSDN subscribers. The public release is expected on Thursday.

The release of the first Service Pack is welcome news, but it comes 11 months after Visual Studio 2010 shipped last April. In the interim, MSDN subscribers have had the option of downloading multiple Visual Studio Feature Packs, which are not technically supported by the company; two more were released today.

Visual Studio 2010 itself was delayed, in part because Microsoft was rewriting its longtime editor and basing it on Windows Presentation Foundation, which required performance improvements.

As GT, who commented on Microsoft Developer Division head S. "Soma" Somasegar's blog, put it:

"Every 6 weeks Google makes Chrome faster by a few percentage points, and sometimes they double the speed (the latest JavaScript engine update).

Once a year, Microsoft fixes a few bugs in VS.NET.

Today’s JavaScript inside Google Chrome is laterally faster than C# / .NET 4.0, unfortunately it still does not do everything, but who knows, it is becoming better every few weeks.We still use VS.NET because there is no alternative, some of the new code now explicitly requires Google Chrome, and once there is a good alternative to VS, [we] will simply replace [it].

What I am trying to say [is], there is no need to make VS.NET faster, Windows Mobile 7 is [probably] very good, but still losing market share, because normal people don’t trust Microsoft at all. [Y]ou are about to experience the same with VS.NET."

Comparing a browser/JavaScript engine to a full blown IDE is probably unfair, and Visual Studio 2010 Service Pack 1 offers more than a few bug fixes, however, the point about agility and a timely release schedule is well taken, and applies to many Microsoft platforms beyond Visual Studio. Silverlight was the exception, and development there has slowed.

Microsoft started to re-architect Visual Studio with 2010 but the company's tools and platforms continue to ship at speeds that even, corporate environments may have started to question. Microsoft continues to operate on its traditional release schedule in an Internet age where agile development is part of the arsenal at most software companies.

Granted, corporate developers may not want major platform changes, especially when they are in the middle of an 18-month project, but the availability of critical features, tooling updates and bug fixes sooner rather than later is a different matter.

Express your thoughts on Microsoft's development process and release schedule. Is it time to streamline Visual Studio and make it more modular? Interested in writing a guest blog on development? Drop me a line at krichards@1105media.com.

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 03/08/2011 at 12:54 PM10 comments


DotNetNuke Leaves VB.NET for C#

The next release of the DotNetNuke core CMS framework is a C# conversion of the longstanding VB.NET application, which debuted in December 2002, the same year as the Microsoft .NET Framework.

DotNetNuke is an open source Web CMS written by Visual Basic programmer Shaun Walker. He based it on the Microsoft IBuySpy Portal Starter Kit, which is a VB.NET implementation, and Visual Studio.

After years of fending off questions about a C# version of DotNetNuke, DNN Corp. announced this week that it is officially making the transition to C# in the coming 6.0 release. A community technology preview is expected this month. The company said it does not have the resources internally to continue upgrading the VB.NET version but it would be open to a member of the community taking on that task. Why move to C# now, after all these years?

According to Walker, a Chinese developer named Ben Zhong hosted a C# implementation of DotNetNuke on CodePlex and the number of downloads got the company's attention. DotNetNuke started to work with Zhong and is now in the final stages of QA on the converted C# code for the 6.0 release, which is expected sometime in Q2.

Walker, the company CTO, explained the somewhat reluctant journey to C# in his blog on Monday. He said fundamentally it boils down to first-class citizenship in .NET:

"When .NET was launched way back in 2000 there was a lot of hype around the fact that it was "language agnostic". Since .NET is based on MSIL from a run-time perspective, the premise was that programming language was essentially irrelevant. In these early stages it really felt like C# and VB were first class citizens in the .NET world. However, in the years since it has become very apparent that there is much more to consider than just the run-time perspective. The fact that Microsoft itself develops the majority of its products in C# results in a far greater emphasis on the C# language in terms of innovation, tooling, examples, etc..."

The upcoming switch to C# affects only the core framework, the modules and extensions, many of which are offered in the Snowcovered Marketplace, do not need to change and can still be developed in any .NET-compliant language, according to the company.

Walker is also careful to point out in his blog that in his view, VB.NET is in no way technically inferior to C#, the decision is a business-related decision based on growing the DotNetNuke ecosystem. The Web CMS is available in Community, Professional and Enterprise Editions.

Express your thoughts on VB.NET, Microsoft's strategy to promote C# and the future of both languages. Is VB.NET a second-class citizen in the .NET ecosystem? Drop me a line at krichards@1105media.com.

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 03/01/2011 at 12:54 PM19 comments


Windows Azure Trial Offer Upgraded

If you haven't checked out the Windows Azure cloud platform, Microsoft upgraded its free introductory offer this week. The free trial, which runs until June 30, 2011 now includes 750 hours of an Extra Small Compute Instance and 25 hours of a Small Compute Instance.

A Compute Instance is a virtual machine that runs your application. Microsoft offers five compute instances ranging from Extra Small (20GB storage for $0.05 per hour) to Extra Large (2,040 GB-storage for $0.96 per hour). The CPU, memory and I/O performance also vary based on the size of the virtual server.

When the Windows Azure platform was commercially released in February 2010, it targeted enterprise customers. The smaller compute instances were requested by developers and Extra Small was announced at PDC10. Extra Small VM Instances were in public beta in December. Several developers testing out the beta technology got billed for using it, according to complaints in the Microsoft Forums, even those who had MSDN subscriptions that offered 750 hours of Compute Instances.

An important distinction to note between Microsoft cloud and on-premise technologies, which the company has not really bothered to publicize, is that you will be charged for using Azure "beta" features. In addition, the beta technology is not covered by introductory offers or MSDN subscriptions.

The Extra Small Compute Instances are out of beta and now part of this week's upgraded introductory offer. The free trial, which requires credit card registration, is available to developers starting this week in the 41 countries where Microsoft offers Azure cloud services.

In addition to the Compute Instances, developers who participate in the trial have access to free introductory resources such as 1GB Web Edition SQL Azure database (for 90 days), 500MB in-and-out data transfers, 500MB storage, and AppFabric Access Control and Service Connections.

Are you dabbling in the cloud? Express your thoughts on the Windows Azure platform as it passes the one year mark. Drop me a line at krichards@1105media.com.

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 02/24/2011 at 12:54 PM2 comments


Microsoft Updates Silverlight for Windows Phone Toolkit

The February 2011 update of the Silverlight for Windows Phone Toolkit is available on CodePlex. The open source UI components toolkit, first made available in September 2010 by the Microsoft Silverlight team, builds on the company's Silverlight for Windows Phone platform.

In addition to bug fixes, the February release integrates two existing components--the TiltEffect for control interactions (visual feedback) and the PerformanceProgressBar.

Jeff Wilcox, the Microsoft coordinator of the Silverlight Toolkits, explains how the PerformanceProgressBar in the February release works in his blog:

"This version is very easy to use, you can just drop it on a page, without needing to specify styles like earlier workarounds. Also, it smoothly animates out in an improved way, improving the visual attractiveness of apps.

Simply bind to or set the IsIndeterminate property to get the visual effect. There is no need to visually collapse this implementation."

The February toolkit also offers samples for Visual Basic development for the first time. In addition to the new components, the samples app for VB and C# includes: AutoCompleteBox, ContextMenu, DatePicker and TimePicker, Gestures, ListPicker, LongListSelector, ToggleSwitch, Page Transitions and WrapPanel. The source code is available under the Microsoft Public License. The Silverlight for Windows Phone Toolkit Source and Sample is a separate download.

Get the Silverlight for Windows Phone Toolkit - February 2011 download here. It is recommended that the toolkit be used with Windows Phone Developer Tools January 2011 Update.

The Silverlight Toolkit for Windows Phone offers source code to developers but Microsoft does not accept code contributions. The company requests feedback on components, however and checks in bug fixes as they happen instead of waiting for release updates, according to Wilcox.

Third-party vendors are also beginning to offer Windows Phone components. Longstanding Silverlight developer Telerik expects to release its first UI components for Windows Phone 7 in March.

Are you developing for Windows Phone? Express your thoughts on Microsoft's stance on open source, and how it may affect the Nokia partnership. Drop me a line at krichards@1105media.com.

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 02/22/2011 at 12:54 PM0 comments


Microsoft and Nokia: Mobilizing the Developer Ecosystem

The announcement on Friday that Nokia plans to support the Windows Phone OS on its upcoming hardware has finally put the spotlight on Windows Phone 7. In an email about the announcement IDC analyst Al Hilwa said, "2011 is shaping up as a transformative year as the smartphone battles are shifting to battles of ecosystems."

When Stephen Elop left Microsoft last September to become CEO of Nokia, given the alliance between the two companies that first surfaced at MIX in 2008, it was natural to wonder if Silverlight for Windows Phone on Nokia handsets wasn't far off.

The broad partnership announced last week--and not yet finalized--surpassed many people's expectations based on its scope and details such as Nokia Ovi maps (Navteq) becoming part of Bing maps and search. If the partnership works, it could significantly expand the opportunity for .NET developers who are building apps for the Windows Phone Marketplace, once the Nokia devices appear, hopefully before the end of the year.

Hilwa summed up the benefits to Nokia and Microsoft this way:

"[F]or Nokia, the win is having access to Microsoft's modern phone OS, its strong developer eco-system, and the advertising network. For Microsoft the win is the carrier distribution channels and capacity, Nokia's hardware expertise, and multiplying the number of sockets that developers can hope to sell their apps on once Nokia phones begin to ship with the Microsoft OS."

It is a major win for Microsoft but will the opportunities carry over to developers? How will other hardware manufacturers respond to the Nokia partnership?

The Windows Phone Marketplace is currently limited to 17 countries and many apps are localized and not available in other countries based on a myriad of issues, not the least of which is Zune. The Nokia store (also called Ovi), will become part of the Marketplace. Nokia has a negligible presence in the United States, which is the hub of Microsoft's App Hub for WP7 developers. Many WP7 developers today can not locally access or download their own Marketplace apps. In short, the Windows Phone Marketplace needs work and Microsoft despite such an enormous undertaking, has been slow in some respects, to respond to developers' concerns.

What happens to Nokia's developer ecosystem? The Qt framework will not be ported to Windows Phone, according to Nokia. Does anyone really expect the Qt developers for Symbian and MeeGo, which are open source platforms, to switch to Visual Studio and Windows Phone development? A safe bet is that many cross-platform Qt developers, especially after their recent experiences with Nokia, are seriously looking at Android. Qt developers in many countries who may be interested in checking out Windows Phone 7 development and App Hub after Friday's announcement face the limitations of the current Marketplace.

Nokia's mobile developer base, pegged at around 400,000, is unlikely to move en masse to the Microsoft developer ecosystem. That leaves .NET developers (most of whom are not experienced mobile app developers) and third party and independent mobile app developers who may finally have enough incentive to check out the Windows Phone platform.

Silverlight developers are already ahead of the game and despite recent uncertainty about the future of Silverlight, have far greater opportunity now that Nokia has chosen Microsoft and Silverlight for Windows Phone. .NET developers who have stayed away from mobile development should download the free WP7 tools (C# and VB) and start getting familiar with the app design guidelines and new paradigm. Despite the hiccups, Microsoft is creating a world of opportunity for its developers. Nokia and Microsoft need to execute, and so do you.

What's your take on the Microsoft and Nokia partnership? Express your thoughts below or drop me a line at krichards@1105media.com.

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 02/15/2011 at 12:54 PM1 comments


Freemium Model Ends for .NET Reflector

Red Gate Software has changed course with .NET Reflector, a class browser and decompiler that appears at the top of just about every .NET developer's indispensable tools list. The former community edition of the popular utility will cost $35.00 starting with Version 7, which is expected in early March.

.NET Reflector 6.6 remains free for download until Version 7 is released. Version 6.6 is set to expire on May 30. Commercial versions of the product going forward will not have "time bombs" that force upgrades, according to the company.

A commercial company, Red Gate Software acquired .NET Reflector from its creator, a Microsoft developer named Lutz Roeder, in 2008. At the time, Red Gate implied that it would continue to offer a free community edition; .NET Reflector was initially released as a free tool in 2000 and the standalone version has remained free for about a decade.

This week Red Gate announced that despite good intentions, it could not get the free model to work. The company did not get enough traction with its commercial Visual Studio plug-in .NET Reflector Pro or the expected cross-over to its other developer tools, ANTS Profilers and SQL Compare. Releasing .NET Reflector as an open source project was considered, but Red Gate decided against it.

In a YouTube interview about the decision, Simon Galbraith, Red Gate joint chief executive explains:

"Right now further development doesn't make commercial sense. Reflector is a tool that has to stay current and has to work in all sorts of new ways with mobile devices and new versions of the .NET platform. We need to be able to spend money on it and we can't do so in a commercially justifiable way."

Version 7 introduces a tabbed browsing model and PowerCommands such as a query editor among other features. It comes in three flavors: .NET Reflector, .NET Reflector Visual Studio, which offers a new Object Browser within the IDE and .NET Reflector VS Pro for debugging code from decompiled assemblies even without the source code.

Express your thoughts on these latest developments with .NET Reflector. Are you willing to pay for a commercial version of this indispensable tool? Drop me a line at krichards@1105media.com.

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 02/03/2011 at 12:54 PM12 comments


Another Performance Option for Windows Phone 7 Apps

Mobile software provider mtiks is developing a Windows Phone 7 version of its analytics technology. Built in Silverlight, the lightweight library is designed to provide app usage statistics to Windows Phone 7developers for an unlimited number of apps, storage and sessions at no cost.

Developers can download the library, which is in public beta starting today, after registering on the mtiks Website.

"[I]t does not take more than couple of minutes to integrate a few lines of code and developers can check statistics real-time in mtiks dashboard," said Sivasankaran Subramanian, mtiks co-founder and VP of sales and marketing, in an email interview. "It is a lightweight library and there are no performance tradeoffs."

Usage statistics such as downloads, session details, daily and monthly usage, device types, country, new and returning users can be viewed in real-time, according to the company. Developers can also download the mtiks WP7 Analytics app from the Marketplace to view usage statistics and reports "on the go" using their Windows Phones.

The Cambridge, MA-based company offers anti-piracy and analytics software for iOS. Android and Windows Phone 7 versions of the analytics solution are currently under development. An anti-piracy solution is planned for later versions of the WP7 technology, according to Subramanian.

"Given that iOS and Android are leaders in device sales and app downloads so far, Microsoft Windows Phone 7 has a good start as a young operating system with 24,000+ developers signed up and 7,000+ apps in the marketplace," he said. "Recently Microsoft has announced that over 2 million units have been sold to date, though these numbers cannot be directly compared with current sales of iOS/Android devices, WP7 is going steady in our opinion and what we hear from the industry based on timelines and high satisfaction rates from customers confirms the same."

Microsoft and Pre-emptive Solutions are among the companies that currently offer Marketplace and performance data, respectively, for Windows Phone 7 apps. Express your thoughts on WP7 Marketplace and app usage trends. Drop me a line at krichards@1105media.com.

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 02/01/2011 at 12:54 PM2 comments


Living Large with Windows Phone 7

Microsoft shipped 2 million copies of the Windows Phone 7 OS in the fourth quarter, according to several published reports this week. What that means in terms of actual activations and device sales is unclear; carriers and retailers to date have not publicized sales data.

Microsoft Senior Product Manager Greg Sullivan also indicated that in January the Marketplace has surpassed 6,500 apps and 24,000 developers have registered to develop for the platform. No matter how you analyze the numbers, the initial release of the platform is attracting developers, and more than a few consumers, despite the spotty service offerings in some countries (no Bing and partial Zune) and limited network coverage (GSM only) in the United States.

It's a start but familiar patterns have surfaced. The UI design of the phone is innovative but Microsoft still seems locked in the old software model of releasing products that are close to ready and fixing the bugs and missing features over a lengthy period of time. One WP7 purchaser described himself as an unwitting "beta tester" and offered up a long list of what he thinks needs to be implemented or fixed.

The obvious remedy is to get the updates out. The first Windows Phone 7 update is expected this month but based on Sullivan's comments, Windows Phone 7 users may have to wait a while. He reportedly said, sometime in "the next few months." The first update could even be on hold until the CDMA version of the technology, anticipated in the first half of 2011.

Microsoft also needs to ramp up the consumer marketing, and fast. I continue to be nonplused by the mediocre ad campaigns put forth by Microsoft and its advertising agency despite all the money that is being spent. Why not run a spot where Bill Gates calls/texts Mark Zuckerberg? Think of the creative possibilities for hilarious interactions between these two and then blast the ads on TV, online and throw in a few YouTube videos that continue the story every once in a while to really get everybody's attention.

The pitch: Bill and Mark decide to meet up, use the Let's Go app to find a nearby burger joint and Bing Maps to get there. Bill glances at a diet app to decide what to order. Mark checks Facebook. Bill tweets. They talk about something geeky. Bill glances at a Stocks app; they joust about who is worth more. Bill keeps an eye on his Xbox Live account. They use a tip app to calculate the tip, start to leave and then stop and take a picture in front of the restaurant to post on Facebook.

Who wouldn't get a kick out of an ad campaign like that? (And no, it's not like those ill-conceived Jerry Seinfeld ads that even middle-aged people who watched the show in the 90s didn't get.) People of all ages are familiar with these two tech billionaires and more than a little fascinated by how they got all that money. The younger generation is now hyper aware of Mark Zuckerberg thanks to the film "The Social Network," which reveals the somewhat unseemly origins of their lifeline, Facebook, and the wealth that Zuckerberg and others allegedly attained along the way. Bill Gates is known to people of all ages, including my nieces in elementary school, not for Windows or Xbox or his work to promote world health, but because he is annually anointed "the wealthiest man in the world" (well maybe not last year). Every media outlet and talk show in the United States, not to mention other countries, would have to cover the campaign and help make people aware of Windows Phone 7 in the process.

Why not introduce an ad like that during the Super Bowl? It's funny, multi-generational and it just might work. People would at least have an awareness of Windows Phone 7 and its apps and many would probably check out the devices at some point. Microsoft needs to lighten up and revamp its image. A little humor would go a long way and, like it or not, when "money" talks, people listen.

What's your take on the latest Windows Phone 7 numbers? Tell us what you think about the platform, consumer awareness and the quality of the apps in the Marketplace so far. Express your thoughts below or drop me a line at  krichards@1105media.com.

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Posted by Kathleen Richards on 01/27/2011 at 12:54 PM3 comments


Is Microsoft the New Web Platform for Open Source CMS?

A flurry of announcements in the last few weeks centers on content management systems and the latest developer tools from Microsoft.

Released in mid-January after a lengthy upgrade cycle, Sitefinity 4.0 was rewritten from the ground up, according to Telerik, with a new ASP.NET architecture that features widgets based on ASP.NET controls, an enhanced interface and support for .NET Framework 4 and the revamped Windows Workflow. Earlier versions of .NET are not supported. Telerik RADControls for Silverlight and ASP.NET AJAX, and the OpenAccess ORM are included with the CMS. Telerik acquired Mallsoft, an ecommerce technology company, and has plans to integrate an ecommerce module.

DotNetNuke released version 05.06.01 of its namesake CMS. The oldest, open source CMS for .NET (first released in 2002) is accessible via the open source app gallery for Microsoft's new Web development suite WebMatrix 1.0. DotNetNuke 5.6 also supports Microsoft's new Razor scripting syntax, released this month as part of ASP.NET MVC 3.

In 2011, CMS stands for "cloud, mobile and social," according to Shaun Walker, founder and CTO of DotNetNuke, who talked about the company's plans going forward during a Microsoft Channel 9 interview earlier this month at CodeMash 2011. DotNetNuke supports Amazon Web Services and Rackspace. Windows Azure integration is underway, according to Walker, who envisions an on-demand version of the CMS. Plans for mobile and social appear less concrete. The roadmap entails enabling a good Web experience for different devices (including TV) and publishing to social networking sites such as Facebook. Facebook integration is supported via third party modules, but it is not yet part of the core platform.

Drupal 7, the open source PHP-based CMS released earlier this month after a two-and-a-half year upgrade cycle, has a new database layer, which supports SQL Server 2005 (and higher). The SQL Server Driver for PHP 2.0 with PDO support was released in August. The Commerce Guys worked on interoperability with SQL Server and contributed the code, according to Microsoft. Four generic modules developed by Schakra and Mindtree are also available: Bing Maps, Silverlight Pivot Viewer, Windows Live ID and OData. The popular CMS is accessible via the WebMatrix gallery, which also supports Umbraco, Kentico and Joomla.

Microsoft GM Jean Paoli blogged about the new interoperability earlier this week:

"What I think is interesting about the SQL Server Driver for PHP 2.0 is that it enables PHP applications like Drupal 7 to use the PDO "PHP style" and interoperate smoothly with Microsoft’s SQL Server database. This reduces the complexity of targeting multiple databases and makes it easier for PHP developers to take advantage of SQL Server’s business intelligence & reporting feature (which is also included in the free SQL Server Express edition, as well as SQL Azure features like exposing OData feeds."

Read more about Microsoft and Drupal 7 here.

The PHP-based SilverStripe CMS received Microsoft certification for Windows Server 2008 R2 in November.

Content management systems often fall into that wishful thinking category populated by many business intelligence systems and other do-it-yourself analytics software; so easy, even non-techies can use it, right? That oft used phrase, "there is no coding required" struck again earlier this month when Microsoft announced the release of open source Web CMS, Orchard 1.0 on CodePlex. Orchard is built on ASP.NET MVC 3, Razor and SQL CE 4. Developers can use the extension model to build out their CMS projects in Visual Studio 2010.

While CMS marketing is aimed at business stakeholders and Web producers, developers are left with the installation, configuration, customization and daily maintenance. Ever wish your company asked you a few more questions before deciding on a CMS?

"The decision making with regards to public Web sites is getting taken out of developers' hands," says Gabe Sumner, Telerik technology evangelist. "Developers are frequently not the decision makers for CMS purchases. What matters is the people who are creating the content; those are the people who control the Web sites.

"What [a developer's] role needs to be is to create tools that are consumable by people who don't understand the [underlying] technologies--that ultimately empower them to accomplish marketing goals."

Express your thoughts on Microsoft's push to support open source, content management systems. Should developers have a larger role in the decision making about Web sites, content management systems and the underlying platforms? Drop me a line at krichards@1105media.com.

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 01/25/2011 at 12:54 PM2 comments


First Payouts for Windows Phone 7 Apps Expected Next Week

Microsoft put developers on hold for Windows Phone 7 Marketplace payouts in 2010. Developers of popular apps may finally get some money for their development efforts.

The first payouts are expected before the end of January. The initial payouts will cover Marketplace app sales from October (after the phones shipped) through December of 2010.

Starting in February, Microsoft plans to process payments monthly and combine sales of WP7 and Windows Mobile 6.x apps, according to the senior director for Windows Phone Marketplace, Todd Brix, who announced the payout schedule last month. In order to receive monthly payments, developers' app sales must meet a minimum threshold.

Windows Phone developers can check performance data--app downloads and payout details--by using the Reports feature in the App Hub. The initial reporting functionality appears somewhat limited. Reports cover daily and cumulative downloads, but trial and paid for apps are combined, which makes actual sales totals harder to decipher.

One developer commented on Brix' blog:

"At the moment to get total paid counts - you have to trawl through each of the breakdown pages and manually add up the rows with 'paid' status. I currently have 5 pages to trawl through (when looking at all my apps) - so it's quite cumbersome to do this."

Microsoft is looking for feedback from developers on the Marketplace performance data and reporting functionality, available since early December.

It's amazing how the excitement around smart phones is enticing programmers young and old to try their hand at developing software. All Things Digital's Ina Fried profiled an 8th grader this week whose free iPhone app, Bubble Ball, knocked Angry Birds Lite (the free version) off its perch as the top freebie in Apple's App Store, with 1.5 million downloads.

Are you developing for Windows Phone 7? Express your thoughts on the coolest apps so far and tell us what you're working on. Drop me a line at krichards@1105media.com.

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 01/20/2011 at 12:54 PM0 comments


Free Web Tools Arrive En Masse from Microsoft

ASP.NET developers received an unexpected bundle of joy yesterday when Microsoft unleashed a slew of free Web development tooling. The common thread among the new products is support for .NET 4, Visual Studio 2010 and open source software.

Microsoft released the third generation of its model-view-control framework ASP.NET MVC 3. The latest framework adds the Razor view engine--a syntax template for embedding C# or VB within HTML. MVC3 also offers improvements in dependency injection, validation, JavaScript, output caching and other areas. The download is English-only; localized versions are expected in a few days, according to Microsoft.

SQL Server Compact Edition 4 is finally here. Unlike earlier releases, which are client-only, SQL CE 4 can be used in a Web server. The Visual Studio 2010 tooling support for SQL CE 4 is in SP1, which is currently in beta.

The timing of SQL CE 4 may bode well for Windows Phone 7 developers who are concerned about their lack of access to built-in data storage. Microsoft is expected to make announcements related to the Windows Phone 7 platform at the Mobile World Congress next month.

Several new tools are designed to streamline Web site development. Microsoft released the first version of WebMatrix, the Web site development suite that enables developers to use app templating or open source Web apps in conjunction with ASP.NET extensions, IIS Express 7.5, and SQL CE 4 (not yet supported by many of the open source apps) to quickly build sites and publish them via Windows hosting partners. The gallery of open source ASP.NET and PHP apps includes DotNetNuke, Drupal, SugarCRM, Kentico, Umbraco and WordPress, among others. IIS Express 7.5, the eventual replacement for ASP.NET Development Server within Visual Studio, which I blogged about earlier this week, is now available.

Microsoft also released the open source package manager NuGet, a Visual studio extension that enables developers to access and install open source .NET libraries from within the IDE. The NuGet Gallery, a beta Web site of hundreds of libraries, also went live this week. Developers can submit open source .NET libraries to the Gallery, according to Microsoft.

WebMatrix is described as a tool for "task-based" Web site development, but it still enables developers to write and customize code. Orchard 1.0, built on ASP.NET MVC3, Razor and SQL CE 4, is an open source CMS platform. Coding isn't required, but developers can use the extension model to build out their projects in Visual Studio.

Microsoft also updated its deployment tooling with the release of the second generation of Web Deploy (single server) and Web Farm Framework.

What's your take on Microsoft's efforts to improve its Web stack and support .NET developers' use of open source frameworks and libraries? Express your thoughts below or drop me a line at krichards@1105media.com.

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 01/14/2011 at 12:54 PM0 comments