Windows Phone 7 – The Real Game Changer


 

Excitation

I am really exited in the direction Microsoft has taken with Windows Presentation Foundation and Silverlight, in that they have really demonstrated that they see these two technologies as the future of their user interface based aspects in their software by making significant investment in the technology. For a start, they have used WPF to great effect in Visual Studio 2010. Frequently, I spend 10 to 12 hours in Visual Studio and it is an absolute joy to use the 2010 version as the previous user interface that had not changed for a decade was showing its age. The number of enhancements in Visual Studio is plethoric, and includes automatically generated UML diagrams all done in WPF, but that really is another subject in itself.

A brief history

I decided to move the focus of my development over a year ago to WPF after spending a number of years in Windows Forms, before that it had been Delphi, before that C/C++ and domain specific languages primarily used in the medical, banking and defence industries. It was a bit of a gamble, because if you live outside of London (I am in Manchester), then WPF jobs are few and far between, as most business that required investment in software to gain the competitive edge has already done so. The opportunities with WPF and Silverlight usually arise in start-ups, of which I am involved in one at present. The exciting thing is not being tied to a codebase that is many years old, with a license to use the latest and greatest software. I moved the project I was working on to .NET 4.0 the day it was released, without needing endless meetings deliberating about the why, that what and the what for. It is beginning to look as the gamble I took has paid off, as I have overnight become a Windows Phone 7 developer. This included being a Silverlight developer as well.

Windows Phone 7

I, like many people use my mobile phone daily, and cannot imagine what it would be like not to have a mobile phone. I have been a little sceptical about the real usefulness of iPhone applications, as most of them presented themselves as bubblegum to me. Taste sweet for five minutes, then endlessly insipid afterwards. I have also been put off by having to learn objective C and the Apple implementation. The only Apple product I have owned was a G4 some years ago, but it ended up unused as it was not suited to the kind of development I needed to do at the time. My current mobile phone contact is up in a months time, I had resigned myself to getting an iPhone, simply because it is one of the best phones on the market, with a breadth of applications, something my current phone lacks.

I watched the announcement at Mix for the Windows Phone 7 with glee, and with the leaked images of a Dell phone (courtesy of Engadget) I resolved that I would have to wait till Christmas using my current phone as I had become a Windows Phone developer overnight

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Tools

I would say the chief issue that determines whether I do something or not now is how long it will take me. My time is very limited, so anything that requires a steep learning curve without a significant return of investment for that time usually means that I won’t look twice at it. this is also true for Microsoft release CTP’s so frequently it can be hard to keep up. I decided to download the CTP for Windows Phone 7, as a release that integrates with Visual Studio 2010 RTM has now been made available here. The installation was quick and polished enough to give me the confidence that it should not break my Visual Studio  installation. What you get is a version of Visual Studio Express (seems to me only C# at the moment, so I hope a Visual Basic version is available or is in the pipeline) that included the following template (also installed into Visual Studio 2010)

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After choosing the Windows Phone Application you get what looks more like a WPF application rather than a Silverlight application

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Press F5 and you get an emulator for the phone that contains a working version of Internet Explorer and the eye catching transitions between pages

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looking at the nuts and bolts of the thing, they are using the Navigation pattern that is so familiar to me, it seems like I am writing a WPF application. I will dig deeper into how one can leverage their existing skills to create a simple application for Windows Phone 7

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