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    WP7 SDK Nifty Classes

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    My tally for Windows Phone 7 applications isn't too high. Not compared to some of my friends at Three Red Cubes. In my defense though, I've been working on several MVC projects that are pure fun to work with. But to close the gap, I got down and dirty and wrote Laaalallaaa Share (?share)

    The application is really simple but it uses a very interesting .Net namespace Microsoft.Xna.Framework.Media and some classes from Microsoft.Phone.Tasks

    MediaPlayer:

    This static class exposes a number of methods and properties to access the media player (duh!) and the library.

    For example I used the properties in MediaPlayer.Queue.ActiveSong to find the details of the current song being played. MediaPlayer.State holds the status of the media player, use it to find the state of the player.

    This class also exposes a number of events such as ActiveSongChanged or MediaStateChanged that lets the application know if the current song has changed or if the song has stopped/started playing. Handy stuff.

    MediaPlayerLauncher

    Launchers and Choosers in the Windows Phone world give us developers access to a number of operating system and user functionalities.

    The MediaPlayerLauncher is used to "start the media player and play the media file you specify." But you don't necessarily have to play a file, you can just take the user to the music player, like I did. Read more about this class

    ShareStatusTask

    As of Windows Phone 7 Mango (Windows Phone OS 7.1), this class exists in the Microsoft.Phone.Tasks namespace. This class launches "a dialog that enables the user to share a status message on the social networks of their choice."

    By setting the Status property and calling Show you could get to the People Hub's "Post a Message" page and let the user post away. Read more about how to use this task.

    There you are, three nifty little classes that do really cool things that I hope you'll use in your next application. Say... when you sign up for The Developer Movement and win a bunch of expensive cool gadgets or Imagine Cup and win a lot of money!

    This post also appears in Code Trek.

    Kowsheek Mahmood | MSP

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    EpCon 2 = Canadian Entrepreneurship Conference

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    EpCon 2 showcases great Canadian student entrepreneurship and ends with a blast of Windows Phone apps! The Microsoft team talked about the Canadian Imagine Cup, the Developer Movement and the experience of working at Microsoft.

    image

    Hey Epcon 2! Thanks for geeking out with us!

    Thanks to the EpCon 2 organizers and attendees for putting on a fantastic conference! We loved the energy and enjoyed geeking out with you! Check out our video with Bobby Umar to hear what had to say about being at Epcon2.

    And the winners of EnCode are…

    Hat tip to those who developed a Windows Phone App at EnCode! Says Who is taking home the Xbox/Kinect bundles with Location Sender coming up as a very close runner up. Make sure to get these apps published so we can all enjoy them! Also, if you’re interested in Windows Phone development, making some money, or getting more awesome prizes join the Developer Movement – it’s simple and you can get started today!

    Think you can change the world… enter Imagine Cup!

    For those you who are eager to change the world – check out Imagine Cup, one of the world’s premiere technology competitions. Imagine Cup, is looking for students, like you, to help solve some of the world's toughest problems through technology.

    Challenges surround us at every turn—from worldwide issues, like poverty and famine, to everyday local concerns, like traffic congestion and recycling. We're asking you to step up and make a difference, to do your best to tackle just one challenge using Microsoft technology.

    In addition to the global categories, there are two local Canadian categories that you can enter in this year:

    · Software Design (Deadline March 13)

    · Windows Phone 7 Game Design (Deadline Feb 14)

    Microsoft will bring the top three teams in each category to compete in the Canadian championships. The winner of the Software Design category in Canada, and the top 10 finalists in the Game Design category in the world, will compete in the worldwide Imagine Cup finals in Sydney, Australia.

    If you and the team make it that far, you'll get the chance to garner international attention for your project, win prizes and grants to help you bring your idea to life. So what are you waiting for? Register now to change the world. Enter Imagine Cup!

    That’s all for now! We’re looking forward to keeping in touch with you through Imagine Cup, and the Developer Movement!

    For more information and to register for Imagine Cup

    Imagine Cup Canada
    Imagine Cup World Wide

    For tools and information about developing for windows phone

    Developer Movement – Free Phones, Xbox and Kinect for publishing phone apps
    Microsoft DreamSpark – Free Software
    App Hub - windows phone and xbox live games development

    Microsoft Canada’s GoDevMental Team. Keep up with what’s happening for Students in Canada:

    Go DevMental on Facebook
    Go DevMental on Twitter
    Go DevMental Blog
    Canadian Technical Students on LinkedIn

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    Winning on the Marketplace: Tips on getting promoted

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    Once you have built your app or game and have published it into the Windows Phone Marketplace, you’re likely going to want to monitor the uptake of your app via download and (potentially) revenue statistics.  You are also going to want to find ways to market your app to people who may not know about it.  There are several ways of doing this, some more costly than others.  One of the most effective ways of marketing your app is actually completely free – have the Windows Phone Marketplace showcase your app!  It sounds easy but there are a few things you need to do to increase the chances of this happening and that is what this post focuses on.

    One of the more effective ways of marketing your app is being chosen for promotion in the Windows Phone Marketplace.  We’ve seen how being promoted in the Marketplace can materially affect the download numbers of you app in a positive way.  The Windows Phone Marketplace offers a great number of different ways your apps can be promoted as well, which we will talk about, but first here is a graphic that shows the different ways you can be promoted and how each type of promotion increases your downloads (based on averages from apps that have been promoted on the Windows Phone Marketplace in similar ways in the past):

    PromotionStats

    In essence, there are 3 types of promotion available on the Marketplace and the graphic above shows those ways.  Each has value and being featured in any of those buckets can mean good things to the adoption of your app or game.  Each type of promotion is unique and their values are described below:

    • Panorama Placement:  Panorama placement is the premiere placement for promotion on the Windows Phone Marketplace.  In essence, the when a user opens the Marketplace app on his/her phone, that user will be greeted by a panaroma image of your app (this is the panorama image that you included with your app upon its submission for certification).  The value of this placement is immense as we have seen a 2000% increase in downloads for an app (on average) that is featured in panorma mode.
    • Featured Icon Placement:  Being promoted as a featured icon is the second best way to be featured on the Marketplace.  Your app/game will be seen on the very left portion of the screen of the panorama of the Marketplace (i.e.:  if you flip the screen left by one full phone screen).  Your tile is prominently shown as is the app name, basically enticing users to tap on it and explore what your app entry on the Marketplace says.  Apps that get Featured Icon Placement on average see an 800% increase in app/game downloads during their time being featured.
    • Featured List:  The third mode of getting featured in the Marketplace is the Featured List.  In this list, your app will be featured alongside a number of other apps.  Featured List apps appear in the list of apps in the categories of the Marketplace.  While your app is not as prominently visible compared to the other two methods, it does return an average of a 150% increase in app/game downloads.

    As you can see, being featured is very much worth your while.  While your app is featured (usually for a period that lasts anywhere from 3 to 5 days), you will likely see a noticeable uptick in your app downloads which you can then amplify through any other marketing methods you choose to use throughout your app’s lifecycle.

    So how do I get promoted?

    So you’re sold on the whole featured app thing and want in.  How exactly do you get your app featured?  While there is no specific steps that will guarantee your ability to be featured, the featured apps process is implicitly a fair one (the best, most popular apps will bubble up to the top).  If you feel you have a great app or game, you should read the following sub-sections to get a better understanding of how the Marketplace team assesses quality apps.

    gettingpromoted

    Functionality

    A functional app is more than one that passes the Marketplace certification.  Think of a functional app as a contract between yourself and the user.  When a user downloads your app or game, they are likely doing so either from the description of your app on the Marketplace, it’s screenshots or by recommendation from friends or other users (including ratings).  In any case, they expect your app to have an experience that is consistent with any of those inputs.  If it’s not, then the app is likely to be less popular and as a result, be less likely to be promoted.

    Functionality

    Utility

    An app that shows utility is one that thoughtfully includes features that take advantage of the Windows Phone platform.  Features like Live Tiles, Search Extras, multi-tasking and the like.  It also refers to apps that differentiate themselves with amazing user interfaces that are both visually appealing as well as intuitive and productive.  The Marketplace team also look at the stickiness of the app, which is another way of saying “is this an app that users will use often?”.

    Utility

    Delight

    The final area of differentiation that the Marketplace team will look at in apps and games is how the app will delight users.  This is where most featured apps really, really shine.  If the app shows a “wow factor” (a decidedly unscientific term for sure, but you generally know it when you see it), if it is really unique and has something that no other app or game has, then that is a way that your creation will delight users. 

    A must for the delight factor is proper and effective use of Metro, the Windows Phone Design language.  This is more than just square tiles and lots of text.  To implement Metro properly, you need to take into account a number of principles of the Metro design language (see here and here).  If your app follows these principles properly, your app will look amazing on Windows Phone and have a truly awesome experience on the platform.

    delight

    As you can see, you need to think hard about the quality of your app if you hope for it to be featured.  That said, the payoff of getting featured might very be worth the effort you put in.

    I have just one last tip for you before this blog post series on Marketplace success strategies is finished:  When looking at apps to build, sometimes being featured is a numbers/statistics game.  If there are categories within the Marketplace that are currently underserved compared to other categories (for example, as of the publication date of this post, the Politics section is light in apps compared to other categories like Entertainment and Sports), then your chances of getting featured are that much greater.  Just food for thought…

    This post was the fifth and final post in a series of five posts on strategies for being successful on the Windows Phone Marketplace. The first post (publishing in the right geographies) is here. The second post (trial mode and the art of the upsell) is here. The third post (finding the pricing sweet spot) is here. The fourth post (the differentiation game) is here.

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    Getting to the Imagine Cup finals is easier than you think!

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    IMG_1220I think many students think you have to solve world hunger or cure malaria to win the Imagine Cup. All it really takes is one idea and a few passionate students.

    Think of the many problems faced by the underprivileged, the sick, the poor, the hungry, the environment, local charities, schools, disaster relief agencies.

    Think of the technology we have available to us today: Kinect, Azure, Windows Phone, Windows Live, Windows embedded, Windows 8!

    Is there a problem you can imagine helping to solve using those technologies? or a phone game you can design themed or inspired by them?

    Can you help

    • inspire others to preserve our incredible natural resources?
    • kids who are falling behind in math or language?
    • the local Boys & Girls club help kids into higher skilled jobs?
    • First Nations communities preserve their heritage and language?
    • remote communities stay connected and receive better services?
    • the local food bank or local blood services with their drives?
    • groups of like minded people work together to solve bigger problems?

    What matters to you? Take a minute to think about problems that have touched your life or left you thinking “how could I help.” Maybe you have a friend with Muscular Dystrophy who could be guided in physical exercises with a Kinect, or you were touched by the massive response to the disaster in Haiti or forest fires in Kelowna a few years back and want to figure out a tool that would help connect rescue crews or help communicate with people in affected areas so they know where to evacuate or find emergency services, maybe you were bullied as a kid and want to create a support network to help other kids who are being bullied now.

    The options are limited only by your imagination. When you enter the Imagine Cup, you have a chance to try to help others with your imagination and skills. I think sometimes we feel intimidated because it is such a big competition, but don’t be! If you read up on the judging criteria under IMPACT, you are scored highly for either helping a lot of people a little bit, or by helping a few people in a big way. You already know how to code, now you just have to apply those skills you have learned to solving a problem that will help others. It’s not that hard…

    Step 1 – Register as an individual or as part of a team, make sure your school is part of Imagine Cup!

    Step 2 – Find a mentor to help you out, professors, industry, or someone at a local charity could all be potential mentors

    Step 3 – Come up with an idea!

    Step 4 – Compete – Round One is really just about submitting the idea. But you need to register soon!

    Deadline for Round One Windows Phone Game Design is February 14, Round One Software Design is March 13th

    6 teams of students will be on stage at the Imagine Cup Finals in Toronto representing their schools. One team will represent Canada in Australia? Why not you?

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    Microsoft Recruiting visits Carleton University

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    imageMicrosoft Student Partner Adam Wlotzki helped at a Microsoft recruiting event and shares the resources he discovered and the unexpected challenges of the evening.

    I finally got to be a part of an event at Carleton University, where I am a student. What a crazy experience. Don’t let “crazy” give you the wrong impression, though. It was certainly fun, but a few major obstacles were in our way.

    First, our room was double-booked. So there we are, set up in a classroom. The class is getting more populated by the second, and I begin to wonder if we even have enough room. Surprise surprise! Some people are there for the event, and some are there for their regular class. Oh boy. What to do now? Never fear. Let’s take about 100 people, led by Susan Ibach, and manoeuvre them through the hallways of Carleton University to find a spot to hold an event. Luckily, we found the atrium, and there happened to be chairs and tables off to the side. We grabbed chairs, spread them out, and we were on our way.

    Not having any media devices since we didn’t have our room, Susan (pictured above) had to give her Windows Phone 7/Imagine Cup presentation without any visual tools. Key points for people interested:

    Next we had two Microsoft employees speak: Heidi Dowling, a recruiter from Redmond, and Mark Staveley, who works on the Xbox gaming platform, also from Redmond.

    image

    Heidi had a lot of useful information for trying to get a job at Microsoft as a student. Check out the following:

    • microsoft.com/university -Find opportunities like new grad jobs and internships, and tons of other useful information for your job hunt.

    Mark gave us a sense of what it’s like to work for Microsoft in a technical position. He gave some great advice. He tried to emphasize finding out what you are interested in. Do you like to build solutions from scratch? Then a software development position might be for you. Do you like to break things down, figure out how they work, and try to break them? Check out Software Development Tester if that’s the case. Do you like to have a vision and drive it to completion? Maybe a Program Manager position is for you. Mark had a lot of great tips, but I suppose the one that stuck with me was him saying “If it is to be, it is up to me.” That is advice anyone in any position can benefit from.

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