Since this is the UK Student Blog, we;ve asked a few of our new Microsoft Student Partners to write guest posts for us - and first up is Tom Dwyer. Tom is a 19 year-old technology enthusiast with a passion for writing from Manchester. You can follow him on twitter and check out his own writings on Neowin but for now, over to you Tom!
Mango, a tasty fruit found all over the world. Coincidently it shares the same name as Microsoft’s new Windows Phone update – 7.5 Mango.
Mango is the first big update to Windows Phone and the company’s aim appears to be not only to provide a fantastic user experience but to provide a great platform for developers to let their ideas flourish in a way that takes minimal time, knowledge and effort to bring it to life. Alongside the 500 features that Microsoft have implemented into the user experience, they have added a lot of cool new features for developers that should make developing for Windows Phone an easier and more pleasurable experience.
To kick off, live tiles now have the much awaited ability to display notifications. Not only does this save time for the user, it brings a lot more information to the user from a glance – making their experience on the phone more rounded and friendly. However, adding this feature could put an increased load on the battery, draining it rapidly. An app such as a RSS reader would update frequently and with several apps running at any one time, the battery would be lucky to last two hours. Luckily for us Microsoft realised this could be an issue and have thought of a solution to the problem – background agents. The purpose of adding the background agents is simple, they allow for apps to be scheduled over a period of time so that the app can still update, but doesn’t constantly run which ultimately saves a lot of battery life. This idea of background agents ties in with another major feature – multitasking. Going from app to app on a Windows Phone can be tiresome. Going backwards and forwards to get to the app you want wastes time and reduces productivity. Microsoft have listened to its users and built a true multitasking capability into Mango which lets you glide through games, web pages, contacts and anything else that they feel necessary to open at the same time. It’s a feature that other mobile operating systems have had for some time now, however it’s clear Microsoft have spent that extra bit of time in perfecting the feature.
With multitasking in mind, one might think that there may be users that easily and unknowingly overload the processor with actions. Changes in the fundamental architecture mean that developers and users can pull even more power out of the processor than ever before – reducing the chance of overloading the processor, not that it was any easy feat to do so in the first place.
Anyway, we’ve spoken about improvements that have been made in Mango but realistically what do you gain from developing for Windows Phone? Improvements are nice and all but what do developers really enjoy? Having the resources and platform to develop apps that could never have been made previously. This is exactly what Microsoft has provided – 1500 new APIs for developers to dive into. Along with the new APIs, Microsoft has opened up access to the accelerometer, compass and location sensors among others. By opening up access to these sensors and APIs development for Windows Phone can increase and developer creativity, imagination and outright skills can be put to good use in helping users get the best possible experience from their apps. A technology that is quickly gaining ground - augmented reality, can now be properly explored on Windows Phone thanks to Mango and bring what is a brilliant conceptual idea to life. We have already seen AR put to use in the LG Optimus 3D and it’s about time that Windows Phone takes a piece of the action.
While this article only covers a fraction of the new incentives for developers, Microsoft have developed a platform that allows one to productively make an app with the help of a large developer community and a stockpile of resources at hand. With more OEMs coming on board, most recently ZTE, Fujitsu and Nokia, they bring a group of developers with them that can only enhance the Windows Phone platform.
Thanks Tom for the great guest post! If this article has your mouth watering for Mango, check out the Building Applications for Windows Phone Mango Jump Start, live online now!
So the rollout of Windows Phone 7.5 – Mango – has started and I was one of the lucky ones who got access to it yesterday. Its a staged roll out and you can check here but it basically says delivering update for all operators in the UK. The official Windows Phone blog has all the info on process etc so worth checking there if you have any questions.
I plugged in my phone (HTC Mozart) to the PC and loaded Zune and the update started almost immediately. As there are 2 updates, Windows Phone 7.5 and an HTC update which happen sequentially, the whole process took about an hour but everything was preserved and worked seamlessly.
There’s a whole list here of all the new updates but I thought I’d share a couple of the ones I have found most interesting so far.
New speech commands – I spend 90 minutes in the car every day so this is a great benefit for me BUT I need to spend a bit more time setting it up BEFORE I get in the car to make more efficient use of it
Posting to Social Networks – simple - On Start, tap Me, and then tap Post a message. Now to Facebook, Windows Live, LinkedIn and twitter. You can do all but as a guideline that’s not good practise. It was good before but its fantastic now.
History view. Contact cards now show the history of your recent calls, emails, texts, and chats with the person. Just tap in the list to return the call or go to the thread. I have used this a lot already and I think will be used by a lot of people.
The device was always quite quick but my initial impressions are is performance is better as well.
The one thing I miss (and its only one extra “touch”) is folders has gone down a level in email and I used to use this a lot.
So initial impressions are fantastic and we are getting lots of positive feedback so if you have a Windows Phone – tell me what your Mango favourite feature is and if you don’t have one – why not ?
Design is more important than ever for both devices and applications so its really rewarding to see Windows Phone win another award which Steve Clayton wrote about on his blog here. The Metro Design Language is getting noticed.
If you are writing phone apps or are stuck with a challenge – get in touch via Facebook or hunt down someone at your Uni who is doing a Design course and get the best of both worlds – your dev skills and their design experience.
You can get all the tools from www.DreamSpark.com and registration on APP HUB is free if you are a student plus there is a lot of information to get you started! Go on – start developing (with a designer) and publishing that app of an idea you had last week!
There has never been a better time to start developing for Windows Phone! As a student you can now get access to the same tools that professional developers and designers have to pay for, for free; allowing you to focus on selling your mobile applications and make money!
Along with all the free developer tools, we're waiving the marketplace registration fee and giving you the ability to publish your first 100 application submissions for free! What are you waiting for?
Step 1: Register on www.dreamspark.com
Step 2: Download the free tools
Step 3: Register on App Hub (making sure you register as a student)
Use the tools you download to create applications and share your creativity with the world!
Publish your apps by midnight on the 30th September 2011, send us an email at email@example.com and send us a link to your app in the marketplace, and we’ll raid our cupboards and see what goodies we can find for you!
For more details, additional content and training materials by clicking here!
We like to make a personal connection with you all (we try as much as we can) so in that spirit please meet our latest team member. Rather than me waffle on I’ll let Joanna introduce herself in her own words – please say hello if you connect with her online or if you meet her in person.
Hi everyone, my name's Joanna Tong and I have just joined the Academic Team at Microsoft alongside Ben Nunney, who I’m sure you’re very familiar with, and all of the other wonderful people who help to run the Microsoft UK Student, Faculty and Emerging Business programmes.
Like Ben I’ll be working as an Academic Developer Evangelist which means that I'll have the incredible job of evangelising Microsoft technology within the student community, telling you about all the cool stuff we’re doing, the amazing stuff that Microsoft technology enables you to do, and essentially being one of your points of contact should you need any help, advice or just a general bit of chat.
I am really excited to meet new people, and I imagine I will be meeting many of you in the upcoming months in many of the events that we’re holding and helping out at amongst the student community.
I studied at UCL for an MEng degree in Computer Science, meaning I have a pretty intense passion for technology, which I’m sure you share. As a graduate entry into the MACH program at Microsoft I have a lot to learn which is fantastic as I have a great support system in both my team and the company as a whole. This is why if any of you are considering a career or an internship, I’d strongly urge you to apply to Microsoft and see where the journey takes you. If that’s not on your agenda but you still want to do some innovative things with technology, Microsoft caters for that too. There’s DreamSpark for you eager developers and once you’ve gotten into the swing of things there’s the opportunity to get your technology out into the public eye, particularly through the Windows Phone medium, where it is so easy to publish your apps onto the Marketplace.
In my spare time I like to cook (and eat), read up on some financial news and watch a cheesy show or two. If any of you share these sentiments don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @joannatonguk (it might be pretty empty right now but I promise I’ll populate it with needless tweets in next to no time).
I’m really looking forward to meeting so many of you soon and I hope that I can, with the help of my team equip you with the tools and skills to become the developers of the future.
Going to Uni for the first time (or just need some new technology) then the Windows team here in the UK has put together some pretty good offers – including our very own DreamSpark. so while DreamSpark gives you the development tools , for free, to help you build applications or mess around learning new skills then why not check out the site to get some new hardware to run it all on.
The list includes laptops, through Windows Phones, hard drives, speakers and games consoles. Just being sensible for a moment, don’t forget to check if you are insured. Loads of students seem to think that they’re covered on their parents home insurance, but finding out the hard way that you’re not is never fun. Find out more about the student offers HERE.
Don’t forget you can connect with us on Facebook or follow us on www.twitter.com/msukstudents