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!