TD3aHello, everyone!  Before I dive into the specific content of my subject title, I’d like to (re)introduce myself to you.  I’m Paul Laberge and I’m a Developer Advisor with Microsoft Canada’s Developer and Platform group.  Those of you who have been following the Canadian Developer blog for a few years may recognize me from my posts a while back when I was covering Silverlight and other web and UI technologies from a Microsoft Partner angle.  Since then I’ve been lucky enough to immerse myself in a few other roles at Microsoft Canada (most recently helping some big Canadian brand customers build Windows Phone 7 apps), but now I’m in a new role again, working with the awesome Canadian evangelism team that you know and love.  It’s great to be officially working with the great folks on this team as I’ve enjoyed working with them in the past. 

It’s also great to be blogging again – you’ll see me being active on our blogs going forward.  My focus will be on Windows Phone and our mobility strategy so if you have questions about our mobile platform feel free to contact me on Twitter or via Microsoft Canada’s community connection blogs.

Alright, time to get to the good stuff!

This past Monday (July 18, 2011), the App Hub was offline for the better part of the day for planned maintenance and upgrades.  These upgrades provide some significant new features and functionality that will benefit you as a Windows Phone 7 developer. This post summarizes some of the more pertinent info, but if you want the full, detailed story, you can check out the official Windows Phone Developer Blog post by Todd Brix here.

What’s New in the Windows Phone 7 Marketplace

  • Geographic Changes
We have introduced the Marketplace into 19 new countries/geographies from a consumer standpoint. 

Impact: The reach and number of potential consumers of your apps and games will be much larger than it used to be.
  • Pricing Tiers
The Marketplace has been updated to reflect currency rates that more accurately reflect the price of your app compared to the US dollar as of today as this has not been done since the Marketplace opened 9 months ago.

Impact:  The cost of your non-free applications and games to your users in the geographies you support will be aligned to the US, making it more fair.
  • Enhanced In-App Ad Support
By the end of 2011, the Microsoft Advertising pubCentre will be supported in 18 countries, including Canada.

Impact: If you build ad-supported applications, your ability to monetize your apps may be increased depending on if your app is available in some of the new ad-supported countries.  For some interesting stats on the benefits of using the Microsoft Advertising pubCentre, see here and here.
  • Private App/Game Distribution
One of the gaps in the Marketplace that developers have told me about in the past is the lack of private distribution of apps.  The typical usage scenario for this is for beta testing apps and to allow only specific users access to an app.  With this update, you can give up to 100 users that you select access to an app in the Marketplace for 90 days (this is our “beta testing” scenario answer).  For “private” applications that you do not want publicly available, we now give you the option of publishing your app privately.  The app will not be discoverable via search on the Marketplace and you can distribute your app to users by giving them a deep link that will send them to the app in the marketplace (this is our “Targeted Distribution” scenario).

Impact:  If you are building apps that you want to test out with larger number of users without having to developer unlock their WP7 devices, the Beta Testing scenario will give you greater flexibility in doing this while maintaining control on who you invite to the beta.  If you build apps like Line of Business/Enterprise apps that you don’t want to have widely available in the public, the Targeted Distribution model is a great way to deliver the app to legitimate users.
  • Application Management
I can’t count how many developers I have talked to that were frustrated with the fact that anytime they wanted to change the metadata of their apps/games, they needed to resubmit the app for certification, even though no material changes to the functionality of the app were made. That changes now – metadata changes to apps and games can be made directly in the App Hub without recertification of the app. 

We also provide much better analytics for your apps and games via the App Hub dashboard and you can even download these metrics into Excel.

The submission process has been streamlined as well to make it easier for you to submit your app.  Thanks to the feedback from developers such as you, the Marketplace team has incorporated a large number of your suggestions and have made the submission process much cleaner than it was in the past.

Impact:  As an app or game publisher for Windows Phone 7, your ability to monitor the popularity and usefulness of your app to your users has increased, which allows you to make more informed decisions on how to improve your app in future releases as well as give you a better understanding of how well your app is doing in the Marketplace in general.

With the introduction to the new Marketplace functionality on the App Hub, we have updated a number of documents that you may have seen there as well in the past.  The list below provides links to some of the more pertinent updated documentation that you may want to review: