Questions answered by Windows Phone expert Ben Lower

Originally posted by Microsoft Student

A big shout out to Ben Lower and all the student developers that participated in the exciting chat this morning on the Microsoft Student Facebook page! If you missed it or want to read the advice that Ben gave your peers, we have recapped the conversation below, everything from one of Ben’s colleagues cheering him on to Ben’s Aunt Susan wishing him good luck and all of the awesome student dev questions in between. Thanks again for asking such wonderful questions about your experience with developing with Windows Phone. Ben was excited that so many of you participated!

From Ben, “Thanks to everyone for all the great questions & for your interest in learning more about Windows Phone. I highly encourage you to utilize the Find My Champ application (http://www.windowsphone.com/en-US/apps/a84f1740-0047-4408-b317-c2db01a70fb4) to find Microsoft experts in your area who can help you with your developing questions on Windows Phone. You can also get the full source code for this app at http://findmychamp.codeplex.com/

Ben Lower

Full recap below:

Q: How would you define a scope for students as WP developers? Also is channel9's Absolute Beginner tutorial sufficient for developing Pro apps?

Ben: Thanks for the questions. The scope could be whatever you want it to be. It depends on what you are trying to do – build ur skills as a dev, build experience, make money, etc. Absolute beginner is a good start. Also check the Windows Phone Jumpstarts (http://channel9.msdn.com/Series/Mango-Jump-Start/Mango-Jump-Start-01-Building-Windows-Phone-Apps-with-Visual-Studio-2010)


Q: What are the basic fields that I should be an expert in to be a Windows Phone developer?

Ben: You need to be able to understand the context of mobile applications: you have a small screen, limited computing power, and all those sensors (GPS, accelerometer, etc.). Then, it really depends on what type of experiences/apps you want to create. You might need lots of design expertise, lots of data expertise. If you can build Windows Phone apps using C# and learn VB.NET languages, that will help. It really depends, but you also need to be able to code and to be good at learning as you go since you'll likely be forging new ground.


Q: Is there any way to use Native Code coming to Windows Phone?

Ben: We have received this request many, many times from developers and it's something that we are definitely investigating for possible future release. What is your specific need for native code use on Windows Phone?


Q: I am wondering because I know that would be a very good push to the platform. By the way, I'm a last year student of computer engineering and I also have some experience (limited) developing in Android's platform, but since I got my Windows Phone I'm totally in love with it. So I was thinking to start developing some apps for WP. I'm also interested in an internship with Microsoft. Do you think starting to develop for the platform is a good beginning that could help me with my internship request?

Ben: Cool and good luck in your final year. Getting some good apps or other project experience on your resume will definitely help your internship/job search. For Microsoft, check out https://careers.microsoft.com/careers/en/gbl/student.aspx


Q: What kind of laptop are you using? It looks stunning!

Ben: Thanks! I'm using Samsung series 9 with a custom, I ♥ WP ASCII art skin that I made.


Q: Thanks for the live chat session! Any idea when AppHub will be available in more countries? It is quite expensive to use third party publishers to publish our apps.

Ben: You are welcome! Thanks for joining us and for the question. We are always working hard to expand the number of countries for developers. In fact we just added 13 new markets for consumers yesterday (http://windowsteamblog.com/windows_phone/b/wpdev/archive/2012/03/28/marketplace-now-open-in-13-new-markets-are-your-apps-available.aspx). Our goal is to make App Hub available in as many places as possible, but it's very complicated and so takes more time than we (and you :-)) would like. Where are you running into high expenses with a third party publishers?


Q: Thanks for the answer Ben. Because I live in Macedonia, I need to go through http://appamarket.com/ . And if you look at the pricing page, it is simply too much for a student to pay :(

Ben: I understand. I know that some of our global publishing partners have reduced pricing for students. Did you ask them? Also, try looking at http://www.yallaapps.com/ who I know help students with lower pricing.


Q: Thanks for yallaapps.com Ben. Much better rates there. Could you tell us what is the ONE feature you like the most on the WP7? :)

Ben: I love the People Hub the most because it brings all my contacts from Hotmail, Gmail and Outlook into one place and also merges with Facebook & Twitter status for my friends. I use it all the time!


Q: I know C and C++ very well. I am interested in app developing for Windows 8 apps, so what other technical knowledge do I need? Is it possible with these skills or should I learn C# for XAML,XML. Can you please tell me all the possible combinations.

Ben: If you want to build Windows 8 apps and Windows Phone apps today, then you'd likely be best served to focus on C# and XAML as those skills are pretty transferrable across both platforms.


Q: Expression Blend for VS 11 is very buggy, sometime can't even copy and paste, it is laggy compared to developing in Windows 7.

Ben: VS 11 is still in preview release and will be slow and have bugs :-) performance improvements usually come as we finish up the product for release.


Q: Why doesn’t Microsoft make Windows OS in phone an open source, so that it can become widely used by everyone?

Ben: Microsoft invests a lot in open source in various ways: Codeplex, ASP.NET MVC (http://weblogs.asp.net/scottgu/archive/2012/03/27/asp-net-mvc-web-api-razor-and-open-source.aspx), and others. It's not part of our strategy to open source the entire Windows Phone OS.


Q: I have basic knowledge of C# and ASP.NET, but don’t know anything about windows phone development. Where do I start?

Ben: Best starting point is our Getting Started Guide (http://on.fb.me/HlayBU) which will link you to great free tutorials and online resources.


Q: Is this possible to make Android apps using .NET framework.

Ben: Yes, you can use Mono (http://xamarin.com/monoforandroid) to build Android apps using C# and .NET...but why would you want to put yourself through that pain & suffering ;-)


Q: Would you recommend making a custom local search app (for offline use) for the windows phone 7.1 device for a beginner?

Ben: That sounds like a very good project that will cover different aspects of the phone: GPS, maps, offline data storage, sync to web, etc. I'd always encourage you to focus on a project that you care about, as your passion will help you stick it out and really learn.


Q: Many people think WP7 is not a good market to invest in. What is your view on the market compared to Android and iPhone?

Ben: Windows Phone is a unique experience compared to our competitors. We offer developers and designers a unique canvas upon which to create engaging experiences. Most developers tell us they can get their apps built for us faster and easier than on other platforms. We provide free tools and students can join App Hub free of charge. Plus, you can still standout in our marketplace which isn't overrun with hundreds of thousands of apps. Nokia has essentially bet their company on Windows Phone and they are getting great traction with their first devices they have released. Not to mention that you have people like me and our Phone Champs (http://www.windowsphone.com/en-US/apps/a84f1740-0047-4408-b317-c2db01a70fb4) who truly care about the success of our developers and will help you be successful.


Q: I want to work on the Windows Phone application with database support. Does 7.1 SDK support SQL lite for apps or only7.5 supports? Are there links to resources where I can refer about how to work with local databases for Windows Phone apps. Also, can I write into the resource XML sheet of my app from input fields presented in the app? Can I use the XML as a storage resource?

Ben: We added SQL CE support in 7.5. You can save your data locally to the device in many ways including XML. Watch this video for some amazing tips on how to manage local data storage and sync. http://research.microsoft.com/apps/video/dl.aspx?id=158954


Q: Hi Ben! Do you see the windows market as more of a niche market for business related applications? What other visual studio add-ons/plugins do you use for WPD?

Ben: I don't see it as a niche market at all. We are seeing all sorts of apps & games. I use Telerik controls and the Silverlight Toolkit, but I spend most of my time in VS & Blend.


Q: Hello Ben, I am creating a simple note taking application called Sribbble, and I only have two bugs that I have yet to find a fix. One is the textbox which seems to have a limited height. I have checked it's properties and max height, which is set to infinity, but when you type over 45 lines you are still able to type, but the text is not visible. You can scroll past that point, but the text just is not visible past about 45 lines. I checked other note taking applications and many of them have the same bug. Do you know of a way to work around for this? Thank you.

Ben: Sorry that you're running into that issue with the textbox in Scribbble. I'm not sure on this, but you can ping @JeffWilcox on twitter who should be able to answer.


Q: Thank you, Ben for this initiative! I'm wondering is there any news about Native Arabic Language Support in the next update of Windows Phone? I've been creating workarounds and Custom Silverilght Controls to let the text display correctly from right to left, I've also created a new Arabic Keyboard Layout to be able to develop apps in Arabic. The web browser used to display Arabic letters, but in reversed order and after the Mango update, the web browser acts really weird when it tries to render a page that contains Arabic content, not even in reversed order, sometimes you'll not be able to see the page contents at all.
*If anyone needs help in displaying Arabic content in their windows phone 7 or any general help in building WP7 apps or Silverlight Apps feel free to contact me, I'll be happy to help! :)

Ben: I've seen your work and give you props! Very cool that you implemented Arabic support. We understand the importance of supporting RTL and Arabic and are investigating possibility of that at some point in future.


Q: I encounter a problem when using a map inside a pivot. It works on emulator without any problem but crashes on the phone. I found many developers have similar problems. Is there any simple way to overcome it?

Ben: We don't recommend that you put a map control inside a pivot. There are workarounds mentioned in this MSDN article: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/hh202919(v=vs.92).aspx


Q: When manipulating sounds in the Silverlight, is it possible to create a global instance of the sound to be able to change its properties independently from what page is being navigated inside the applications?

Ben: I believe this is possible, but I would need to look up on MSDN to be sure. Contact your local Phone Champ for more help on this question.


Q: Hi Ben. I am from Macedonia, and this country is not supported by the App Hub, so we cannot do a developer unlock on a WP device. Before, there was Chevron, but they sold out all the tokens and I don’t know any other option. Is there any other option to unlock a device for development, or is there any option to get unlocked developer device?

Ben: Sorry that we don't yet, support Macedonia, but you can check out our global publishing partners such as http://www.yallaapps.com/


Q: Hi Ben. Is there any way to exit the application?

Ben: You can exit apps on the phone by hitting the back button repeatedly until you exit


Q: Hi Ben, I was wondering if in the future we'd have more control on how the keyboard is displayed and on how our app is scrolled (or not) when the keyboard appears. Dealing with this really was a pain.

Ben: Not sure, but you can raise this and any other requests on http://wpdev.uservoice.com/. We use this site all the time to get feedback from our devs and help us plan and prioritize our work.