Yesterday was a long day to London, up at 4.00am for a 6.00am train with Dan Harris to London. A slight delay on the train, and we arrived to start at the Windows Phone Camp hosted by Lost Boys International.
WOW! What a place to work, the building had a very industrial theme to it, with art on the walls but the most noticeable bit was the fridges of beer, water and coca cola with a sign above them “Welcome to to LBi, help yourself”. What a great start to the day.
After registering and being lead downstairs there was even more insight into the good life that some of our counterparts at LBi enjoy, the break-out area was filled with pool tables, ping-pong tables couches, coffee tables, and a bar, complimented with more industrial meets 60’s diner decor. How do these guys manage to go home?
The first session was an introduction from Microsoft UK evangelist, Mike Ormond. Of all of the sessions in the day, I must say, I found this to be the most useful. It explained the overall design and development process. We were given some stencils and a design pack to help with designing our first Windows Phone apps. It was great to understand the differences between Pivot and Panorama views in Windows Phone apps, from my initial contact with the templates that come with Microsoft Expression Blend and Microsoft Visual Studio 2010, this was one of my key questions – they hadn’t immediately appeared all that different to each other – but now I find myself quite easily differentiating between parts of apps that are using each, and understanding why.
The rest of the day was then broken into lecture style sessions, and opportunity to use the break-out area. I attended the Silverlight Toolkit session. It helped me understand how to implement transitions between screens/elements during page transition, and fundamentally how to navigate between screens (which hadn’t leapt out to me when first picking up Windows Phone development – just goes to show it’s worth coming along to some sort of training session/boot camp like this).
At lunch time there was an exciting announcement for the Windows Phone Camp attendees that there’s a Nokia Lumia 800 for each of us so that we can test our apps if we can send the details of our apps over to them. Fantastic! Inspiration or what? I’ve had a number of ideas on my list for a couple of months now, since getting my own Windows Phone (see my other posts for my experience with that). Now was the time to get started on putting one together based on what I’ve learnt.
I took a break to get to work and met the excellent founders of WindowsPhoneGeek.com. Very friendly people, and not only did they direct me to an excellent repository of Windows Phone development news and advice (their website of course), but after finding what I’d look for in a repository of useful tools, showed me what they have to offer on their website. It sounds like it fits my requirements of a great free software component repository – free (truly), and includes community rating so I get a good understanding of whether the component is the correct one to use.
Within the hour I’d made fantastic progress on my first Windows Phone application development, an app to monitor/manage the status of MyDigitalMedia’s Kentico customer’s websites. This is a common requirement, and this functionality is normally available via the Kentico CMS built in Site Manager, but that doesn’t render very well for mobile use, which is when I usually get most of my calls from my customers. That 5.00pm call after I’ve left the office, saying they can’t get to their website. And usually, my answer is, I’ll check in the next 30 minutes when I can fire up my laptop, connect the mobile broadband and get onto the site manager. What better way to quickly get an answer for my customer than to check the app… whilst they’re on hold! That’s customer service if you ask me.
My experience, being a .NET developer, I’m currently working with WPF & Silverlight, WCF, WF, WinForms, WebForms, Windows Services and Web Services, so I have a fairly wide set of skills… picking up Windows Phone Development has actually been really quite easy.
I don’t think if I’d dumped myself in the deep end with WPF and Silverlight over the last 12 months, getting to grips with XAML I’d have found it as easy to adopt as I have, and my recent change in behaviour to using Microsoft Expression for UI exclusively and Visual Studio 2010 for code exclusively has certainly made my application creation progress so quickly. Infact, within just 3 hours I had the Windows Phone components of my application complete. I’ve only got to develop/finish the web service now that will read the status information from Kentico, and update as necessary.
Back to the day, I attended an excellent session hosted by Pete Vickers of Appa Mundi, on how to get your app into shape for submission to the Marketplace, including a full walkthrough of both testing your applications, the tools that you can use to test your apps yourself, and the extensive testing that Microsoft will carry out to certify your application before publication to the Marketplace as well as the actual submission process. A both useful, and well presented session by Pete, to finish off the day.
Back out onto the streets, we had a few hours to see the Tower Bridge in the snow before heading back on the train, by which point we were all very knackered and struggling to keep our eyes open I think.
A very worthwhile day, and I’m now all excited about my first app development.
I remember about a year ago someone asking me why I bother developing websites, and end-to-end business solutions… they told me that phone apps are the easiest way to make money at the moment.
Whilst I still disagree with them, I can see opportunity to make some money out of developing Windows Phone apps for the marketplace, but the main thing is I enjoy developing the full end-to-end solution for our customers. Providing them with a full answer to their business problems, rather than just a small piece of the jigsaw. I see developing apps for the Windows Phone platform fitting into this, and providing me with more ways to deliver the solutions that my customers demand in more ways than ever.