Friday, April 2, 2010
Windows phone 7 Developer Q&A: Amit Regev, SBSH Mobile Software
Posted by Jason Dunn in "Windows Phone Developer" @ 07:00 AM
In our ongoing series of Windows phone 7-focused developer articles, this is part three (here's part two), with Amit Regev, SBSH Software Founder.
WPT: Looking at what Microsoft has announced at MIX10, what's your general impression of their development platform for Windows phone 7?
SBSH: We've only recently received access to the development tools and we are still learning the possibilities of the new development platform, so I still can't give a determined answer for this. Nevertheless, it is good to see that Windows Phone development is moving to new development tools, such that will help us develop things much faster, focus more on the apps core and less time on UI elements.
WPT: As a developer, can you do what you want with Silverlight and XNA, or do you need native code? What about the APIs Microsoft is providing, and the SDK? Does it give you what you need to create new applications?
SBSH: From the little I've already seen and tried, it really depends what you plan to develop. If you plan on developing Windows Phone games, Silverlight and XNA offer some great capabilities to create rich gaming content. However, creating apps with advanced features becomes very complex and in many cases I'm afraid might be impossible.
Although Windows Phone got a very powerful engine underneath, developers receive access only to the very top layer of this OS, access which is extremely limited at this early stage. This situation is very similar to what we are seeing today with webOS and its powerful Linux engine underneath and what we've witnessed with the early days of the iPhone.
For most of our apps we'll need access to native code. I'm pretty sure that as the new WP matures MS will offer a solution that will help developers combine the benefits of the new WP7 UX and access the powerful engine capabilities that are currently inaccessible.
WPT: Looking at your application portfolio today, how many of those applications can be ported/re-created to run on Windows phone 7? How much work will be required for this to happen, and do you plan to release those applications for Windows phone 7?
SBSH: Currently we believe we will be able to port 3 of our apps for Windows Phone, but I'm sure that as the OS matures we will be able to port additional apps and also develop new unique apps for the new platform.
Since this is all very new and we are still learning the new OS development it will be impossible to give exact time frames for development, but I'm sure development will be faster compared to current Windows Mobile 6.x development, so we are definitely glad to see things are starting to move with Windows Phone. Currently, the main problem with Microsoft's Windows Mobile is that most of the hardware and devices outpaced the operating system itself in terms of design and UX. As developers, we end up spending precious development time building our own controls that will fit the new touch oriented devices and so forth.
From a third-party developer perspective this is bad practice and we always prefer to use the OS UX. The fact that WP7 brings modern UX with it will help us focus our development on our apps engine and core features and spend less time on UX and controls. I believe that on the long run this change will greatly help WP7 move forward!
We hope to have a first WP7 app ready during 2010, but we are still in very early stages to give more details on this.
WPT: For the non-developers out there, which would include me, what's the big difference for the types of applications that your company developers when it comes to managed versus native code?
SBSH: Developing with managed code is simpler and faster, but for the most part more limiting. You can look at this as another layer placed on top of the native code that provides you easier access, but leaving behind access to a set of tools that you might need if you try to develop complex apps.
WPT: What do you think of what you've seen of Windows phone 7 so far? As a developer, do you see potential in the product for you to make money?
SBSH: I believe WP7 is a good step forward for Microsoft, engaging the long awaited and badly needed new user experience, such that will help developers refine their apps and bring a new generation of apps that are fitted to modern devices. This includes smoother animation, ease of use, leaving the old fashioned stylus concept, adopting support for capacitive touch screens and so on.
All of this doesn't guarantee we will see a live market growing around the new OS. This depends how Microsoft will build their Marketplace and whether users will accept the new platform. I believe it is still a bit early at this stage to predict whether Microsoft will succeed building the correct ecosystem that will generate a powerful market such as the App Store and App World. Nevertheless, WP7 is definitely a good step forward that can help MS get there.
WPT: If you could ask Microsoft to make three developer-related changes to Windows phone 7 - either the on-device software, or the ecosystem as a whole - what would those changes be?
SBSH: From development perspective I hope MS will succeed to provide us with an SDK extension that enable developers to take advantage of the OS core features, such that will enable developers to mix native code along with the official managed SDK that will be used for UX and simpler features. We are seeing a similar situation with Palm's recent announcement about the PDK - Plug-in Development Kit - which basically brings the best of both worlds together.
Providing developers with access to the engine layer is the fast track for powerful apps that engage the new operating system UI and UX.
From a marketplace design perspective I believe MS currently impose too many restrictions, these restrictions hurts both developers and users and limits the growth of the market and genuine apps from reaching mess users. I hope MS will slightly loosen their apps restrictions for their Marketplace, yet still impose a certain level of limitations that will help generate an organized marketplace with good reviews system.
Jason Dunn owns and operates Thoughts Media Inc., a company dedicated to creating the best in online communities. He enjoys photography, mobile devices, blogging, digital media content creation/editing, and pretty much all technology. He lives in Calgary, Alberta, Canada with his lovely wife, his son Logan, and his sometimes obedient dog. He likes most of what he sees in Windows phone 7.
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