Sorry for the delay– here’s the MIX11 wrap-up!
Wednesday MIX11 keynotes opened with a video that turned out to have been developed by 24-year old Brandon Foy, by request of Microsoft after being made aware of a fan video he had made. Microsoft VP Joe Belfiore told the audience that if the Youtube video gets 200000 views, then Brandon’s video will be made an actual Microsoft commercial. So support crowdsourcing and help the guy out (he’s at 83890 as of this writing)!
Joe went on with a lengthy apology/explanation for the latest WP7 update delay. Their goal, he continued, is ‘more, clearer, disclosure’. The complexities of the mobile phone world seem to have caught Microsoft by surprise… something perhaps Nokia can help them with (Joe is excited at the prospects, and at one point invited Nokia’s Marko Argenti onstage to present on their behalf).
Joe thanked the community for a rapid embrace of WP7. MS is seeing great support from both community and commercial developers. MS intends to do more to improve developer opportunities and help them improve the quality of their products. IDC and Gartner see WP as the second largest ecosystem by 2015. This means embracing more languages and enabling app acquisition in more countries– the latter increasing from 16 to 35 by end of 2011.
Discoverability is of course on the minds of many developers, especially small and independent developer organizations. This encompasses launching apps already installed as well as finding new ones. Joe demoed solutions on an Asus phone running the Mango build of WP7. Digging through thousands of apps is not fun. Joe showed how organization, integration and relationships are used to help users get at what they want.
Next Joe ran a mobile IE9 shootout between a Windows phone, an iPhone 4 and a Nexus S. Of course the Windows phone won, but given the the browsers are natively-compiled, I have to wonder if the builds were fully optimized for their platforms.
Joe certainly won crowd approval by announcing better API support for device sensors. He demonstrated a book barcode scanning example that got to Amazon.com quickly and easily. Motion-oriented apps were addressed with a feature that could scan an audience and depict the tweets and tweeters. Next Fast-app switching was covered (new: 3rd party multitasking). The goal is an “instant resume experience” depending on available memory. The app used for example was the client for the Spotify music service, just announced for WP7. Angry Birds coming May 25!
The demos were certainly cool, and some twitterers were quick to applaud the features mentioned… while others noted that Microsoft was announcing the addition of abilities that competitors have had for some time. Developer tools available within one month.
Scott Guthrie returned to talk about the WP7 developer experience. One new cool feature coming in the next update for developers is accelerometer support in the emulator. That announcement went over well! Location awareness emulation (via xml maps) was another plus.
New analytics tools in Visual Studio 2010 help developers identify where and why their code may be bogging down. Performance differences between the current release and Mango build of WP7 were highlighted next. The demos promised significant improvement. The Mango update will contain over 1500 new APIs!
For those disappointed that Silverlight was ignored on Tuesday, Scott stepped up today. Hardware decoding is being added for better video and general graphics rendering Remote control support also added. A new highly-interactive and immersive Blue Angels website was used to demo HTML5 and Silverlight features. I have to admit the site demo was really cool. The combination of crazy camera angles and and Silverlight 3D simulation worked well to draw viewers in.
The next demo built a 3D house, again using Silverlight in a program called 3D House Builder. The interface was very clean and easy to understand, and interactivity was extremely responsive, even with lighting and shading. John Papa announced the the app’s source would soon be released for developers to examine and play with (and now is).
Jeff Sandquist hit the stage next to share his excitement over Kinect being the fastest-selling electronic device ever. He announced the Kinect for Windows SDK, with support for C++, C# and VB. The worldwide telescope demo was one of the coolest I’ve ever seen. Closer to home was a ‘navigation for people with visual impairment’ using Kinect. A very fun Wall Panic 3000 demo followed (here it is at SXSW2011).
To cap things off in a big way: free Kinects for all attendees! I’m not an Xbox player but my teenage sons are, so this was a great gift (it was of course installed and in action soon after I arrived home). I’m not complaining by any means, but now I have to wonder at the interruption during the Tuesday keynotes when a new laptop was introduced. Maybe it was just a live ad.
I wasn’t able to spend much time there Wednesday due to flying out fairly early, and I wasn’t overwhelmed by the sessions available that day, so I spent most of my time talking with exhibitors and attendees. I was a bit stunned when someone on the Internet Explorer team expressed surprise that Nokia developed operating systems (!!!). I would have expected they would be well-versed in Nokia’s history by now…
In addition to loitering in the exhibit I had the great fortune of chatting with Nokia’s Ashley Walker and a few other Forum Nokia Champions. We shared a nice lunch and interesting talk, which I’ll cover in another article very soon.
Overall it was a valuable experience for me, with some caveats. The main concern was that there was no agenda for us Champions. We arrived, had one get-together, and then we were on our own. That’s not bad in and of itself– there was definitely plenty to do! But it would have been useful for us to spend as much time as possible together. In addition to after-hours socializing (which I missed out on, inexplicably) it would have been useful to have hooked up with Microsoft MVPs in attendance. There’s some common ground between them and Forum Nokia Champions, and it would be cool see where that could lead. Of course, it’s entirely possible there may be changes coming in one or both programs…
Ultimately, I want to thank Nokia and Microsoft for the opportunity to attend MIX11. It’s been quite a while since I have made it to one of these massive Microsoft extravaganzas and in many ways mixing it up with their devotees brought back fond memories. And while I’m still uncertain about the Microsoft-Nokia alliance, if nothing else I was assured that there’s a great deal of interest out there…