Nokia/Microsoft WinPhone7 Developer Event

Yesterday I went to the Microsoft/Nokia Windows Phone 7 development event so I could get a feel for the platform from a developer perspective, and I came away a lot less positive about WinPhone 7.

There were two speakers who presented the 4 or 5 sessions, neither was from Microsoft or Nokia, and both made glaring mistakes, one to the extent they had to start a session by apologising for what they’d said in a previous session because it was wrong (it was about how WinPhone7 manages application instances to service requests to start the same application from different live tiles, so it wasn’t exactly an obscure feature).

One of the speakers, who was from Hull university, seemed to think taking shots at Android was interesting or useful, but his jibes missed some key points (e.g. saying people had to revert to tasks managers to handle apps that drain the battery, which indicated he’s not used Android since before 1.6 was released a couple of years ago which included the ability to see this info using Settings -> About phone -> Battery Usage).

They also presented information which encourages badly designed apps which ignore existing hardware features (e.g. focus on portrait unless you really have a need to address landscape because it involves more than twice the effort, which, to someone who owns an HD7 with a kickstand that holds it in landscape mode, seemed particularly short-sighted).

One of the speakers also encouraged something which highlights a problem with the WinPhone7 Market; He suggested moving your apps between categories to reach different users and said one application he knew of received a significant download spike each time the category changed. To me that shows app discoverability on WP7 Market must be pretty poor.

I sat next to a guy who’d been involved in the development of Psion handhelds which used what’s now called Symbian, and he, quite vocally, was pointing out the problems with the information given out (e.g. encouraging developers to programatically manipulate the back-stack due to the framework not handling it in an intuitive way, and the assurance all WinPhone7 hardware would be the same, followed a couple of sessions later by details of how some ‘phones currently have a gyroscope which needs to be checked for before you use it, followed later on by a statement on how there’ll be a variety of platforms coming along to address the budget market, mid-range market, etc.).

In some ways it was quite telling that a Microsoft employee approached myself and the Symbian guy to clearly point out the presenters weren’t from Microsoft and so their information should not be considered as having come from Microsoft or Nokia. Which I felt was not exactly a nice way to back up the people MS & Nokia decided to put on stage.

Personally I came away with the impression that if this was the best Microsoft and Nokia combined could offer developers then either they’re not serious about putting effort into developer relations, or the level of developer skill in the WinPhone7 world is so poor that they had very few options, which wouldn’t surprise me given a very amateur looking game with pretty simplistic physics which was demonstrated has more than 10,000 downloads. (It’s called Destruction Golf if you want to take a look at it)

The session moved me from being interested in WP7 to thinking of holding off until WP8 before looking at it again, and from talking to some of the other attendees I know I wasn’t alone, which, I suppose, is one step up from the guys who sat on the other side of me to the Symbian chap who thought it was such a wash out they walked out about half way through.