Archive for April 2012
I thought I’d post something here about a new community initiative relevant to Aussie Window Phone users, developers and bloggers called ‘Developed Down Under’ – which officially went live to the public around 24 hours ago.
So What is Developed Down Under (aka DDU)
The idea was originally conceived (just over a month ago) by Scott Sheedy from wpdownunder.com to deduce a way of grouping together and promoting Windows phone apps from Australian developers. Garry Holden from Handiware suggested the name ‘Developed Down Under’ (which we ran with after consensus on twitter).
some of the goals of DDU included
- To improve visibility of App’s on the Windows phone platform that have been made by Aussie Developers.
- To help Aussie Windows phone users quickly find and locate Apps directly relevant to their local Aussie market – and have an easier way of identifying these products when looking at blogs, news sites etc (ie. coming up with a recognizable logo/icon and name)
- And similarly to what is being done with Apps – promoting local Aussie bloggers and news Sites who cover Australian specific Windows phone news.
And an App is born …
Last week the concept evolved from an idea (and a lot of behind the scenes work by Scott) – into a full blown Windows phone app (with inspiration from products like wp7nl, appflow, etc).
This product allows users to view a catalogue of Aussie Developed Apps – and then click through directly to that App’s page on Windows Marketplace (where it can be downloaded/purchased/rated/etc). There’s sections such as ‘Apps for Aussies’ (which filters out a list of apps purely designed for localized Aussie stuff like news, travel, weather etc) – and ability to browse by publisher, genre and get randomly selected ‘quick picks’.
On Wednesday night last week – Scott put out a call to all developers (http://www.wpdownunder.com/?p=4639) to nominate their own apps to be included in this catalogue (nb – this is where to go if you want your apps to be listed – it’s a live/online catalogue so we can add you in at any time) . Due to concerns with privacy/copyright issues – it was determined that simply auto including titles may cause numerous issues (and also that there was no simple way to determine which publishers on Marketplace where actually from Australia).
And by Thursday night last week (after I spent a whirlwind couple of days developing it and setting up all the required server side magic whilst Scott simultaneously put together the other required pieces) – the initial app was done and dusted and certified to marketplace.
You can see the App’s product page at : http://mobilewares.net/DevelopedDownUnder-WP7.aspx
Keep in mind of course it’s an initial release (0.9) – and the focus was to get something out there – so lots of bells + whistles that we didn’t have time to include will be added in coming versions.
An Amazing first Day Launch…
Last night (around 8:30pm) – after receiving a publishing success notification from Marketplace in the morning – we noticed the app could finally be downloaded via the deep link – and went live. We timed it with an awesome review from 1800pocketpc.com (who’d been provided with a XAP a few days earlier). You can check it out on the link below (there’s even a video there too of it in action).
Then overnight things went crazy – thanks to the above review, the overall buzz being generated on twitter (under our chosen hash tag #wpddu) – and a great placement in the WP7 new list (the App was actually one of the 4 listed ‘new’ apps on start page of online versions of Windows Phone Marketplace around the world) - resulting in a huge amount of downloads from all corners of the globe (and that was before the Australians who this app was targeted at had even woken up).
Today (thanks to some awesome behind the scenes PR work by Scott) – we also got plugged on a number of news sites – including a couple of real biggies (that reached out further into the mainstream than we’d ever expected), such as :-
Not to mention some of the awesome WP7 focussed news sites who helped spread the word too over the past week (along with a swag of positive and encouraging tweets in the #wp7au community too) :
Peter’s Kitchen : http://www.peterskitchen.net/?p=7639
Now nearly 24 hours later – I’m staggered by the amount of people who have installed this app. Even though I have some pretty popular titles in the AU Marketplace (and have had similar in the US before) – I’ve never seen such a large volume of users downloading a Windows phone app before in such a short space of time.
The Developer Response
However – none of this would be possible without the humbling show of support from the Australian Windows Phone developer community – who have been submitting their apps for us to include.
As per the snapshot below from the scorecard – (catch the real live one on wpdownunder.com ) – a few hours ago we were up to 76 submitted apps (from 22 publishers) – well on the way to our first 100.
There’s still quite a few more AU developers out there we would like to get on board (who likely have not heard about it – or were away for Easter break) – and hope they can come in and nominate their apps when they hear about it. If you’re one of them – please click here to visit the signup page on wpdownunder. It’s free, quick and may be the best thing you’ve ever done for your App (ok that’s a stretch – but you get the general idea).
We’ve also had 3 other news sites/blogs (apart from wpdownunder) providing dedicated Aussie Windows Phone news feeds for us to use in the App (via the aggregated news feed which shows all the content chronologically) – 1800pocketpc.com techin5.com and peterskitchen.com – culminating in the ‘best of the best’ of Aussie WP7 news. Huge thanks to all of these sites for their support!
The Win-Win-Win cycle of DDU
One of the great things about this initiative (apart from it being driven by an enthusiastic community) is that it’s an all round win for everyone (if it’s successful of course – but looking quite likely from our first day’s feedback/downloads).
I don’t know which comes first (the chicken or the egg) – but the way I see the cycle is :
- More Apps submitted into DDU = more content for users to look at
- More content for users to look at = more people wanting to use the app
- More people using the app = more downloads/visibility for the publishers submitting the apps
- more downloads for publishers = more apps being made
- more apps being made = more submissions to DDU
and so on and so forth…. (I could quite possibly throw in the More Aussie Apps = More Handsets Being sold type cycle in there too – but you get the drift..)
So what are you waiting for – go and download it now – it’s free!
Anyhow – if you want to check it out – please visit http://mobilewares.net/DevelopedDownUnder-WP7.aspx (for product page and deep links) – or alternatively – point Bing Vision on your Windows Phone to the following QRCode below (and you’ll be taken straight into the app download page in the Marketplace App).
Don’t forget to visit http://wpdownunder.com to keep up with news – and share the love on our twitter hash tag #wpddu
And on that note – a massive thank-you to everyone who has supported this initiative with submissions, tweets, words of encouragement, news , downloaded the app!
It’s truly awesome to see the wp7 dev + enthusiast community come together like this for a common goal – and I’m really excited about the potential of where this will all go.
The week before last – I set about updating the WP7 Sports engine that’s used to drive the mobilewares sports apps (currently using it are AU Footy 2012, AU League 2012 and Sup-Rugby 2012) – and along the way decided that it would be a good opportunity to implement Low Memory Device (LMD) support.
Before I go into the LMD thoughts however – here’s some pics of some of the new (non LMD specific) features which these will include (screenshots taken from AU Footy 2012 – but others will have same enhancements) :-
(Left) New home page which aggregates latest results, upcoming games and the ladder filtered to your team.
(Right) New tabs in the Team viewer page – such as the ‘results’ tab where you can view all games played for the year and the current standing in the ladder.
Apart from new features (and what’s pictured above) – the LMD support in these apps essentially now means when you view maps and web pages – the external o/s apps are launched (rather than it being embedded in the page) – bringing the memory consumption down to the acceptable amount.
LMD Support Thoughts and Suspicions
For those that haven’t heard about LMD before – in a nutshell – there will be a bunch of low cost Windows Phone devices released this year – aimed at developing markets (and the lower cost end of the smart phone market – where Android has a massive share). These devices will be restricted to only 256mb of memory – half as much as majority of existing handsets – and will have certain core features stripped from them (such as ability to use background agents). One of the upcoming LMD devices already demoed is the Nokia Lumia 610 – and more are rumoured to be on their way (from manufacturers like Huwei).
I’ve been in two minds about LMDs’ – one being that it could be the vital ingredient to making WP7 a successful platform (by getting it into loads more markets + market segments previously ignored) which I’m all for – but secondly (on the flipside) – I’m really concerned about the potential fragmentation of the platform which will inevitably come about by this.
It’s important to note that lack of fragmentation was one of the key things that MS more or less alluded would never happen on WP7 (and given as a reason why WP7 was a better dev choice than android) – so I’m a little surprised to see this happen. The net effect of LMD being introduced is also that many developers will need to go back and update + resubmit their app’s – simply because these devices are not 100% backward compatible .
Digging Deeper into (potentially unnecessary) LMD Restrictions
When I went through the steps of implementing LMD support (thanks to a great article at Best Practice Tips for Delivering LMD Apps ) – I began to become a little more suspicious that this fragmentation (which developers would wear the brunt of) – was somewhat unnecessary. In fact – would have to say it’s either come about by a lot of laziness (or lack of time to do things properly) by Microsoft – or a direct intention to fragment the WP7 market and create the distinction of have’s and have-not’s.
If you read the article linked above – the crux of what no longer works reliably or at all (in order to ensure your apps don’t use more than the ~50mb allowed) fall upon three main areas – their Silverlight Bing Maps Control, the Silverlight Web Browser Control and lastly the clincher restriction – that background agents will not be allowed.
With the case of the Bing Maps + Web Browser controls – the message is – well hey you can use them – but we wouldn’t recommend it as loads of memory *may* be used (which of course you don’t have any control over as a developer) and your apps may crash. This struck me as quite odd – as surely Microsoft could have gone to the effort of enhancing these controls so they ‘degraded gracefully’ and worked within the new memory confines (by offering less caching/buffering/image quality etc – or at bare minimum – not crashing the app hosting it). Putting it back onto the entire developer community to update their apps (because they couldn’t fix their own components) – particularly with all the problems + delays with Marketplace certification – seems to me to be quite an ask.
With the background agents - particularly periodic tasks (the ones that can run every 30 minutes and do stuff like updating live tiles etc) – again it struck me as really odd and unnecessary that these were now no longer able to be used. Keeping in mind the memory limitations on developers writing background agents are extreme – only allowing developers to use 6mb of memory in the process – so surely these didn’t need to be dropped from the LMD platform.
I pinged Justin Angel (who I believe wrote the article above) – who had mentioned that basically it wasn’t because a single background agent (using ~6mb) would be an issue – it’s that if several of them were running at once then it would require a whole lot more memory (ie. 10 agents =~60mb). So I asked why not just ensure only one can run at a time (as a LMD restriction) – ie run them one after the other – and was basically told there was some (strange) notion by Microsoft that developers expect agents to run dead on 30 minutes and 0 second intervals to be useful (and running them sequentially was not acceptable).
Personally I’m not clear of any existing App which would not function properly if an agent ran after 31 minutes or 29 minutes etc. instead of bang on 30mins 0 secs etc.. I’ve never ever had an end user request anything like this either – just that the agent runs ‘roughly’ every 30 minutes (as opposed to not running at all).
I as a developer would have welcomed background agent support in LMD at the cost of any reliability of intervals (and lack of parallel tasks) – without it I now have to go and update and resubmit an app which had no other issues whatsoever with memory – and without out it users can’t utilize a vital and important part of my app. Any claims by Microsoft that background agents shouldn’t be a core part of your app are seriously misguided and out of touch with what end users are not just asking for – but demanding.
Summary / Thoughts
My conclusion/thoughts around LMD are that Microsoft really could have done this quite a lot differently – and just didn’t think (or care) about the ramifications to developers – and to end users (who are likely going to be quite confused by this fragmentation). As mentioned – the main issues for existing apps on LMD are not the apps themselves but the controls Microsoft provide with the platform – the bit they are supposed to be handling.
I strongly suspect (as with many dev related WP7 matters) there was little to no consultation with the ‘real world’ app developers about this by MS – and they locked themselves away in a room and tried to ‘second guess’ what they thought developers wanted (or that as suggested above – MS intended to fragment the market for some strategic reason). I just can’t possibly see how any developer would have been OK with what they drummed up.
It’s probably too late for them to do a u-turn on this unfortunately – but I do wish they had just spent a bit of extra time in order to get this right. I’m really personally excited by what these new low cost devices could do for the WP7 market share – so I hope this additional effort/sacrifice developers will need to go to will pay off.
my 2.56 cents