Archive for the ‘Marketplace’ Category
Today was a pretty big day for me – as it marked the ‘official’ debut of mobilewares into the Windows 8 Metro/RT space – with 2 x titles (AU Weather Pro + AU Newswire) appearing in the Windows 8 App Store launched with today’s ‘Windows 8 Release Preview’ launch.
I was caught a bit unaware/unprepared for the the actual release this morning – so have not yet had a chance to get the new Windows 8 section of my site up and live where I’d normally provide details of my apps. Luckily for me AU Weather Pro was featured on the AU Store start page today (along with the SBS On Demand app – which is sortof like ABC iView but all metro goodness) – see https://twitter.com/techAU/status/208354899954642945/photo/1 for a snap shot (big thanks to @TechAU for posting this pic on twitter – hope they don’t mind me linking here).
Both apps have been ported from Windows Phone 7 platform – and when I say ‘ported’ that’s really only referring to some of the underlying ‘business logic / data services’ – as the UI layer in Windows RT and the type of user interactions being targeted for is just a whole different beast. (nb: In fact I would go as far to say that the suggestion by anyone that you can ‘just port your wp7 apps across to win8’ – is generally a pretty sure fire indication that they’ve never actually done it themselves).
It’s also important to note that both these apps are currently considered to be ‘Release Preview Editions’ – and although I wasn’t really allowed to mention this point in my app or App Store description (due to some strange certification rules) – they are basically ‘previews’ of some of the features you can expect to see in the final versions (aimed at the GA release of Windows 8).
So for the time being they are both completely free / free of any advertising – and yours to play with – warts/bugs and all. I will of course try to get some updates in over next few weeks/months, gradually adding features – and moving towards what the final product may look like (until then you’re all part of one big experiment #evillaugh)…
AU Weather Pro :
AU Weather pro displays a lot of similar information to the WP7 sibling (ie. BOM observations, forecast, Radars etc) – but the UI, flow, interaction and presentation is quite radically different (and I very much ‘re-imagined’ the whole experience from what the WP7 version had). Rather than having a lot of drill down pages (hanging off a central observation summary or forecast) – the widescreen/panning content groups all the information about a particular location in one place.
The way you do your settings and find locations is also quite different – basically mostly controlled by either location services lookups or entering a postcode (or suburb name).
Here’s a few screenshots below of it running in Landscape mode (it also supports portrait, snapped and filled views) – using the resolution/scaling found on the reference 10.3” 720p tablets.
Online Windows 8 Marketplace Deep Link : http://apps.microsoft.com/webpdp/en-AU/app/au-weather-pro/7b4f55b8-6e4c-48a8-8789-b29b9c1f892d
AU Newswire :
This app was probably a lot simpler/faster to get going – as unlike AU Weather Pro (which had some quite unique types of information to present) – the traditional Windows 8 panning grids/lists design being promoted via the template apps worked pretty well with it to begin with.
One of the new things I added (over the functionality in WP7 version) was the ability to tell the app which Australian State you reside in – and it then filters the available default topic feeds and ‘suggested other feeds’ (ie. If you say you’re in Victoria it will show you feeds from Herald-Sun, TheAge, ABC Victoria etc – whereas NSW users will be offered content from Sydney Morning Herald etc).
Another feature I added was ability to download an updated catalogue of feeds from the settings – so that way I can correctly handle changing RSS feed locations over time without having to deploy new versions of the app. (in fact there’s already an updated feed catalogue offered from what was submitted to the store with the app).
The look+feel of the app is also quite different to the WP7 version and tries to create a black+white/print style feel. See screenshots below :
Online Windows 8 Marketplace Deep Link : http://apps.microsoft.com/webpdp/en-AU/app/au-newswire/9e416d1f-f961-4934-a275-a28a7c17f8f8
Some thoughts for those about to rock (that is ‘those wanting to get some Win8 apps on the store’).
There’s quite a few gotcha’s for Win8 Development I should mention– particular for the RP version + submitting to the store.
1) If you ‘think’ you’ve got everything 80% there on Windows 8 CP build – you can’t just recompile for RP. There’s a massive amount of ‘subtle but painful’ changes – such as virtually every ‘allegedly’ constant Resource name for colors/brushes being changed slightly (and there’s no direct mapping for many). Additionally the logic and structure if you’re using the LayoutAware base class on pages has changed quite a bit – so you’re best off re-creating every single page in VS2012 and importing XAML and code behind into the new structures (making use of the LoadState overrides to initial everything – instead of OnNavigatedTo etc as you may have done earlier). In fact as a rough guide – it took me around 4 days to ‘recompile’ these apps for RP. (and quite a few XAML bugs were actually introduced – which I hope but doubt were fixed for the build released today).
2) If you’re about to ‘port’ from WP7 – reality is you can’t (unless you want your apps to really suck and fail certification) – and keep in mind a Win8 Metro apps is really about 4 times as much effort . Putting aside the completely different XAML layer/controls, .NET v4.5 framework changes, missing core classes (things are quite different and use cool new async based classes/code which is really nice but NOT compatible with your own code) – Win8 apps must work in Landscape, Portrait, Snapped and Filled views (requiring a lot of fancy footwork to adapt the layout) and then to make things really tricky – the screen scaling (based on the screen pixel resolution and the actual physical size) needs to be handled in a number of ways. Oh and then they need to support ALL of touch, pen, keyboard and mouse input – so this may throw many of your original designs sideways too. Then of course you need to redesign the user experience so more content is shown on each page (as you don’t have the limited screen real-estate you have on a wp7 device – with the exception of ‘snapped’ view which is kind of similar).
3) Certification is hard – really really hard. I’m hoping things improve for new developers signing up over the next few months – but for those of us who battled it out to get apps approved for the RP – it was a very hard slog. Apart from the certification rules not being actually documented in full anywhere just yet (was getting failed on points I didn’t even know existed – such as requiring an Age rating of 12+ because app had used location services) – like with the initial WP7 Marketplace launch – it’s clear the testers themselves have a bunch of different interpretations of the rules. Both apps each failed certification 3 times before they were passed – and each time I was given only a certification clause number a no explanation at all (and suspect I was given a hail mary the last time around lest the RP store launched with no apps at all). Let’s just say certification involved a week of pulling my hair out and several times I almost just gave up and put it in the ‘too hard I’ll come back in 6 months when they sort it out’ basket (really big thanks to some local/regional guys at Microsoft who helped me through this and restored my sanity).
4) There’s still quite a few bugs – hopefully some of them were ironed out for todays build (have not checked yet) – and others are possibly going to be sorted with finalized Display drivers. One which stumped me totally for a whole week (and seemed to first appear in RP) was that 8 bit transparent PNG’s won’t work properly (transparent pixels would turn black after 3 seconds) – the fix for that was to set images as being 0.99999 opacity instead of 1.0 (don’t ask me why but it worked). Another which caused a lot of grief – was using the GridView with Item template containing Variable Sized Wrap Panel seems to throw a berko when panned with touch – if you have groups with different sized items (I had one group with large tiles and another group with some smaller tiles that were shorter height wise). I actually had to redo the entire page and recreate the experience the GridView *should* have provided by using a scroll panel with child stack panels.
Anyhow the lesson learned is that it’s ‘still a beta’ (as is certification and everything else) – so expect the completely unexpected – and make sure you test everywhere (many bugs didn’t rear their heads until I used simulated touch on the simulator or threw it on the Series 7 slate). Then get any timeframe you had in mind (particularly if your first attempt) and multiply that by about 3 or 4 – there’s likely to be a massive learning curve involved.
But don’t worry – no pain no gain – and I think when I get going on app #3 I will used my newly gained knowledge of what ‘not to do’ to a big advantage and will hopefully be making the right design/functionality and UX decisions up front (rather than scaling back original ideas after failing to get them going to my satisfaction).
Anyhow I hope this is a new platform I can grow to love – and the end results seeing my apps running on a Samsung Series 7 Slate were likely getting that perfect golf tee shot (golf hacks like me will get what I mean here).
Oh and if you’re up and running with the RP release – be sure to give my apps a shot – and if you’re feeling generous stop in to the store and give me a nice review too (5 star reviews make me quite warm and fuzzy!).
The official Developed Down Under website went live a couple of weeks ago – and for launch we hadn’t yet added the new developed opt-in/submission process (which was still pointing at the original page on the wpdownunder.com blog).
So after a bit more tinkering and testing this part of the site is now live too – and should help make the signup quite a bit less tedious and user friendly.
You can check it out here at – http://developeddownunder.com/developers.aspx – or just click on the ‘submit your apps’ whilst on the site.
New Submission Process Overview
The idea of the new submission forms was to make it a smidgen quicker/easier for developers to include their apps – by adding in a few server side smarts and some more fancy validation of entered information.
One new cool thing is the ability to locate all your apps without having to dig out a Marketplace Deep Link for each and every app you’re submitting. Now on the new signup – need to only provide a single Marketplace Deep Link (for at least one of your apps – even one you aren’t planning to submit).
Once you provide a deep link – the website will go off behind the scenes to Marketplace – and fetch all your apps (by using the Publisher ID in the deep link you submitted) – and then displays them so you can quickly just tick the ones you want.
Once you fill out the rest of the information (your name + email are required – website/twitter info is optional) – you are taken to a confirmation page where you can finalize your submission.
Then when you hit the confirm button – we’ll get notified of your submissions and you’ll get notified too via an email. Note that we will still need 24-72 hours to approve/moderate your submissions before they appear in the catalogue (for those using the DDU Windows Phone app).
What’s next for the DDU Website
While there’s no definite timeframes – we intend to start including more features in the website as time permits – such as providing an online version of the catalogue (so you can browse them on the website without the DDU app) – and the ability to find out more about publishers.
Keep an eye on the website for more..!
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 process of WP7 app certification can range anywhere from being simply and quick – through to requiring mountains of effort, frustration and a really long waiting times in between.
The problem is that not only the testing is just completely random/inconsistent (you’ll see tons of apps being certified which clearly fail to meet requirements) – it appears a large amount of the testers are really struggling to understand the certification rules themselves – and regularly and invalidly fail apps which are perfectly OK.
To give you an idea of my experience with this – over the past 12 months – I’ve published ~25 apps in marketplace (each having several updates/versions) – so that’s upwards of 75+ Marketplace certifications.
Out of these – a large number have come back as failed (perhaps ~30%) – occasionally some for perfectly good/valid reasons (which I appreciate) – but vast majority has been due to a vague/ambiguously worded certification requirement being misinterpreted by testers.
This is clearly not good enough – and makes the process of releasing and updating apps hugely problematic (and quite often renders me helpless to quickly address other bugs/enhancements to apps which users are asking for).
The ‘Location Services’ related Certification Rules
Taken from the Windows Phone 7 Certification documents :
2.7.3 Your application must provide in-application settings that allow the user to enable and disable your application’s access to and use of location from the Location Service API.
While you’d think for this I could simply implement this right once – and then ensure same functionality is applied to all my future apps/submissions (thereby guaranteeing I never get failed for that reason) – this is clearly not the case.
The problem is that it testers simply don’t understand this rule – and hence each one applies it differently – ensuring that no matter what has been done to correct a previous failed certification – a conflicting interpretation from the subsequent tester will result in yet another fail.
Bing Maps vs Location Services
The root cause of the above certification rule being necessary (with my apps) – is due to using the Bing Maps Control (as below).
Whilst using Bing Maps by itself has no bearing on the above rules (as you are not providing or querying the user’s location simply by showing the map) – the problem is that in order to position a map or place a drop pin – you need to pass in instance(s) of the GeoCoordinate class (which is a basic struct containing longitude, lattitude and height).
As per all my apps – they already has the longitude/lattitude of these pins hardcoded in the app metadata – so at no point do I request nor need the users actual location – and each time GeoCoordinate is used by my app – I initialize it manually with static coordinates.
The gotcha is this GeoCoordinate class is located in the System.Device.Location namespace (in System.Device dll) – so you have to reference this System.Device in order to use Bing Maps with drop pins.
This then quickly becomes a problem – as when you submit your app to the WP7 AppHub for certification – the automated ‘capability’ detection tool invalidly decides that your app is actually using ‘location services’ (when in fact it’s just using a basic class to pass in static coordinates).
When testers then go to certify your app – they then jump to the invalid conclusion that all the location services rules and additional requirements need to be followed (as per couple mentioned above). This is despite the fact that at no point is the app ever asking for nor utilizing the location services to obtain a user’s current location.
NB: While it’s possible that ‘internally’ the Bing Maps may access your current location (this is not something that is discussed or revealed in any documentation) – what’s 100% certain is that there is no ability for developers to control whether a user’s location is accessed by Bing Maps or not (as no such properties are provided).
A recent example of how one of my apps was failed incorrectly.
As mentioned above – at no point do these apps in question (which use Bing Maps) – ever obtain or use the user’s location (at least not to my own code). Nevertheless – repeated certification failures on this point have led me to go completely overboard in ensuring that these requirements are met.
The most recent example was my app ‘NHL Fixtures 2011/2012’ (which like my other sports apps) – use hardcoded/static geo coordinates to plot the location of a sports venue on a Bing Map (and never get the actual user’s location).
Last week – I submitted the first version of this app. After 4 days it was certified and published to marketplace. Then, a few hours later – an end user provided feedback that a couple of the internal hardcoded URL’s were pointing to incorrect pages (which were displayed in the hosted Web browser – several pages into the app). It’s important to note that while no actual ‘error’ was thrown – nor did the app ‘crash’ as a result – the information displayed was a different web page.
As a result I quickly fixed these hardcoded URL’s and submitted an app update (ie. no code or functionality changes at all other than to show a different web page). In the tester notes (as I always do) – I explained the nature of the update and as a precaution – again pointed out all the ways in which I’d satisfied these above to location services related rules.
This could not be further from the truth – as these ‘in app’ screenshots below clearly show (from this failed submission).
Proof + Screenshots of the Marketplace Certification #fail.
Please see red circles for relevant functions.
Firstly an example of where Bing Maps is used in this app (NHL Season 2011/2012). As per comments above – the drop pin and map center locations are hardcoded into the app (and not derived from a user’s location) in order to show the following Bing Map :
Similarly – for requirement 2.7.3 – the ability to disable location services (the only logical way – which is to disable use of Bing Maps) – the following setting exists in the ‘app settings’ page :
When above settings is disabled – the following behaviour happens when you go to view a Map (it doesn’t load/use the Bing Maps until you re-enable this functionality in settings) :
Just in case everyone misses it though – the following text is also present in the App’s description on Marketplace (and shown to users) :
Given the overboard and comprehensive nature these requirements were met by me – you really have to wonder how this app was failed by Marketplace. Short of completely removing all Bing Maps functionality from my app – there’s nothing further I could have possibly done (every ‘i’ had been dotted and every ‘t’ crossed).
Actions Microsoft need to take to remedy this ongoing issue.
As mentioned this is an ongoing and persistent problem for me (and no doubt many other developers using Bing Maps or location services) – and after nearly 12 months of WP7 Marketplace being around – it’s painful and frustrating that it’s still not be sorted out.
The ability to quickly push out app updates as well as new apps is severely restricted – due to the long turnaround times by Marketplace (with the weekend – it can take up to 1.5-2 weeks to get a release out if it gets failed). This poses a real customer service problem for me – as I’m unable to quickly respond to actual bugs/problems in apps by deploying updates – and of course limits ability to correctly time app releases.
It’s clearly not a case of ‘occasionally getting a bad tester not doing their job’ – it’s an ongoing mistake (likely due to internal policy/training of testers) which will keep happening on regular basis.
As such – I’d really like to see Microsoft take the following actions to try overcome it :
1. Explain to testers that apps using Bing Maps need the System.Device DLL in order to place drop pins. (and doesn’t mean an app is asking for user’s location). Also explain this results in the invalid ‘location services’ capability detection on XAPs.
2. Fix the App Hub submission process so that it correctly detects location services capability. That means (in more technical terms) – it needs to look for calls to the ‘actual API methods’ requesting this – rather than just seeing if app references System.Device (as it does now).
3. In future – fix the API so that either the GeoCoordinate class is not inside System.Device – or simply fix the Bing Maps control so their are native methods to set locations without this class. ie. .setLocation(float longitude, float lattitude) – not .setLocation(Geoocordinate l)
4. Finally – please clean up the sloppy and inconsistent work being done by testers. The screenshots above show just how badly the testers got this wrong. I can’t begin to imagine what sort of shoddy work was performed by this particular tester – but if some form of audit process was applied to failed apps (requiring someone with more experience to confirm the fail) – then mistakes would be fixed before they impact the developer and delay their releases/updates.
Anyhow – that’s my 2 cents on this topic. I hope Microsoft really does address these issues soon.
This is the third article for Aussies (and others o/s) who are in the process of signing up so they can be paid for Apps sold via Windows Phone 7 Marketplace. This entry covers the final step required to get paid – submitting a valid W-8BEN form to Microsoft Marketplace.
If you want to check out the first couple of articles – please see links below :
What is the W-8BEN
The W-8BEN form is the document you need to provide someone who is paying you money from o/s (in this case the Microsoft Marketplace Commerce Team) – and it’s full name is something akin to what you’d find in a Borat sequel – “Certificate of Foreign Status of Beneficial Owner for United States Tax Withholding”.
The PDF downloadable version of the W-8BEN can be obtained from this address – http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/fw8ben.pdf – and allows you to type in some of the required fields via the Acrobat viewer (as it’s a editable PDF form).
Ideally – you’d submit this form after you had obtained either a US Tax File Number (ITIN – See Part 2) /or/ EIN. However, if you are willing to forgo the 30% withholding tax on payments made to you (nb: that % may be different for other countries) – you can submit this form without indicating you have one of those.
Like with the ITIN application (which is sent to the IRS) – you need to submit an actual hard copy of this document to Microsoft for it to be valid (ie. you can’t email or fax it in).
Like with the ITIN application (W7) – everything needs to be perfect for it to be accepted – otherwise it will be rejected by Microsoft if any minor thing is wrong – and you need to do it all again (back to go – don’t collect $200 etc). So it’s very important you don’t mess this document up.
Normally, Microsoft won’t process/approve this hardcopy until your first payment is made (which will be at end of the month and assuming you are owed at least USD$200). However – to save a lot of hassles when it’s time for payment – Microsoft offer an ‘email based’ pre-approval service (which essentially allows you to scan in your W-8BEN and submit it via email). This way if something is wrong you at least find out about it a lot sooner – AND you don’t need to waste money on courier/mail services to get an invalid to them.
In order to do this ‘pre approval’ – scan in your form (to jpg etc) - and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org – and then wait up to a couple of weeks to get your response. If it’s approved – then it’s then (reasonably) safe to send in the real thing.
How to fill out the W-8BEN
The following walkthrough provides information on how to fill out this W-8BEN form – and references to the 11 sections on this form. (please download it first so the below makes sense).
Part 1 :
Section 1 – “Name of individual that is the beneficial owner”
This field needs to be entered via the “Microsoft rules” for approval – in that you need to clearly identify both your own name – plus the company name of your Marketplace account. (so Microsoft can match it up with your account internally).
For example – for the company/account name (the one visible to end users on Marketplace) is ‘ACME Games’ – and my own name is ‘Joe Smith’ – hence the correct entry is in format ‘#my name# [#marketplace name#]’ :-
Joe Smith [ACME Games]
(NB: If your marketplace company name is just your name I think you can either leave out the ’s – or simply put in your name there as well).
Section 2 – “Country of incorporation or organization”
This simply needs to be the country you are in – ie. ‘Australia’
Section 3 – “Type of beneficial owner”
For individuals and solo traders operating outside of the USA – you should just tick ‘Individual’ as the correct option.
I’m 99% certain that even if your company is a full incorporated entity (not using EIN) then you still need to tick individual (as the other options relate to companies based inside the USA). However – you may want to check with your accountant or the IRS website to confirm this.
Section 4/5 – Address Details
This is pretty straightforward – simply put in your actual address (note that for 4 you can’t use a p.o.box etc – must be a real address). Leave 5 blank unless you do have some other address you want correspondance to be sent to.
Section 6 – “U.S. taxpayer identification number, if required (see instructions)”
This bit is pretty important – as it determines whether or not the US gov withholding tax is ‘automatically’ deducted from payments made to you by Microsoft.
If you have obtained a ITIN or EIN – you should enter the appropriate number assigned to you – and tick the appropriate box.
If you leave this blank then it means you don’t have one of these (or you intend to supply the W-8BEN a second time with this information).
Section 7 – “Foreign tax identifying number, if any (optional)”
I wasn’t 100% sure what to put here – so just to make sure I provided my Australian ABN number and indicated that it was that (which was accepted by Microsoft) :
ie. XX XXX XXX XXX (Australian ABN)
It’s possible leaving this either blank – or providing some other info (such as your personal Australian TFN) – is also appropriate.
Section 8 – “Reference number(s) (see instructions)”
I left this blank – and suspect this is the case unless you filled in something other than ‘individual’ in section 1 (speak to your accountant).
Part 2 :
Section 9 – “I certify that (check all that apply)”
I used the following information (based on me supplying an ITIN number) -
Checked [a] – and entered ‘Australia’ in the line provided.
Checked [b] – to indicate I had provided a taxpayer identification number in section 7.
Note: My understanding is that if you are not providing an ITIN or EIN – then you would not check any of these options in Section 9.
Section 10 – “Special Rates and Conditions”
This one is a little confusing – as it’s similar to the type of question asked on the W7 form (where you need a treaty article number etc). I actually left this completely blank (instead relying on the ITIN to indicate for no tax to be withheld).
I suspect if you are in Europe – and other tax issues such as VAT are in play – then this may be where you can provide this information (but for Australians it didn’t seem to be required).
Part 3 :
I just ignored this bit (as there’s nothing to actually fill out). However – I did provide a cover letter along with my W-8BEN stating why I was submitting the form etc. (so not sure if this was even necessary).
Part 4 :
Don’t forget to sign this form and date it! The other bit in here (apart from signature and date) – is the ‘Capacity in which acting’. I provided the value ‘Individual’ (which I think is similar to Section 3) – except this might be different if someone else is filling out this form on your behalf.
Once you’ve filled out/scanned and submitted the W-8BEN to Microsoft via email (for pre-approval) – you’ll either get a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ from Microsoft.
If it’s a ‘yes’ then you can proceed to send everything in to Microsoft via snail mail.
The correct address for this is as follows :
Microsoft – Windows Marketplace for Mobile
Attn: Finance Department
29011 Commerce Center Drive
Valencia, CA 91355
As per this link, Microsoft recommends quote – ‘sending the W-8 form using some form of tracking mechanism to assist in investigating any issues related to the delivery of the W-8 form’. I personally used Australian Express Post satchel – and sent it register post with delivery confirmation (extra feature) – which cost somewhere around ~AUD$15.
Please Note as mentioned above – the final ‘approval’ by Microsoft on your hard copy W-8BEN will not be performed until you receive your first payment event. Hence – until that point is reached – App Hub will show you the ‘bank or tax information missing’ style messages when you look at your account (so be patient and ignore these messages).
Once the first payment is made – then your App Hub account will no longer show these messages – and within a few days of payment – you will be able to start viewing your payment reports (via Reporting section in App Hub).
Additional Steps … (EU VAT Exemption)
If you’re in a country where EU VAT is an issue – you can also submit your ‘VAT Identification Number’ to obtain EU VAT exemption (after your W8-BEN is sent). This will allow Microsoft to send you your HCTI (Hard Copy Tax Invoice) if it’s applicable to your country for payments collected/paid.
Microsoft’s advice on this is ‘You are not required to provide a valid VAT Identification Number to get paid, but without it you will be charged the VAT’ .
Please see the appropriate section in this link for more information on EU VAT and how it may apply to you.
Well once you’ve done everything covered in these 3 articles AND of course you’ve got a paid app out there – it’s time to finally collect some money… Now you can sit back and way for the $$ to roll (or more likely trickle) into your nominated bank account.
Note that payments may take 60-90+ days to arrive from the actual date the app was purchased (due to funds needing to be collected from various mechanisms such as credit card, carrier billing etc) – and individual payments need to be USD$200 or more (otherwise anything owing will be rolled into next payment event).
That’s it folks – hope these posts have helped you untangle some of the confusion around signing up for Marketplace when you’re not in the USA. Please leave comments/feedback if you have some more wisdom to share on any of the topics in these posts.
A new update of AU Weather Pro (v1.5) has submitted to Windows Phone 7 marketplace for certification.
This update addresses quite a lot of the things being requested in the user feedback I’ve received (both via the review system and via direct emails) – so I’m hoping there will be a lot of happy campers as a result (for those using it).
There’s a couple of major changes in this new version I wanted to mention…
First up – a lot of people asked if the Animated BOM Radars could be included. Although there’s a separate App – AU Radar – which is does a pretty comprehensive job of this (and incidentally only costs AUD$1.70 to get the full set of features) – many people felt it should be part of this App too.
So for the v1.5 version – I’ve now added ability to access 128km/256km local radars as well as the National (Australia wide) animated radars – for all 50+ locations offered by BOM. While there’s still a lot of other radars (like Doppler, ‘rain since’ and shorter/longer range versions etc) – I’ve kept things simple. Incidentally – those that do want the other radars can still also load up AU Radar too (I personally have both of these installed on my handset).
A screenshot of the radar page is pictured below -
Next up a lot of people commented on (ok – “complained about”) the UI – such as it not being as ‘Metro’ friendly as it could be, it being a little cluttered and hard to read – and that the photographic icons weren’t very attractive (as they were low resolution only). Some folks even (quite rudely lol) commented that I’d used American spelling rather than ‘stralian versions (like ‘initializing’ instead of ‘initialising’ etc)
So for this release there’s been quite a big facelift of the whole UI. One of my sources of inspiration (apart from re-reading the Microsoft materials) – was an excellent blog post from Jeff Wilcox called ‘Metro Design Guide for developers 1.0’ (which had some awesome tips on some of the more subtle but visually important aspects of WP7 app design such as what sort of spacing to use around screens, appropriate text sizes/styles etc).
From these and a lot of playing about with different designs – I settled on the following new designs – which I think does a lot to improve readability, more white space, more Metro friendly, and a lot less unnecessary chrome.
Here’s a before/after screen of the Observations page and below it the Forecasts page (before on left – after on right) – note that a bit more work was done post these pictures.
and for the forecasts -
I also gave the forecast and 72 hour observation history graphs a bit of a rework (sorry don’t have original screens). These screens previously weren’t very theme friendly – so the new versions got a bit of a makeover too :
One thing to note on the new version is I’ve completely dropped the use of the photographic icons as they weren’t available in the full resolution I wanted and hence looked pretty blurry(which incidentally came from the US gov weather services site – and originally used on the Media Center weather App I wrote in a previous life). Instead – this new version uses the Metro icon set only – and superimposes them on top of your nominated theme accent color.
There’s also quite a few other spots which had minor (and more major) updates – which you can check out if you get the new version.
With regards to the live tiles – numerous o/s issues/bugs still exist making it sometimes unreliable (which unfortunately I’m not able to do anything about). I was really hoping the new NoDo update would remedy these problems – but after running with that it appears nothing was changed on that front. I’m now hoping maybe mango update will do better (but seeing as all questions/feedback sent to Microsoft about this topic, has just straight out ignored – I’m not counting my chickens).
Anyhow – I hope those using this app enjoy the new update. While there’s still a bunch of things I want to add in future to this product, and improvements I want to make – I think this update will address most of the things people have been asking for.
Thanks again to everyone who provided feedback (there’s been some 50+ reviews/comments on marketplace and have received loads of emails) – this was a great help – and keep them coming.
This app has also been the #1 top selling News/Weather app in Australia since a couple of days it was initially published in Jan/11 – and still is (now in April) – so thanks to everyone who took the time to evaluate and purchase it!
The new version should hopefully be published/approved in next 24-72 hours by Microsoft Marketplace (assuming they don’t find anything to complain about) .
Note : As per previous updates – if you’re running an earlier trial version AND you haven’t installed NoDo WP7 update – the marketplace App ‘update bug’ (the actual important bit of the NoDo which ‘must not be mentioned’) - means you need to uninstall this App and reinstall the new version when it arrives.
This time it’s an App dedicated to bringing you streaming Video On Demand + live WebTV direct to your Windows Phone 7 (in awesomely hi-res quality) – and brings the mobilewares.net WP7 app range up to 19 products.
As the name suggests (the AU bit at least) – the app is primarily focused on Australian content (although has a smattering of quality o/s content) – so you won’t be wasting time watching low bitrate foreign language news from the Ukraine (as seems to be the go on many of the other video apps out there on other platforms).
AU Video.OD is built on the same engine used for the previously released AU + UK Newswire Apps – but enhanced somewhat to work directly with full screen live/streaming video and provides a more media rich front end browser.
The App (as pictured above and further below) – provides a couple of different types of sources of content :
One of these is the awesome collection of online streaming video provided by Australia’s ABCTV (and a couple of other parties) – including latest/previous full length episodes of over 20+ shows (ie. The Movie Show, Good Game, At the Movies, Q&A, Poh’s Kitchen, Media Watch etc) – plus latest selected segments from other current affairs/news shows like 7:30 report and Lateline/Lateline Business (which is handy if you’re just after a particular story or interview).
The ABCTV streaming quality is simply awesome – it’s fast, hi-res, full screen – and no buffering (if you’re internet connection is half decent). The other great thing (apart from there being 100’s if not 1000’s of hours of content) – is that it’s all updated daily as new episodes are screened – so there will be always something to watch.
The other source of content is from live WebTV streams – such as 6 live tv channels from BigPond (which I think are the same ones that T-Box users get – such as News, Sports News, AFL, NRL etc) – plus other international channels like BSkyB News UK, Nasa TV etc. These live channels are handy to have available – particularly when there’s live breaking news (such as last few days from the terrible earthquake in Japan).
Please note that all video is very good quality and pretty high bandwidth – so it’s recommended you use this app when you have a wireless connection (home, office etc) – or you ensure you have a very large 3g mobile plan (with several gb’s).
The screenshots above / and below give you some more ideas on the types of content you’ll have available.
Anyhow – AU Video.OD is available right now from the Music & Videos section (or within a couple of hours if you’re marketplace app is caching old data) – for just USD$1.99 – or AUD$3.00 (when converted using the Marketplace exchange rate).
If you’re reading this on a Windows Phone 7 – or you have Zune client installed – click this link below to go straight to the app (so you can install/purchase it):
And in other news…
Additionally – I’m also happy to announce that AU Newswire was a ‘runner up’ in the Microsoft Australia Dev vs Dev competition (results announced today) – and I’ll shortly be the proud owner of a 2nd HTC Mozart device.
Big congratulations are in order to the other runners-up and winner (whom I’m extremely jealous of given they won a totally awesome trip to Mix11 in Las Vegas) – and thanks to Microsoft AU for running the comp!
In my ongoing quest to
achieve world domination release a truckload of WP7 apps – 2 x new apps were submitted to the WP7 Marketplace for certification over the past couple of days (taking the mobilewares total published apps up to 18).
These new apps are designed to allow you to access the ‘best of’ new sources in the given regions (AU for Australia, UK for United Kingdom) – by offering a fast (and slightly sexy) RSS reading experience, grouped together by topics.
Click here for product page
Offers best of news from around the UK (England, Wales, Scotland + Nth Ireland) including BBC World, Sky News, The Telegraph, SUN, Mirror, Evening Standard, The Mail Online, Independant.IE and more..
Click here for product page
Offers best of news from around Australia – including ABC Online, TheAge, SMH, Brisbane Times, Mercury, Daily Telgraph, news.com, Herald-Sun, Bigpond (Unmetered access for Telstra users) and more..
Both apps share a common engine – and each provide around 200 built in/preset feeds for you to chose from (so no need to search for content/rss feeds on a ‘generic’ rss reader). For each topic (10 different ones to chose from) – they can be enabled/disabled and reordered for the main page/pivot (via settings page) – and you can then assign a ‘default’ feed to each one (so it quickly brings up that source when you pivot across to that topic). For any additional feeds – there’s also a ‘by topic’ and ‘by publisher’ browser allowing you to access any other feeds you don’t have assigned as a default feed for a topic.
Once you’re viewing a topic/feed – clicking on any news item takes you directly to an inbuilt viewer (with a web browser hosted inside the page) – so you don’t need to leave the app or lose your context/place.
Here’s some screenshots below (from both AU + UK versions) – check out the product pages (linked above) for the full set of screenshots and details of each app.
As with many of the Apps I have written so far – I’ve made this one to cater for a core user in mind – ‘me’. Personally, I wanted an App to be able to get to news from some of the more serious news sources (like Australia’s ABC, TheAge, The Australian etc) – as all the offerings around at the moment were locked into publications I wouldn’t normally be interested in due to their more lightweight/tabloid reporting or lack of local content (such as NineMSN, Bigpond etc).
While there’s a number of great WP7 RSS readers already out there too – all of them required quite a bit of setup/configuration to bring in all the feeds I actually wanted – so the idea of an app with everything ‘preloaded’ seemed like the way to go.
Hopefully there’s some other users out there with similar needs that will enjoy using this app.
Both apps have trial versions (so you can see if you like it first) – and are selling for the introductory ‘base’ price of USD$1.29 (which on the Microsoft Wp7 Marketplace currency exchange actually translates to AUD$1.70 and GBP£0.99).
These should be available sometime soon, both are already submitted (first one 2 days ago) – but there appears to be a bit of a backlog on marketplace testing this week (some of the FM radio apps submitted last weekend are still to be approved or tested).
Keep an eye out for these in the ‘News & Weather’ categories in paid apps on a Windows Phone 7 near you.
Another batch of new Windows Phone 7 apps have just been submitted for certification (hopefully should be published to Marketplace sometime in the next 24-48 hrs). This will bring the mobilewares WP7 app catalogue up to 16 published apps.
The new apps are designed to work with your phone’s internal FM Radio – allowing you to quickly locate available radio stations in your area (from an inbuilt database contain radio station frequencies, names, genre and transmitter information). You can also mark your favorite stations as presets (for easy retrieval) – or view/filter the stations by type.
The app(s) also allow you to add custom FM stations – which is really useful if you need to regularly tune into to stations at your local gym (ie. for watching TV sets), university/college or elsewhere..
There’s a specific app designed for each of 6 different countries/regions (more to come including the US) – and currently the offerings include (click links to go to the specific product pages) :
Supports a massive inbuilt catalogue of 1800+ stations from around Australia.
Supports a massive inbuilt catalogue of 480+ English and French stations from around Canada.
Supports a large inbuilt catalogue FM stations from various transmitters around Hong Kong – plus stations you can also receive from nearby Mainland China and Maccau.
Supports all the known FM Radio stations from across New Zealand – including popular music and indigenous Maori stations.
Supports a inbuilt catalogue of all the FM stations from Singapore + nearby stations in Indonesia and Malaysia (receivable in Singapore).
Supports a massive inbuilt catalogue of 3800+ stations from around United Kingdom – including England, Wales, Scotland, and Nth Ireland.
The apps support a common slick/theme aware UI (which adapts itself to the particular theme you have set your phone to use) – including using the accent color to colorize your digital frequency viewer (light/dark theme supported too) :
You can also tilt the phone sideways (into landscape mode) – to get an uber cool interactive radio frequency slider – which supports WP7 flicks/gestures to slide your way up and down the dial to available frequencies :
The apps are will be available shortly for purchase or for trial (with limited functionality – but allowing you to fully test out the features). Pricing various for app to app (to suit the individual markets) – ranging from USD$0.99 to USD$1.99.
Enjoy – and look for even more apps coming soon!
I’ve seen a few Australian’s asking about how to provide the correct Banking and Payment information when signing up for a Windows Phone 7 Marketplace account – so I thought I’d share some information to help you get through this.
The Marketplace signup process is pretty confusing if you’re not in the US – and unfortunately Microsoft has done little to help international people through this by using US specific terminology all across the Marketplace site.
Also – once you’ve entered the correct details you’ll also need to consider the following as well to actually receive payments. Firstly you’ll need to fill in and send them a W8-BEN form via snail mail (this is required) – and then you may optionally also apply for a US ITIN (same concept as a Tax File Number) if you want to eliminate tax withholding on your payments (which I think may be ~30%).
On this – I really wish Microsoft had come up with some better system for developers to receive payments (such as making payments from Microsoft Australia instead so it’s in the Australian Tax system) – as it’s quite unfair that every single Aussie developer has to deal with all this. I think this is a massive oversight on Microsoft’s behalf – and whilst I imagine it makes things easier for Microsoft – the effort, complications and expense each and every developer needs to go through for this compliance is a real headache (on top of actually learning how to develop WP7 apps and working their way through the pretty complex App certification procedure).
Anyhow – please see below for more details on some of what you need to know :
Banking Details Form
Here’s some key points to help you get through the ‘banking details’ page(s) – and what the various US banking terms mean for Australian citizens.
- The ‘routing number’ is the same thing as an Australian BSB number (which identifies your bank + branch). For Australian bank accounts you normally have a 6 digit BSB number and then a 6 digit Account Number. Note that in some cases on your bank statements – the BSB number shown is a shortened version which is internal to the bank (ie. may be 4 digits). You may need to contact your bank to get the full 6 digit version if this is the case. Note that in the US routing numbers are actual 9 letters/numbers – but I’ve been assured by my bank (Westpac) that the BSB is satisfactory.
- The ‘BIC/SWIFT’ code is actually just the SWIFT code for Australian banks. Each bank has a single SWIFT code (which is not specific to your account) and is an internationally recognized alphanumeric code which identifies your bank. You can normally find out your bank’s SWIFT code by looking at their website and search for the keyword ‘SWIFT’ or looking for any FAQ sections regarding ‘receiving payments from overseas’. Please see below for some SWIFT codes for some major Australian banks.
- The ‘account number’ is then your personal account number (normally 6 digits) which does not include your BSB number (BSB should be put in the routing number field).
SWIFT CODES for some Australian Banks
The following information is provided to help you quickly determine the correct SWIFT codes for your bank – however please double check this information with your bank before providing it (in case there’s any mistakes). Otherwise please visit your bank
WESTPAC Bank : WPACAU2S
Commonwealth Bank (CBA) : CTBAAU2S
see : http://www.commbank.com.au/help/faq/imt/default.aspx
ANZ Bank : ANZBAU3M
Bendigo Bank : BENDAU3B
Note : I tried to get SWIFT codes for some other major Australian banks such as Suncorp, St George, Band of Queensland etc – but was unable to find them on their websites. Please contact them directly to find out this information.
The W-8BEN form is mandatory to receive payments from Marketplace (aka. ‘Certificate of Foreign Status of Beneficial Owner for United States Tax Withholding’ – sounds just like a new Borat movie title). You also need to submit this form via snail mail to Microsoft (see Marketplace for exact address) – as you’re not allowed to fax it or submit it electronically.
You can download and print out the W-8BEN form from :
Note that you may need advice from an accountant (or if you understand the IRS website jargon that might be suffice) – to find out what information you need to enter here – I’m not going attempt to provide this advice in case it’s wrong.
Also note that you may in fact need a different form to the W-8BEN depending on your exact tax/business setup (again consult your accountant or irs website).
Obtaining a US ITIN
This is a process I’ve not yet done and it’s unfortunately a very complicated and expensive one to do. From my understanding it’s basically the same thing as an Australian TFN (Tax File Number) – but since you’re not a US citizen, getting one is pretty complicated (US citizens can simply provide their social security number and get one issued almost on the spot).
It can take up to 3 months to get this sorted out (assuming you get everything correct on your first submission) – and one part involves paying for Australian ‘notaries’ to verify you are who you say you are (nb: a notary is not a simple ‘Justice of Peace’ – and they charge fees of $100-$200 to do their thing).
You’ll need to visit the US IRS website to find out more about this :
A couple of other gotcha’s you’ll need to be aware of :
- You need to be 18 to sign up for Marketplace (or you will need your parent/guardian to sign up on your behalf).
- Your Marketplace account will display ‘Payment Information Incomplete’ message even though you’ve provided this information (and sent in a W8-BEN). Apparently the reason for this is that you’re payment information will not be processed by Microsoft UNTIL you receive your first payment (I believe this will be happening for the first time in Feb 2011 if you’ve owed USD$200 or more).
Anyhow – I hope this is of some use to you – and while the whole Marketplace signup process – and PARTICULARLY the App certification process (which is a real mess right now) is pretty challenging to get through – having your app published on Marketplace will give you a warm and fuzzy feeling (and might even earn you some decent $$$ when a decent amount of handsets are sold).
Disclaimer : This is NOT to be taken as legal advice – check with your accountant, lawyer and bank if you are unsure of anything.