WP7 to Get Basic Features Upgrade

Believe it or not, multitasking (running multiple apps in memory without killing the thread and switching between them) is not supported on the Windows Phone 7 platform. I know right? It’s even worse in real life use. Coming from Android after a year, WP7 really does feel like a huge step back to me. However, Microsoft has big plans they’ve announced at MIX 11 and hopefully they’ll be good enough to change the opinions of people like me. Because I can’t really reword it any better than Engadget has stated, the changes we can expect (eventually) are as follows:

  • Multitasking for background processing, audio and file transfer, and fast app switching, including background audio playback for HTML5 webpages
  • Deeper integration of apps into the OS, allowing programs to leverage Live Tiles, including push notifications via Live Agents running in the background
  • Raw access to the camera and sensors (gyro and compass) via the Motion Sensor library, letting apps to control device hardware.

That just about sums it. I’m mostly amazed at how apps didn’t have a lot of this stuff before. I would be pretty frustrated as a developer not having device hardware level access like that. However, Microsoft has promised to make good on this update bringing it just that much closer to where Android is at. Yes Android will be celebrating its 3 year anniversary this year, but that makes the speed with which Microsoft catches up all the more crucial. I think they’re doing a great job of getting things up to speed with the competition. 1500+ new API’s should make any developer happy. Keep it up Microsoft!

Press Release after the break. 

You stay classy, World Wide Web.

Windows Phone, Kinect Exemplify New Usage Scenarios and Device Capabilities at MIX11

Today’s keynote put a devices spotlight on Windows Phone, the forthcoming Kinect for Windows Beta SDK and the availability of Microsoft Silverlight 5 beta.

LAS VEGAS – April 13, 2011 – Microsoft Corp. executives today showcased the next version of the Windows Phone operating system and other powerful next-generation applications that span phones, PCs and other devices. Building on Tuesday’s keynote, Microsoft demonstrated the value of developing for HTML5 and the standards-based Web with Internet Explorer 9 on PCs running Windows and Internet Explorer 9 on Windows Phone. With the forthcoming release of Windows Phone, coming later this year, Microsoft is providing developers with more hardware capabilities, better browsing and improved tooling, as well as expanded opportunities and Windows Phone Marketplace options. Together, these technologies create a richer application environment that expands mobile usage scenarios.

“The next release of Windows Phone represents the evolution of our strategy for ensuring that developers are at the forefront of ‘what’s next’ by investing in even richer customer experiences, a powerful application platform and a thriving ecosystem,” said Joe Belfiore, corporate vice president, Windows Phone Program Management. “We will soon deliver a new set of Windows Phone Developer Tools that will enable developers to create a new generation of apps that are even faster, more capable and better integrated with Windows Phone.”

New Opportunities and Capabilities for Windows Phone

Today, Microsoft provided the first deep look at the development platform for the next version of Windows Phone, arriving on new and existing handsets later this year. Developers will soon have updated Windows Phone Developer Tools. Improved tools include a performance profiler and sensor simulation, enabling developers to build more integrated and high-performing applications. The new application platform enables developers to take advantage of the following:
• Application multitasking for background processing, audio and file transfer, and fast application switching
• Deeper phone integration so apps can, for example, take better advantage of the versatility of Live Tiles
• Access to the camera and Motion Sensor library so developers can build apps that incorporate device hardware and build augmented reality experiences

Developers will be able to take advantage of these new capabilities to create even more creative and engaging Windows Phone apps and games.

The free Windows Phone Developer Tools for the new Windows Phone OS will be available to developers in May. With 38,000 registered developers, more than 13,000 available apps and 1.5 million downloads of the original Windows Phone Developer Tools, developers are the foundation of the fast-growing Windows Phone ecosystem.

Today, Microsoft also provided an early glimpse of app concepts for the next version of Windows Phone OS with new experiences from Skype, Spotify, Layar, Qantas, Amazon Shopping and Kik Messenger.

“Windows Phone is an incredibly fun and easy platform for developers to work with, and Kik was thrilled to have the chance to create a concept with the phone’s next-generation developer tools,” said Ted Livingston, CEO, Kik Messenger. “In only two weeks, we had an amazing new app that looks and feels like an extension of the phone itself, creating a customer experience like nothing we’ve seen before.”

Kinect for Windows Beta SDK Opens Doors for Enthusiasts and Academics

Kinect for Xbox 360, recently recognized by Guinness World Records as the fastest-selling consumer device in 60 days, allows users to enjoy games and entertainment with their whole body and voice – no controller required. Since Kinect launched in November 2010, enthusiasts have been exploring the potential of Kinect in a number of unexpected, nongaming scenarios. Today at MIX, Microsoft detailed some of the features in the Kinect for Windows Beta SDK from Microsoft Research coming in the spring, including the following:
• Robust Skeletal Tracking for high-performance capabilities that track the skeleton image of one or two persons moving within the Kinect field of view
• Advanced Audio Capabilities, including four-element microphone array with sophisticated acoustic noise and echo cancellation for great audio; beam formation to identify the current sound source and integration with the Windows speech recognition API also included
• XYZ depth camera for standard color camera stream access and depth data that indicates the distance of the object from the Kinect camera

Developers can sign up to be notified of the release athttp://research.microsoft.com/kinectsdk.

Onstage, Microsoft showcased compelling examples of what is possible using the SDK, including WorldWide Telescope and several community projects. Frog design inc. created a Kinect-powered “Wall Panic” PC game, in which players contort their bodies until they match a shape descending on a large screen. This work typifies the creative groundswell of Kinect usage scenarios being delivered by enthusiasts, developers and academics.

“Microsoft’s support for Kinect beyond the Xbox platform will increase opportunities for developers to explore new ideas and deliver innovative Kinect applications and experiences. A richer Kinect for Windows API will enable the creativity of these development communities to really come to life,” said Robert Tuttle, chief architect, frog design.

Microsoft Silverlight 5 Beta Delivered

Microsoft also announced the immediate availability of the beta for Microsoft Silverlight 5, which provides advances in rich media and application development. New capabilities include Hardware Video Decode, for enhanced video quality and performance, and “Trickplay,” which provides variable-rate video playback with audio pitch correction. The Microsoft Silverlight 5 beta also offers a new Microsoft XNA-based interface for delivering stunning 3-D visualizations within applications, along with a host of new features that are designed to enhance developer productivity and end-user experiences. More information and a download of the beta are available at http://www.microsoft.com/silverlight.

At MIX, the U.S. Navy Blue Angels demonstrated a dynamic new site that uses HTML5 to make the site’s core content engaging and wide-reaching while using Silverlight for streaming a never-before-seen, HD video experience from inside the cockpit and a high-performance, interactive, 3-D representation of a Blue Angels aircraft.

“The Blue Angels are excited to launch a new, state-of-the-art website that will allow us to more effectively accomplish our mission of enhancing Navy recruiting and credibly representing Navy and Marine Corps aviation to the United States and its Armed Forces,” said Lt. Katie Kelly, U.S. Navy Blue Angels.

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