This is the fifth annual edition of the Microsoft Mix conference here in Las Vegas, NV. Mix 2010 is being held at the Mandalay Bay Conference and Events Center from March 14-17, 2010.
There is an excitement for 2010 for Microsoft partly because of the product line sometimes referred to as Wave 14. This wave is the 2010 version of some of the seemingly ubiquitous Microsoft applications, including Microsoft Office (Word, Access, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint), Visio, Project and Microsoft SharePoint 2010. These are solid products, but they are not necessarily ‘game changers’.
The Mix 2010 Day 1 keynote brought more excitement with emphasis on ‘potential’. Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President of the Developer Division, Scott Guthrie (@scottgu) made it clear that this conference is primarily about two products that really do alter expectations: Windows Phone 7 Series and Silverlight 4.
Windows Phone 7 (WP7) is different than any Windows Mobile device we have seen before. I have joked a few times that this is a Zune Phone, and while every Windows Phone 7 is also a Zune, it is much more of course. Scott and his guests not only showed the potential for applications on the WP7, they also highlighted the relative ease with which developers, new and old, can get started.
Several impressive demos emphasized that application development for WP7 should be fun, rewarding and exciting. The Netflix demo application in Silverlight 4 showed that watching and pausing recorded TV programs and movies (on demand from Netflix) on WP7 will be the norm. To show how efficient Silverlight development for the WP7 can be, Scott Guthrie used Blend 4 Beta to create a very simple Twitter client using live data from his Twitter profile. The WP7 emulator fully mimics the WP7 device including multi-touch screen and dropped call simulation and low battery conditions.
Other third party application demonstrations were also impressive. The eBay listing application in Silverlight seemed to really simplify the process while making the interface more aesthetically pleasing. The Shazam music service was amazing, allowing the user to upload an audio snippet through WP7 for the service to identify the song and artist returning album art, related content through Zune integration and the opportunity to purchase the music. Charlie Kindel (@ckindel) wore his Seattle Sounders jersey while presenting a demo on a real time MLS gamecast application. The effervescent Laura Foy (@lfoy) showed us an early version of the location-based social networking application Foursquare on WP7. A Silverlight plugin for Seesmic desktop was also introduced. You can signup for notification when the Seesmic Desktop Platform SDK is released at http://platform.seesmic.com. Simple game development with XNA was also shown in a demo, as the WP7 is also an Xbox Live client. One of the more entertaining moments in the keynote was the WP7 remote controlled t-shirt cannon that maneuvered about the stage, aimed and fired Guthrie-red Polo shirts into the audience.
Possibly the biggest announcement from the keynote on Monday was that Microsoft development tools for WP7 will be available free. This is clearly a move to jumpstart development for the yet-to-be-released device. Expression Blend 4 Express and Visual Studio 2010 for WP7 are already available for download, though they are still in pre-release code. You can find these applications at http://developer.windowsphone.com. Also available is the XNA Framework for game development for the WP7.
The biggest disappointment with the announcements today must be the Windows Phone Marketplace which will be the sole location for WP7 application distribution. This is almost a deal breaker for me. It is the primary reason that I don’t have an Apple iPhone. Hopefully, applications will still be available directly from the developers at some point. Overall, it was an exciting day at Mix 2010. I counted 32 breakout sessions available today, but we can only be in one place at a time. The three sessions I attended were excellent and informative. I am eager to start using the free tools and see how ‘easy’ WP7 development really is when the hype and marketing have gone home.
You can view the Mix 2010 Keynote from Day 1 on demand here: http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/events/mix/videoGallery.aspx