Tag Archives: wp8

Touted Demise of Windows RT and Marketing Lessons for Microsoft

I read an article this morning on The Motley Fool about a consumer electronics trade show in  Taipei. The headline “Does This Mean Microsoft Windows RT is Dead?”.

I won’t comment on whether devices running the “RT Edition” of Windows 8 are going disappear based on the presence of new devices at a trade show. But the headline did stand out for me because it is an example of the confusion caused when you “borrow” a technical term and slap it onto the end of a product name.

In this specific case Windows RT actually means two things. First, to me as a developer Windows RT means Windows Runtime, an API layer inside introduced in Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 and is the basis for modern applications.

On the other hand, if you aren’t a developer and you are more focused on “products” and “devices”, the term Windows RT might identify a lower power device running a special build of Windows 8 which introduces some limitations for these lower powered machines.

The problem is when the journalists go around saying “Windows RT” is dead, IT managers who might not know about the lower level details of the Windows 8 platform might start to disregard the proposition that they might like to build a Windows 8 application that targets the Windows Runtime (Windows RT).

Confused? Yep, so are most folks and this is why MIcrosoft needs to be very careful about tacking the RT suffix on products like the Microsoft Surface RT and Office RT. They might accidentally build the impression that the underlying runtime itself is going away if indeed the industry is moving back towards an Intel centric architecture. I think Microsoft should drop the RT moniker all together on their OS, Office and devices (including partner devices) and come up with some other suffix. Leave WinRT to the developers.

Some might say it is unlikely that ARM processors running Windows will disappear, but the X86 and X64 architectures have proven incredibly resilient in the face of other architectures (ia64, ARM etc). One exception might be in the Windows Phone space where you really do have some heavy power conservation requirements and the expectations are considerably lower than that of a PC or a tablet device.

My gut feel is that Windows RT (the runtime, or the device class) aren’t going away any time soon, and it is certainly too premature to say that based on what you are seeing at this years trade shows. What is far more relevant is what we see announced at BUILD 2013 this year in terms of Windows and Windows Phone platform convergence.

The big question I have is will the rumoured “phablet” devices run a Windows Phone-like build of Windows RT, or a Windows-like build of Windows RT. Based on some of the projects I am seeing at the moment I am hoping that a phablet is running something derived from the current Windows 8 generation of platforms. The Windows Phone UX is great for small surface areas but I don’t think it will scale well up to a phablet size.

The NFC wave is coming…kinda.

I stepped out yesterday morning to go to an appointment and when I got back I dumped my wallet on my desk then neatly stacked my phone on top of it. I’ve got a Nokia Lumia 920 running Windows Phone 8. After a second my phone chimed. I was familiar with the noise because I have a wireless charging stand by my bedside table.

Turns out that the NFC proximity sensor on the Nokia Lumia 920 had picked up an NFC chip from the many cards within my wallet. This afternoon I sat down to figure out which card it was and how I could use the proximity API within Windows RT to read the card.

As I flicked through the cards in my wallet and held them out to my phone I found that if the 23 cards in my wallet, six of them had NFC chips within them. Of those there were 3 bank cards, 2 transport cards and 1 loyalty card.

My next goal was to figure out how the proximity API within Windows Phone works to see whether I could get access to any of the details on the cards. I’ve slapped together a quick example of how to use the proximity API. The code uses the ProximityDevice and hooks up to the DeviceArrived and DeviceDeparted events and also calls SubscribeForMessage.

Unfortunately none of the cards that I had in my wallet contained an NFC device which was in a format that Windows Phone 8 could understand. NFC messages that Windows RT supports are listed on the PublishBinaryMessage documentation page. From what I can tell Windows Phone 8 only supports a subset of these, and other than Windows specific message types, the messages need to be formatted using NDEF. If you happen to have an NDEF formatted card you can use the NDEF library hosted at CodePlex to work with the data directly.

I hope that in the future Microsoft will open up more of the NFC device capabilities on their mobile platform. I suspect that many loyalty card programs that use NFC won’t necessarily encode their messages with NDEF which will limit the ability to do anything interesting with Windows Phone unless they take the step to redistribute cards (unlikely).

Either way, I think that we are going to see more and more NFC moving forward. It is already quickly taking hold with credit card/over-the-counter transactions, but so much more is possible with mobile integration. Maybe I’ll look at using NFC in between mobile devices next. The NFC wave is coming…kinda.

More Windows Phone 8 sillyness.

I’ve been watching the Windows Phone 8 conversation with great interest. I say conversation, but it has been kind of one sided. That said, Todd Brix who posted the most recent post (12 Sept) on the WP development blog has chimed in on the comments following the post. Here is a copy of what he commented:

I wanted to respond to those of you who are frustrated about the fact that we haven’t publicly released the Windows Phone 8 SDK. This year we’ve taken the approach of unveiling the new features of the OS as close to device availability as possible.  Unfortunately we can’t release the SDK without revealing all of the new features and capabilities.  I recognize this is a departure from how we’ve operated in years past and some of you are questioning our thinking.  That’s ok – let me give you a little more to consider.

Windows Phone 8 was designed to run the apps written with the Windows Phone 7 SDK which is available today.  Right now and for most devs the high-volume app development opportunity remains on the Windows Phone 7 SDK because these apps will run on phones available later this year, regardless of what OS version is on the phone.  If you want to help make sure your Windows Phone 7 app runs well on Windows Phone 8, when it is released, you’ll want to take a look at the Sept 12th post from Andrew Whitechapel . And while I know you want to test your app in our new emulator, the reality is that you will also want to do final testing with Windows Phone 8 devices which are not yet in market.

There are also devs who want to jump on new Windows Phone 8 technologies before anyone has bought a device, which is fantastic.  This is why we’re doing the early Preview Program. For those who don’t get the Windows Phone 8 SDK via the program, we will get the final SDK out in time for you to capitalize on the wave of new devices.

Thanks for your interest in Windows Phone!

Todd makes several good points in his comment:

  1. The biggest opportunity right now for Windows Phone developers is the 7.x generation of devices.
  2. They can’t release the Windows Phone 8 SDK without developers figuring out what the platform has on offer.

Unfortunately, the comment still completely misses the point. Firstly, even if I am going to target Windows Phone 7.x generation devices, I still want to work within the latest version of Microsoft’s IDE. Developers don’t just write Windows Phone applications, they build the backends which support those applications and when your vendor doesn’t continually bring their SDKs up to a level where you can use a single IDE they are effectively introducing a productivity burden. I want an updated SDK which allows me to use Visual Studio 2012, I’m actually less concerned about the Windows Phone 8 specifics right now.

The other point, which has been raised by others is that by sharing the SDK with some developers, they are effectively sharing the SDK with all developers. We are already hearing rumours about WP8 devices being found in the wild. It is possible that these are just unfounded rumours, but it definitely appears like they have RTM’d the operating system. Sorry guys – you can’t contain this stuff it will leak out. Developers will be pissed if they are the last to know – it is a great way to completely screw an product eco-system and fill it with ill-will.

So where are we after my previous post? Nowhere. I had hoped that Microsoft would quickly switch strategies and open up access to the SDK as soon as it was ready (so no super secret preview program). That is looking less and less likely now. Not only that, but it appears that Microsoft is suggesting that we should be happy and target the mobile platform with the most opportunity (see highlighted second in Todd’s comment). Fair enough – here are some statistics for you to consider (according to the Mobile Mix report):

  • 46% Android
  • 34% iPhone
  • 15% BlackBerry
  • 4% Windows
  • 1% Symbian

Time to leap to action! Go and download the Android SDK and the iOS SDK.