When the Kinect first launched, Microsoft seemed unsure how to respond to the dedicated modding community that sprang up around the Xbox peripheral. Happily, they decided to accept the inevitable, if not fully embrace it. But now we have word from Microsoft itself that a Kinect SDK for Windows will be dropping this spring.
Attention math nerds everywhere. Everyone's computational knowledge engine, Wolfram Alpha, has just opened up version 2.0 of their developer API. This version brings many improvements to help you cheat at math and statistics even faster. For instance, API 2.0 supports asynchronous operation, so data that is simpler will be returned immediately, while data that requires more computation will be delivered later. Best of all, it's now free.
Developers just need to sign up to get an API key to start working with Wolfram Alpha. There is extensive documentation for devs as well. All data is returned in XML by default, but plain text, HTML, or images can be specified. This is a smart way of returning results that should be well-suited to any number of applications. If you build anything great with Wolfram Alpha, make sure to clue us in.
You may have heard of a little game called Angry Birds, and its developer Rovio mobile. As our phones increasingly become a platform for playing Angry Birds, more attention is being focused on big developers like Rovio. These developers can hold sway over the popular opinion of a platform. That's why some are taking note after Rovio's Peter Vesterbacka made some predictions about the mobile ecosystem in a recent interview.
According to Vesterbacka, Apple has gotten mobile development right. So right, in fact, that they will continue to be the first place developers go for a long time to come. "…they know what they are doing and they call the shots," said Vesterbacka. About Android, Vesterbacka said the approach is admirable, but the experience is too fragmented by carriers and manufacturers. He also indicated paid content does not work particularly well on Android.
Still, Vesterbacka sees both Android and iOS as big development platforms going forward. Although he holds out hope for MeeGo to bring Nokia back. How do you see the future of mobile development playing out?
Microsoft on Wednesday released the seventh platform preview of its upcoming web browser Internet Explorer 9 (download link). Comparatively less stable than beta builds, platform previews are aimed at acquainting developers with new features and gathering valuable feedback.
According to Dean Hachamovitch, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of Internet Explorer, who wrote a copious blog post to discuss the latest platform preview release, improving real world site performance, and not “subsystem microbenchmarks,” remains the real focus of company’s development efforts.
But he soon clarified: “We’ve been consistent in our point of view that these tests are at best not very useful, and at worst misleading. Even with the most recent results in the chart above, our motivations and our point of view remain unchanged.”
“We’ve focused on improving real world site performance. We’ve made progress on some microbenchmarks as a side effect. Focusing on another subsystem microbenchmark is not very useful.”
Windows Phone 7 is a completely new system. Microsoft is taking a risk ditching the mass of (admittedly poor quality) Windows Mobile apps out there. They need developers to step up to the plate to make the system viable. While there are about 1000 apps available as the platform launches, developers are finding some things to complain about. One of the first issues: the SDK does not let developers have full access the camera hardware.
Developing an app dependent on a particular piece of software relies on the SDK having the necessary APIs. Right now, image sensor access on Windows Phone 7 is limited. The makers of popular apps Layar and Fring have both put their WP7 plans on hold due to this issue. Microsoft has indicated that they are happy to have developers use the camera for picture taking, and APIs do exist for that. But the sort of "viewfinder" capability that video calls or augmented reality would need is not available.
It's unclear if Microsoft plans to add this feature in a future version of the SDK. It might be a small omission in the grand scheme of things, but when Microsoft is starting at a disadvantage, they shouldn't be limiting developers.
Even though Nokia still has the global smartphone lead, the trend for the Finnish company is moving in the wrong direction. One of the main reasons for this slide is the relative lack of native apps on the Symbian platform. So now Nokia is upping the stakes by offering $10 million in various prizes for their "Calling All Innovators" contest.
The contest will feature 17 different categories: 6 game, and 11 general apps. Nokia will choose 170 finalists , then a panel of AT&T and Nokia judges will dole out the prizes. Winners of individual categories will win $150,000 in cash. Two apps, and two games will win their developers the additional grand prize of $100,000 cash and $1.9 million in marketing.
The process seems a little convoluted, and users apparently won't get a say in the matter. Still, some devs will probably be anxious to be considered. Nokia stresses that winning apps will need to be responsive and attractive. If you're interested in the contest, check out the official page here.
Microsoft is not averse to spending big in hope of making inroads into businesses where it has little say. It wants to be seen as a force to be reckoned with in the smartphone arena after it launches Windows Phone 7 later this year. As a strong developer community is critical to a modern smartphone platform, the company is doing all it can to lure application developers toward its upcoming mobile OS.
It is even willing to co-fund Windows Phone 7 projects. "We have a long history of engaging with developers to offer support in the creation of compelling apps. The limited use of co-funding to help initiate strategic projects is not new to Microsoft; furthermore, developers tell us that we do not engage in any co-funding activity outside the scope of our competitors," Microsoft said in a statement.
Just a day after Steve Jobs basically begged developers to stick with Apple, Google is looking at an issue with their app repository that had some developers up in arms. It seems that over the last few days, apps that have been updated in the Market are just going missing. They were no longer visible on any phones running Android 2.1 (the newest official release). Interestingly, older phones still running 1.5 or 1.6 could often see the applications. Google said shortly ago that they believe the problem to be fixed.
It's unclear what the cause of the issue was. It may stem from the way the Android Market hides incompatible or unavailable applications. Apps that are explicitly dependent on APIs in newer versions of the OS are usually hidden from phones that cannot run them. Similarly, devices running unregistered ROMs often have trouble seeing copy protected apps. Google didn't have much to say at first, but in the original thread from June 4th that began the discussion, a Google employee posted today saying they were working on the problem. They had the issue fixed only a short time later.
Google's app model, unlike Apple's, does not require an app to be approved. Developers can upload and update apps as they please. It shouldn't take a few days to realize there's a problem. If these sort of problems become more common as the Market expands, developers could see less incentive to go with Google. Are any apps missing on your Android phone?
It's no secret that Vista was not the best version of Windows when it was released. It was roundly criticized for poor performance, and hardware incompatibilities. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is usually Redmond's number one cheerleader. But today he's letting the cat out of the bag saying Vista was, "not executed well." Okay, it's something at least.
This statement was part of a half-hour long speech in which Ballmer discussed how he runs Microsoft. He stressed finding the best employees, and investing time in the right areas. The comments about Vista were part of an answer about how Microsoft innovates. He says that thousands of man-years were wasted because they were trying to do too much they were developing Vista.
Since Ballmer took over the reins of Microsoft, however, there have been a number of major releases. From Windows 7, to Bing, to Office 2010. Sure, Ballmer may always be remembered for running around a stage chanting and sweating, but you can't argue with his results.
You might have missed this in the storm of Android news today, but the rumors were true and Google has indeed launched a new online storage service. Google Storage looks to be a direct competitor to Amazon's S3 hosting. Google will be charging 17-cents per gigabyte of storage per month, 10-cents per gigabyte uploaded, and 15-30-cents per gigabyte downloaded.
The service will initially only be available to a limited number of US-based developers, but they will enjoy a free 100GB of storage and 300GB of bandwidth. It's clear Google hopes to entice Amazon S3 customers to move to The Big G's servers. Amazon charges 15-cents per gigabyte stored, but has a version of the service with only 99.99% uptime for 10-cents per gig.
Google is probably looking to pair this hosting solution with their Google AppEngine developer tools. For some users of Google services, it might make sense to switch just out of convenience. Do we have any S3 users among our readers? Would you consider switching?