Over the weekend, I had a twitter conversation with the Wordboxer developers, trying to get them to port their game to Windows Phone. It brought to light an important point about the Windows Phone (and for that matter, Blackberry) app problem: most cool games and apps are being built by small shops or single developers who just don’t have the time to build and maintain more than one or maybe two versions of their app/game. I really hope the Windows Phone (and Windows 8) teams realize this and create ways and means to reach these folks and help them out with the education needed to have them port their apps.
I know with the addition to C++ and support for cross-platform game engines on both Windows Phone and Windows 8, things are easier in terms of porting, but the point is most devs look at market share numbers and shy away from the platform. Of course, the market share going up and reaching some level of respectability (10% in the US?) may automatically help, but until then, Microsoft has a tough problem on their hands. They have to increase sales of devices, they have to attract the big brands and they have to make sure the indie devs also consider Windows Phone, if not at launch, at least soon after.
Fingers are crossed.
Windows Phone app problem
Small devs really don’t have time to develop and maintain code for more than one or two platforms. Even though Windows Phone dev tools are arguably better than anything else out there, and porting is easier with Windows Phone 8, it comes down to resources. Here is a great example of that.
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I am not a gamer, but I have an Xbox 360. I got it when Kinect was introduced and when they shifted the focus to entertainment. I am a happy customer, paying for Xbox LIVE Gold, and cannot wait to get the XBOX ONE.
Update: Found this amazing Kinect video at Wired. Watch it all the way. It is awesome.
Here is my attempt at using Data Explorer in Excel. I used it to extract Sachin Tendulkar’s runs by ground/location from ESPNCricinfo’s excellent Statsguru feature.
It was such a breeze to bring up the stats, get the URL, import it into Excel via Data Explorer and get running right away.
Then came the complications – there are some grounds like The Oval which are not really cities or locations. Also, there are some places like Surrey that default to US cities with the same name.
With some help from Dan English (@denglishbi) I was able to clean it up by concatenating the opposition name to the ground to at least get the country right.
The next issue was that since I was using the opposition name to derive the country, and since ESPNCricinfo does not distinguish between home and away, or include that as a column, all the matches showed up as “v “. So I had to run two queries on Statsguru: one for home where I then hard-coded “, India” and another for away where I added “, ” and .
Then I used “append” in Data Explorer to merge the two data sets and then threw in a Power View Map on top of that data.
Sorry, the sexier part of this experiment, the Power View report is not visible on Excel Web App, so you will have to download it.
Overall, I came away quite excited and pleased with Data Explorer and how easy it is for business users to build compelling analytics. Find more info at the Data Explorer for Excel blog.
Much has been discussed among Windows Phone (and Windows 8/RT) circles about lack of podcast features in the phone and lack of a native app on big Windows.
I am a big podcast listener. Not huge, but I do listen to a few podcasts regularly. In fact, so regularly, that I have formed a nice list of things I would want in an ideal podcast app/service. The reason I put app/service is because we are now no longer in a single device world.
- Native apps for my devices: I use Windows Phone, Windows 8/RT and Windows 7. I would like native apps for at least phone and “Windows Store”.
- Catalog: Big enough, and fresh enough catalog so that I don’t have to add podcasts by URL.
- Easy subscribe settings: Options during subscribe should include auto downloads, number of episodes to keep, episode delete settings, etc.
- Remember played position: For each podcast, for each episode.
- Cloud: Sync settings, subscriptions and played positions to the cloud. Configurable setting for syncing on-device episodes to the cloud as well.
- Refresh/check for new episodes: Check for new episodes when app is opened, automatically. Also, check on a schedule that can be configured and have a default. So if the default is 3am and 3pm every day, I know when I get up and am ready for my commute, there may be some fresh episodes waiting for me. Same, with a 3pm check for the commute home.
- Playback speed adjustment: Must-have for me, at least 1.5x.
Some bonus territory items:
- Playback in the cloud: If my subscriptions, settings and on-device episodes are synced to the cloud, I suppose I should be able to play those episodes from the web too. That would take care of machines which don’t have native apps, for example Windows 7 or Macs/iPads/iPhone/iPod.
- Discovery: Based on what I have subscribed to, and perhaps extending it to my social networks, suggest other podcasts.
- Live tiles: I don’t care much about getting notified of new episodes, so I put this in the bonus territory. Live tile notifications of new episodes.
- Usage notifications: Notify (via live tile or otherwise) me about space used being above a certain threshold, or unplayed episodes going above a certain threshold.
Things I don’t care about but I have seen in some apps:
- Visual niceties: Like the tape player in the iOS app. Don’t care about it since I always lock the phone screen anyway.
- Social sharing: I don’t share either while listening or otherwise, so I don’t care about that feature.
Too much to ask? Is there any podcast app/service that does this already? I think Downcast on iOS comes very close in terms of functionality but they are only on iOS so far, but have expressed that they may look at WP with no real commitment provided. The iOS Podcasts app does not seem to delete episodes after they are finished which is a bummer (either a bug or a feature, but either way, a bummer for me).
None of the Windows Phone 3rd party apps do auto-download yet. There are some in the process of getting released with promised functionality but none generally available yet.
The native Windows Phone feature does not have a manual check for new episodes, and there is no clear understanding when exactly it checks for new episodes. Besides, there is no corresponding app on Windows 8, and of course, there is no playback speed adjustment.
Let me know if you find any compatible apps
Some pics from last night. I took screenshot of the viewfinder to show what the naked eye can see. See the actual image that the phone camera took.
(I must admit, I took this MG Siegler set of posts a little bit too seriously. I had sworn off that guy, but since his nonsense was being discussed by others I follow on twitter, I had to peek.)
Second, after Ed Bott brings it up and appropriately schools him on how Windows works within the OEM ecosystem, MG goes out and shoots himself in the foot by arguing (like a kid, nonetheless) that OS X was only updated after it became generally available to the public. Well, that is bad, isn’t it? That would mean Apple let a buggy OS out to the masses and only fixed issues a month or so later.
Oh, and that nonsense about calling Ed an “Apple malware blogger”? Sigh. More childishness.
As you may or may not know, we just relocated from the US to Bangalore. While we wait for our stuff to come (shipped by sea), we are living a somewhat nomadic life. The latest temporary residence happens to be a decent hotel, but before that we spent a few days in a guest house and before that, with my uncle and aunt.
For the past week or so, for one reason or the other, both our iPads have not come out of the suitcase. The kids have started going to school so they don’t need entertainment during the day, there was no wifi at the guest house earlier, and there is good wifi here in the hotel but we have a PC that we use a lot and for quick email triage and Facebook/Twitter/ADN, I end up using my phone more than anything else.
As a result, not only have the iPad not been used, more importantly, they have not been missed. We have not once felt like we would rather use the iPad. The kids used to play random games (dress up Barbie or restaurant manager are current favorites) but they have the TV to entertain them after the come from school. For the past several months I have noticed that my use of the iPad has strictly been Twitter, Facebook and the browser. Between the phone and the laptop, I haven’t needed to get the iPad for any of those uses.
This could very well be because we are not settled into “our house” yet. In other words, if the iPad were there on the coffee table, we would of course pick it up than open the laptop. However, I am seriously thinking, if instead of a laptop, I had a Windows RT “device”, I would be absolutely ok and in fact would prefer it. That would take care of the thin-and-light thing that is lying around on the coffee table, and also fits well as a “better computer” than the iPad when hooked to the dock at the desk. So that casual Excel or Word files that I may need to edit on-the-go, can actually be done without fumbling with pinching and zooming to no end.
The kids have enough “entertainment” options outside of the iPad, and even today, there are plenty of games and game-like apps in the Windows Store to keep them busy (and educated at the same time) so they won’t miss the iPad.
There you have it. I am ready to get a Surface RT to replace my iPad 2. At least one of the two that I own.