I just submitted my first Windows Phone 7 application. It’s a simple RPN-notation hex programmer’s calculator. I wanted a replacement for my basically irreplacable HP-16C, a fantastic computer geek calculator that HP discontinued in 1989. I have two of these, and they’re indispensable for mucking around with bits and bytes in a debugging session. But I hate leaving them out; things like this have a habit of walking away when you’re not looking.
[Don’t get me started on calculators with “Equals” keys. I needed something that did RPN . . . more HP calculator stories some other time.]
Since the core logic of a calculator is pretty damned simple, most of the work was futzing around with the user interface. Looking at the “competition” (a couple of freebie / 99-cent titles) I noticed a trend of very bad UI. I went for large buttons (easy to hit in the heat of a debugging marathon), a way to “backspace” and fix input errors (as on the 16C), a simple and large layout, and a core set of everyday operations that I know at least I will use (rule #1 of tool building: Build it for yourself first).
I was surprised by how easy it was to get the app going; from initial prototype to first submission to the marketplace was a little over 24 hours wall-clock time, probably ten hours of keyboarding.
I’m charging 99 cents for it. Who knows, I might make a buck or two. It was sure fun to write.
A few weeks ago I ditched my iPhone (3G model) for a Samsung Focus running Windows Phone 7. You’ll just have to trust me when I say that this was only partly because of the subsidy MS provided employees for these phones; I would have bought one anyway.
I was getting quite tired of the iPhone purgatory — I had a smartphone that I couldn’t program, and I was getting more and more upset at the stupid stunts that Apple was pulling on developers. There was stuff that I wanted to do on my phone, and I didn’t want to invest in a Mac and learn iOS and Objective C and all that. The iPhone market looked pretty saturated, too.
Android? I am not fond of Java, and (more practically) Android doesn’t have the platform uniformity guarantees of Winphone 7 in terms of screen sizes, sensors, CPU and GPU and so forth. Android is out of the running because it looks (for me, at least) like a pain in the rear and not much fun to actually ship an app on. Android might be the platform that takes over the world and stomps everyone named Steve into the 5 percent marketplace share muck, and I would still feel it’s not worth my effort.
And I’m pretty sure I would say the following even if I didn’t work for MS: Microsoft really deserves to win on the Winphone 7 platform. I really like it so far, both as a user, and as a small investor as an app writer.