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Mailbag: July 1, 2012

In this edition of the Mailbag: Confusion around the relationship between Windows Phone 7.8, Windows Phone 8, and Windows RT, whether Nokia is a good investment, how to access podcasts on Windows Phone, my quickie Audible book recommendations, confusion about the features in Windows Phone 7.8, and some thoughts about obfuscation through overwriting.

If you have questions, please email me.

Windows Phone 7.8, Windows Phone 8, and Windows RT confusion

Ed B. asks:

Microsoft has said that all Windows Phone 7.5 apps will run on Windows Phone 8 devices. Then there was this question of "compiling in the cloud" related to app downloads from Windows Store.  I kind of thought that this "compilation" would handle whatever (presumably minor) adjustments might be necessary to get a Windows Phone 7.5 app to run in Windows Phone 8.

Now, Surface RT will run Windows RT, which can't be that different from the from the Windows Phone 8 OS.  I assume that all Windows Phone 7.5 and 8 apps will share a common Metro app store? And that this app store might be the same one used for Windows RT and Windows 8 Metro apps?

So if some kind of simple store-based process can make a Windows Phone 7.5 app compatible with a Windows Phone 8 device, could the same (or similar) process make a Windows Phone 7.5 app runnable on Windows RT (i.e. Surface/RT) devices?  That would be huge. IMO: Potentially 100,000 apps on day 1 for Surface/RT?

The compilation in the cloud is unrelated to differences between the WP7.5 runtimes (XNA, Silverlight) and the WP8 runtimes (WinRTP/DirectX). WP8 can simply run WP7.5-style runtimes as well as its own. The reverse is not true.

I am positive that it's technically possible to run Windows Phone (whatever version) apps on Windows 8 or RT. In fact, the Windows Phone 8 developer environment uses Hyper-V to run Windows Phone 8 in a virtual machine, which suggests that these platforms are indeed very similar. But I'm equally positive that Microsoft will block this activity for security reasons.

Remember that Microsoft will not allow Metro-style apps to run in a window because that obviates part of their security model. The same must be true of running WP8 apps in a window on Windows 8/RT. And the alternative—running the phone apps full-screen, as you can with iPhone apps on an iPad—is terrible looking and borderline useless (on iOS).

The exception, of course, is games. And with Windows Phone 8 supporting Windows-like screen resolutions (1280 x720 and 1280 x 768) one might make argument that Microsoft should allow WP8 games, at least, to run on Windows 8/RT. Except for one thing: There’s no reason to. Games designed specifically for Windows Phone 8 will use native code and DirectX technologies, and will work on Windows 8/RT with little or no changes. So this is something developers get for free (or almost free).

I don’t see it happening, basically.

Follow-up: After a further exchange, I noted:

The security rationale for not allowing the intermingling of platforms is same reason why Microsoft won't let Metro apps run "on top of" the desktop, in a window: That allows developers to inject code into what is otherwise a protected environment. They just do not allow it.

On the iPad, iPhone apps do "run" but in full-screen mode only, not alongside other apps. So it's the same basic idea.

Bottom line: My opinion is that Microsoft won’t let Windows Phone apps run on Windows 8/RT. But this certainly seems doable.

Investing in Nokia?

Kevin L. asks:

Since I've seen the Nokia stock drop over and over when it seemed that it couldn't get any lower, I know it's very possible to just keep going ... They already announced this quarter would be bad and the stock took a hit, and I imagine next month when the actual numbers come out it will take another hit.  That is when I'm thinking might be a good time to buy.  Right when most people think it's over for them, and right before they start announcing new devices and carriers.

I'm not the right person to ask about investing, sorry. I was the guy who figured investing in Microsoft at the height of their US antitrust trial made sense because, win or lose, the stock could only go up (or split). They settled, and 10 years of stock stagnation ensued.

I do have a friend in the financial services industry who bought Nokia stock recently because he's a fan of Windows Phone and the price was so low.

But … I’m not sure what to say on this one. What you're saying makes sense. But the one thing I know about the stock market is that logic rarely applies.

Podcasts on Windows Phone

Thomas L. asks:

I'm just about to move to Windows Phone, Nokia Lumia 800 or 710. I was specifically waiting for Audible, but there is one thing I need and some advice would be great. I'm looking for a podcast app. I listen to tons of podcasts on my iPad (streaming and downloaded through Instacast) and I need it replaced on Windows Phone.

The built-in podcasting functionality in Windows Phone works well, especially well if you don't mind doing the PC sync thing, since the Zune PC client lets you arbitrarily add URL-based podcast feeds, giving you access to more podcasts than you can get over the air.

That said, there are a couple of decent podcast apps I've used, including PODCASTS! and Slapdash Podcasts, which also comes in a Windows 8 version.

Audible book recommendations

Darren H asks:

I installed Audible for Windows Phone and I am interested in knowing what books you recommend. I looked on the SuperSite for Windows to  see if you had any picks there that you had recommended but didn't see any. I know that you often recommend audible books in your podcasts, I was hoping to find that information. I'm new to audio books, I've always listened to podcasts in tech and gaming. Any suggestions for an Audible newbie?

Some of the better ones include Dracula (the recent version with Alan Cumming and Tim Curry), Nightmares and Dreamscapes Volume I, Volume II, and Volume III by Stephen King, Solaris: The Definitive Edition (sci-fi), The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (read by Stephen Fry, hilarious), and I Drink For a Reason (by comedian David Cross, essentially a long-form standup routine, if you like that sort of thing).

Windows Phone 7.8 Confusion

I’m kind of amazed by how much confusion there still is around Windows Phone 7.8. I reported what Microsoft intends to incorporate into this final 7.x release in my article Windows Phone 7.8 Preview—basically, just the Windows Phone 8 Start screen changes—but enthusiasts expect Microsoft to add other features for some reason. (I wrote about this phenomenon separately in Some Users Confused About Windows Phone 7.8 Update too.) This is a typical email:

Will Windows Phone 7.8 have any of the Data Smart features from Windows Phone 8?


Now, could Microsoft add features later at some time? Sure. But as of today, what they’ve said on the record is reported accurately in Windows Phone 7.8 Preview. That’s everything.

Writing too much

Jordan C. writes:

Just a humorous observation‏ … You're always attacking Sinofsky for using too many words to explain simple topics, because he likes to go into the background of decisions and what thinking the team did to reach those decisions. Then you took 562 words to tell people to install Hyper-V :-)  Just a thought, from someone who loves reading Sinofsky's blog posts in full specifically because of his intentions.

First of all, I would never “attack” Sinofsky. Or Microsoft. Or anyone writing for the Building Windows 8 blog. I respect them all, and the work they're doing. I do criticize them when I feel it’s warranted. That's sort of my job.

Unfortunately, those blog posts are often overly long. I’ve become convinced over time that this is done on purpose to obscure what Microsoft is trying to communicate, not because adding mountains of text adds clarity. There are many examples of this. Microsoft needs editors on that blog. Sorry, just my opinion.

For this reason, I’ve started a series of articles called The De-Obfusc8r that “de-obfuscates” the more complex posts on that blog so that normal people will understand what Microsoft is really saying and cut through all the baloney about metrics and telemetry. Some posts don’t need this type of explanation, however. The most recent, Introducing the Photos app for Windows 8, is a model of clarity and succinctness. I wish they were all that clear.

That said, 562 words is a far cry from, say, 11,000 words, as in one particularly obvious example of obscurity through length. And unlike many Building Windows 8 Blog posts, my post about fixing a serious Windows 8 Release Preview bug which causes system hangs helps virtually everyone using Windows 8 right now. It’s unclear why Microsoft has ignored this very serious issue publicly thus far. But my job, as I see it, is to help users of Microsoft’s products, not cheer on Microsoft whether they deserve it or not.


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