.NET Rocks Conversations: Microsoft’s Brandon Watson on Windows Phone 7

Get Started with Visual Studio 2010 Express and Silverlight

\\[Editor’s note: Welcome to “.NET Rocks Conversations,” excerpts of conversations from the .NET Rocks! weekly Internet audio talk show. Hosts Richard Campbell and Carl Franklin chat with a wide variety of .NET developer experts. This month’s excerpt is from show 559, “Brandon Watson Live in Atlanta.” This interview before a live audience is the culmination of the three-week 15-city .NET Rocks and Visual Studio 2010 Road Trip. Brandon flew into Atlanta especially for the event.\\]

 Carl Franklin: Give it up for Mr. Brandon Watson from Microsoft. \\[Applause\\]

Brandon Watson:  I'm the director of Developer Experience for Windows Phone 7. We've known each other for a while because I used to run technical marketing for developer platforms. I got recruited out of Dev Tools, DevDiv, basically Visual Studio 2010, to work on phone.

Franklin: Well, if you think about it, the road trip is all that mobility. As a matter of fact, podcasts are all about mobility.

Watson: It is and you know, when we talk about the phone it's not about the apps. It's about the experience, your personal experience and access to whatever is important to you. I have a phone here to show people—some people believe it's real. You can even make a phone call on it. Every time I hear you guys talking about the phone, it was "I made a phone call. I don't believe it works." So everybody can make a phone call from my phone.

Franklin: We did that.

Watson: I believe on stage, that's right. We talk about the uniqueness of the experience. You open up my phone—my wife's picture is there, her Facebook updates pop up, the people I contact most of them are there.

Franklin: Yeah. Your wife’s on my phone too. \\[Laughter\\] I love that feature.

Watson: We've got a lot of different experiences woven into the phone. Everyone has been asking for years, "Where's the Zune phone?" Well, it turns out Zune is a service built into the phone. So I got all my podcasts: I was listening to Schmelzer and Rocky Lhotka, your show in Chicago. That was an interesting discussion about WPF versus Silverlight.

Richard Campbell: It's always fun to put a Microsoft person on the spot.

Watson: We still have a long way to go. We're very excited. The reason I got hired in this team is because of my passion for developers. Let's be clear: I'm a product manager and I write code on the side; so I'm not a day-by-day developer, but I do write code at night because I have fun with selling products. I actually started at Microsoft in '94 and left in '99 because the company was too big and I was just young and stupid. I was saying, "Ah, I'm going to go work at a dotcom and make lots and lots of money." It turns out the script played out a little differently.

Franklin: Yeah.

Watson: So it was a different experience coming back into the business. I was brought back; I worked on Azure, and have been standing on tables yelling and screaming about how there's this audience of developers that want to build mobile apps, want to build web apps. It's a very different audience than the Enterprise developer that Microsoft has traditionally targeted.

Campbell: The developer's story was very challenging. It has not been easy to build mobile apps.

Franklin: I think it has been easy to build; it's just not easy to use them.

Watson: Or deploy them quite honestly. What was your motivation for building? I think you've got to get back to basic principles and that's what’s your motivation for building. Because the folks who are building, say iPhone apps, and the folks who are building Androids apps and ultimately who are going to build Windows Phone 7 apps, it's a different breed of folks. Obviously we have a huge number of developers who want to build Enterprise apps, and we want to get to them and give them what they need and enable that experience. But for more and more people, the phone has become an extension of themselves and it's a consumer-first experience. It's a phone they bring to work, not a phone they got from work.

Campbell: Right.

Watson: That's a very important distinction.

Carl Franklin: Let's talk about the SDK because this is where the developers interface with the phone—you've got Visual Studio 2010. What else do you need?

Brandon Watson: Nothing. Well, actually it gets even simpler than that. First a show of hands, the number of Silverlight developers now, and people that are familiar with Silverlight. Great, you're now all Windows Phone developers. Done.

Campbell: Yeah, Win Forms developers. Yeah, it's good news.

Watson: When I started interviewing for the position, I went and conned my way into getting the tools by planting a flag in their house, "I'm in DevDiv; I need to see the tools." No reason included. I wanted to know what the experience was like, and so I didn't actually need Visual Studio 2010. If you don't have it, we have a free tool—get Visual Studio 2010 Express specifically for Windows Phone. It's a small download, and you're up and running. The SDK, because it's based on Silverlight and XNA for games, they're separate now (eventually they'll come together) because they're slightly of different programming models. It's very easy to get started if you're uninitiated, meaning you haven't spent the last 10 years building on .NET. It turns out the last 10 years of .NET evolution have made it so easy to build apps that even a dumb marketing guy like myself can go pick up Silverlight in a weekend and build a Twitter app, which I'm happy to show. I'm going to deploy it to my phone and show it to folks. I was really shocked at how easy it was and shame on me for being surprised at how easy it was.

Franklin: So if we've got Silverlight .NET and we download the Silverlight 4.0 toolkit tools and the toolkit right out of the box, we have Windows Phone 7 support?

Watson: So Silverlight, we had kind of the cadence of doing development; Windows Forms is based on Silverlight. It is a super set of Silverlight 3.0 and a subset of 4.0. Let's look at it that way. So 4.0 has a lot of stuff that we don't need to strip out. We had an instant stuff that's phone specific so it's more 3 plus.

Franklin: But there's a special download SDK for it?

Watson: Not for Silverlight 4.0 on the phone.

Franklin: Oh no, just for the phone.

Watson: Yeah, yeah. For the phone, the SDK comes with Visual Studio 2010 which plugs into 2010, you download that, or the tool chain inspects your machine, it says "Oh, you don't have Visual Studio. Here's the Express queue." And just downloads it for you. So it's really an easy one click, everything you need gets installed in one go and you don't have to go off to Silverlight.NET. You can get tools from Silverlight at that point: It's developer.windowsmobile.com.

Franklin: Awesome. Did you get that?

Watson: How many people have downloaded the tools already? Wow, that's a good number. Shame on the rest of you.

Franklin: So you don't have to have a phone obviously to know programs.

Watson: No. My responsibilities are to the developer community, and one of my basic principles is remove friction, I want simplicity. So you don't need a phone. Why? Because the emulator is so good if you go search, it turns out somebody cracked the wrong image that we shipped with the SDK. \\[Laughter\\]

Campbell: It's; already…

Watson: Yeah, it took my 10 minutes up. But it's the whole image of the phone OS.

Franklin: Wow.

 \\[There’s much more: To listen to or read the full interview go to www.dotnetrocks.com.\\]

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