Windows Phone 7 Marketplace – Show me the money!

image

I’m not looking to pick a fight, I do however have some basic questions around what Success vs Fail looks like for an average Wp7 Developer. That is to say, I’ve worked in a few Wp7 App/Game teams in the past two years and I’ve not seen these folks talk up their revenue or commercial success.

Having recently just finished the first beta of an upcoming game, I’m now spending majority of my effort trying to settle on a price and revenue model that will accompany it. I’m also thinking about what my marketing spend should be and where etc.

My research into finding answers to questions around market size, target audience and lastly what a safe price tag should be has come up quite empty . I’ve asked various Windows Phone 7 community “experts” to which I’ve gotten blank responses or some minor links to a blog post from indie developers talking up their Ad Revenue stream(s).

I’ve also asked some Microsoft staffers internally who don’t mind giving me a leak or two of information and they too came back with answers like “come to think of it, I haven’t seen anything internally either. Just lots of adoption metrics but not actual hard revenue related data”.

This now begs the question, which is despite the market share of Windows Phone 7 what exactly does success and fail look like for those looking to target the device?

60 minutes in Australia last Sunday ran a similar interview with iPhone developer(s) and they had a guy from Brisbane on who’s made around $10million off his game(s). Ok, much larger audience but at the same time iPhone marketplace is quite a competitive and saturated user base to target, so to make $10million isn’t an easy thing but at the same time that’s a carrot we can all jump at.

Looking at the various launches / keynotes around Windows Phone, I’ve also not seen someone on stage that has come from a position of “until Windows Phone 7, I was homeless but now, I drive a Ferrari and I have two hot girlfriends” style success.

Ad Revenue is the success metric.

If I cast my browser searches on the interwebz, the likely response to the above questions is simply ad revenue. To me that’s great, it’s I guess a profitable approach but for me I’d rather not make my creation into a digital NASCAR whereby I’m hocking Viagra in-game. Instead, I’d like to either enable in-game purchasing (Windows Phone 8) and/or once-off purchase with additional seasons/expansion packs later (should the audience feel that the game is rewarding enough to invest in).

Today, there is no actual capability for in-game purchasing (ie buy gems/gemstones etc) so you have to rely on your initial once-off purchase. You also are encouraged to provide a trial version of your creation as well, so again, not sure that’s a great revenue model for developer(s) but at the same time it’s a great thing for consumers.

Metrics you can count on.

This probably boils down to bankable metrics that Microsoft is quite cagey in giving specifics around. I doubt anyone will get a clear and concise answer here around what the adoption vs active user metrics are on any given quarter with regards to the Phone(s). If that were to occur I think Nokia’s price would drop and most likely impact on Microsoft’s fumbling share price as well.

That’s of course a pity though, as being a developer you want to size your market, figure out what your potential financially looks like and given we can’t get those specific metrics from Microsoft (in a consistent manner, they do drips and drabs of random stats but they rely on a lot of external inference to size collectively) then the alternative is to come up with another position.

Create a Dust Cloud.

I’ve already committed to the creation of my game, it’s done (almost). I’m ready to hit the launch button and try my luck so right now, I’m a candidate for easy convincing given I already took the leap of faith a month ago. I need confidence that my energy and time wasn’t just a complete waste of time, I want something to hang my hat on and mirror or expand upon around success for the Windows Phone 7 market place.

I want to look at someone’s success, learn from it and expand on it in the hope I can generate my own Windows Phone 7 after glow.

Microsoft simply needs to create what I call a “dust cloud” in that just like in many war novels whereby the horses on the horizon have created such a vast dust cloud that the attacking army looks and sounds a lot bigger/worse than it actually is. Microsoft needs to create a similar affect, that is to bring a few success stories out into the light and shower them in marketing love, followed by infomercial like stories of “Look, he was poor, but now he’s worth $10million USD!!!”

In

Summary

.

Given there is no in-game purchasing today and yes it appears Windows Phone 8 will fix this, it’s clear to see why a lot of the iPhone game developer(s) haven’t likely ported their success over to the marketplace (Excluding Microsoft investing in this companies via seed funding to do so). That’s a problem and was always one that I think would become a negative for reasons to invest in Windows Phone 7 marketplace. It’s fixed though, well soon to be so I’ll not dwell to much on that one.

Not seeing success around Windows Phone 7 and more importantly getting hints or glimpses of what a commercial reality / viability of spending your time making for the device(s) to me is something that is either really bad or one of the best kept secrets that has the worst reasons for doing so.

I hopefully assume there is a revenue model beyond just ad impressions for Windows Phone 7 marketplace success, I want to see or read a story or two on an indie game developer making their annual wage and more on a single game’s success. I want to see part two of the movie “Indie Game: The Movie” whereby instead of following the success of an XBOX game developer we see the tablet/mobile phone developer.

I genuinely want to believe there’s gold in these Microsoft hills. Show me the money!

Related Posts:

Windows Phone 8 is the reset we have to have.

I’ve been reading quite a lot of narrative around Windows Phone 8 and mostly around how existing devices are going miss out on functionality.

Looking at the two phones) in theory there is little stopping existing Windows Phone 7 users from having such features) but in truth I don’t think this was ever a technical discussion.

Windows Phone 8 is the entry point.

I’ve pretty much said a number of times over the past 2 years around how I think Windows Phone 7 will fail with consumers) and to be clear and to the point, it has. Nokia sales are poor, the units adopted vs. shipped are a mathematical failure and lastly the uptake and adoption excitement hasn’t been as attractive as it could have been – despite Nokia’s positive influence in their brilliant marketing blitz.

Bottom line is the Phone itself has and always been a “save my position in line until I’m ready to enter the market” strategy. It had to rely on Silverlight teams work to firm up the UX platform strategy and entice an existing development mindset onto the phone.

The early marketing campaigns were just embarrassing to watch, there was no structure to the developer engagement model(s) and it was very reactive and haphazardly handled.

I stated in 2010 the phone would fail simply because I got a sense this was about to happen, as the more I looked at the future strategies of Microsoft from an insider perspective the more I could see it wasn’t about consumers or developers, it was more about internal staff shuffling and jockeying for power to appear to be solving these problems.

Today, Windows Phone 8 plans have been trickled out, and even as I type this I can’t but help criticize the approach taken during the release keynote – excluding Kevin Gallo, given out of the entire keynote it was one guy’s clarity and approach that provided a sense of confidence behind what was brewing.

That all being said, I’m positive about Windows Phone 8 going forward. I think Microsoft are finally starting to suffocate the internal politics and are starting to firm up a coherent strategy around what they think the UX Platform of the future is likely to be.

The strategy is still a work in progress and despite how polished that the company appear to be around what’s coming up next they are still fumbling their way through the evangelism and marketing rhythms that still have large amounts of work to be done.

Windows Phone 8 is the release we should have had, it’s in many ways like the old historical “service pack that fixed the release” which is commonly associated with Microsoft Windows (ie I won’t
install until they release a service pack mentality).

The phone itself has a lot of potential successful entry points to help kickstart an economy and adoption curve that could definitely, if architected (and I mean a big if!) correctly.

Firstly, the phone finally has a what looks like to be a clear vision around how Enterprise adoption can take hold of the said phone that I’m hoping (yet to clarify this) that Windows 8 tablet(s) can also make use of.

This one small but significant feature is what I think can make the adoption cycles stand out from the rest as given there is so much ratcheted excitement around the idea of having smartphones and devices handling complex business focused solutions, this is the first of a united platform strategy that has not only less friction for developer(s) to adopt but also feels more natural within most organisations (given .NET adoption to date is deeper within enterprise than ever before).

Secondly, the wallet feature is still a bit of a left of center idea around how to commercialize and monetize future solution(s) with regards to the Smartphone/Device market(s). What I mean to say is this is kind of the “Deep Zoom” functionality within Silverlight whereby at first glance you could see usage for it but it really isn’t something that was widely adopted or specifically asked for.

I’m hopeful that this feature will get traction across all device(s) more to the point I am dreaming of the day I can buy my coffee from a cafe via my phone vs having to take out my wallet (given they constantly break my notes into coins or I don’t have actual cash on me when I need a coffee).

The technology for a phone-wallet like approach is in place but it will still take a large amount of maturity from both the developer community and Microsoft to get this into the market in a meaningful way (which I’m sadly skeptical will happen – much like Cardspace days, good idea just bad execution).

Thirdly the NFC/Bluetooth and App to App functionality is quite a powerful little gem when you stop and contemplate its future potential. This one requires some visionary, go on a leap of trust with me ask.

The idea that I can have an application and then “bump uglies” with a fellow phone user to not only get the app i’ve just recommended but also potentially share information on the spot, is something that actually makes sense.

I’ve personally sat in meetings where i’ve watched people fumble around with sharing information or better yet in desperate search for the idea of continuous client whereby sharing amongst many as the user navigates the said data would be quite a powerful communication tool.

This feature I believe will wash over the consumer base with hardly an impact but I do see in the Enterprise space it will definitely have a lot more potential than it has to offer today – provided the phone gets traction, attracts the right designer/developer mindset and lastly can remove all friction roadblocks that may impact its clear line of communication (it’s hard to isolate these given the specifics aren’t clear at the time of writing this).

So it’s a going to be successful right?

I said it has potential and I didn’t say it was going to be successful. There is still some blood in the water around those who own the Windows Phone 7 device today being basically given the “thanks for bleeding on our bleeding edge of discovery”. I don’t think this will be an easy hurdle to jump over and should they succeed it’s only due to the fact that the Phone’s consumer failings are going to ensure this level of distrust / toxic venom isn’t as loud as it could have been.

I think it will also require a lot of strategic and careful evangelism on Microsoft’s part to seed this within all those organisations hanging onto their sharepoint / .net way of life with a death grip.

In order to solve that problem, Microsoft really need to sit down and have a detailed heart to heart with the developer base on what their plans are specifically around WPF/Silverlight/WinForms development today. Kevin Gallo in the Windows Phone 8 presentation actually gave clear guidance on this but I think his message needs to be broadcasted as clearly and cleanly has he gave it.

Kevin in my view should be the one who faces the hordes of Developer(s) out there given Scott Guthrie has been shunted to the geek-celeb fame left. Despite this annoyance that the one guy you’d love to hear the most from (Scott Guthrie) isn’t speaking loudly as you’ve grown acustom to is somewhat of a large mistake on Microsoft developer relations part. None the less they definitely need to give Kevin the stage and make him the consistent face amongst many “who cares who this VP is” Microsoft executive crowd.

In order to win this over they really need to pick a team that can be the consistent personalities, it’s why Robert Scoble got success in the early Microsoft days. He was your trusted camera guy who roamed the halls of redmond giving you insight into what’s being published from the Software factory known as Microsoft.

Microsoft have lost this element of success, they are producing technical solutions that may or may not win hearts & minds but ultimately they aren’t clear on what they want to say about the said solutions. They are preoccupied with letting some random executive get on stage and have his & her say to which you never either see them again or you’re still confused as to who they are and why you should listen to them?

In order to have Windows Phone 8 win the day, they need to really just drive home the message calmly, clearly and in a unified voice that builds trust.

Lastly the entire UX platform strategy is starting to bend inwards, in that they are starting to unite the teams under the one vision which is why I’ll simply leave off with one last ranty thought.

I suffer from bipolar but so does Microsoft marketing, in that their entire website strategy is a confusing mess of stupidity and creates more of a problem than it solves. I truly hope Microsoft abandon the “File-New-Website” approach to messaging Windows 8 and Windows Phone by reversing the engines, that is to say unite the entire vision under just one site.

Don’t let internal politics screw this next 1-2 years up, unite and build or you’re just going to be yet another ongoing punchline to a bad technology joke.

Windows Phone 8 is the reset we have to have simply because it starts to be an additive to a united vision (whether you like it or not).

Related Posts:

Apple gets complaints about consistent incremental growth in their product(s).

Just like in the lion king, out come the Apple execs holding their new king high in the air as if the “circle of life” sound track is about to be played – yet again – hail the new Mac Book Pro and its retina display for it is the answer to a question nobody asked!

Apple Kool-Aid aside, something struck me today about the staying power of a Apple as a brand and it had little to do with the a-typical Steve Jobs circle jerk “he’s the technical second coming of jesus” rants.

Today, we cast our eyes to the big fruit in the RSS filled sky and we have two choices before us. We can either praise and high five Apple for all its brilliance and might – or – we can boo, hiss and denounce it as the new entity within the technology axis of evil for yet another lack luster development in product planning.

To me though something struck me as a stand out thought amongst many in my coffee overdosed bipolar mind. Today we are afforded the luxury of complaining about Apple and how dare they keep a consistent product roadmap that appears to be growing incrementally over the years. There’s no sudden abandonment or about face turn on product roadmaps, there is no product sitting in the portfolio suddenly gone really really quiet from a marketing standpoint to the point you almost would swear it never existed.

They have this nerve about staying fairly committed to their product vision and future and what really gets under my skin is how they keep improving on their designs.

An example comes to mind, the new Macbook Pro. All it has really is a tighter retina display that they borrowed from the R&D they clearly have put into the iPhone/iPad(s). What a cheap attempt at fooling me into buying their product – I’m outraged.

As you all know, I’m a Microsoft .NET developer & designer these days and to be openly frank about this, I don’t like it when a brand sticks to a commitment around their product line(s). I’m not used to it and I expect after 1-2 years the product has to be parked in the “old ideas” parking bay and I await now the new vision of what’s new coming up next.

The idea that you’re R&D can be re-used across all your platform(s) in a consistent and carefully designed manner that isn’t highly reactive to your competitor(s) is quite arrogant and clearly a dumb idea.

Microsoft will show Apple who’s boss, they’ll take the Windows 8 Tablet and ram it down the vegan fruit eating zen smoking hipsters throats. They’ll give them a lesson in how to confuse and alienate their customer(s) with inconsistent visions and platform resets that are a massive answer to a question that nobody asked.

Watch this space Apple as you’re about to be skooled on Windows 8 and yes there is no start button because that’s 25+ years of habitual usage that need not apply anymore – yeah they did it, they meant it and Sinofsky is here to represent it – Windows 8, no start, no finish just existence.

Related Posts:

Windows 8 Enterprise Monkey Edition …Why not just “Windows”..

Microsoft has this unique gift in their current product portfolios, that is they have a fairly wide range of offerings that at times on their own are quite brilliant and great to use.

This now brings me to my state of confusion, that is to say why they spend so much energy and time confusing the masses when its clear their biggest competitor, Apple, have figured out the simplistic pattern of “less is more”.

There is just Windows.

Today, Brandon announced what will be the upcoming SKU’s for Windows 8, and yes the ye olde “pro” makes a comeback to a shrink wrap shelf near you.

Stupid.

Why do they need to separate out the product lines as to me they really should reconsider this approach going forward, especially given Desktop/Device are blurring out one another’s value proposition(s).

Instead of breaking out a variety of comparison matrix that often as a consumer will result in ticking the lowest cost box, why not instead just let everyone buy a Windows core, that is to say you just “buy” windows.

Picture a consumer walking into a retail shop of some kind, they walk straight over to the Windows box, pick it up, buy it and then install it when they get home.

The installation wizard steps them through various basic features and so on but on the last screen they are asked “what other features would you like to buy? for 0.99c

The end user ponders, and starts to tick or untick boxes that they think they will need for their installation – which is linked to a Azure ID of some kind.

That’s it, no confusion around which Windows SKU you own or at times buyers remorse because you bought the wrong edition which had XYZ feature and now you want that feature but then have to shell out for features you don’t want at a upgrade price of XYZ.

Furthermore this then would condition them to an initial introduction to the “AppStore” market model which no doubt they probably have already learnt via their iPhones/iPad interaction(s).

Just Windows doesn’t stop there either, you also have this same principle applied to Tablet/ARM/Phone hardware as well as now it’s less about specifics of Windows and more about Windows as an abstract platform.

Ergo this would also underpin their entire content first strategy that orbits Metro today.

I don’t see a cohesive strategy within the Windows Teams, I see snippets of success but there appears to be no over arching cohesive strategy. The problem is still there with individual product teams competiting for consumer awareness and attention.

Is Windows a platform or not? if it is, how about it start acting like one and become one and not some comparison matrix which leaves you questioning “Do i need that?” vs “Do I want that”

Scott Out.

Related Posts:

Ex-Silverlighters and how they influence the vNext

On the Interwebz, when you stumble your way through the various “Silverlight is dead”-style blog posts, what you will most likely see is the theme around skill transference.
Silverlight advocates of the past, who have now switched over to WinRT, have begun to spread the message that not all is lost. You can take your Silverlight skills to WinRT!

It’s Kool Aid Time: this year’s batch is Raspberry.

When I read posts like these, I simply shake my head and admittedly get a little annoyed at the existence of such posts. More to the point, I’m also getting weary of seeing MVP’s of the Silverlight of yesterday flipping the script and now putting out a public audition for WinRT MVP auditions.

I get the mindset that often goes into these style posts, and in many ways you have to give these folks credit, as they have simply have moved on. Unfortunately like most people inside cubicles around the world, the luxury of riding the new wave(s) is often restricted to a small cluster of adopters and influencers.

You know these people: they are usually the same people on stage at a conference somewhere telling you what you’re doing wrong and how you should adopt vNext tech to do better.

Back to reality.

I’ve been at the birth of a new technology; I’ve been in a team that spent millions on marketing and seeding the new technology to over 6 million .NET devs and around 500 million PC’s worldwide. You could say I’ve seen a lot and learnt a lot from that experience.

The one consistent ingredient to seeding a technology is what we collectively call the “influencer”. The idea is you round up a bunch of Community Leaders, you shower them with Glass Awards, titles like MVP, or at the very least make them feel important or as your “favorite”, and then you get them to tell people your message (as the theory is that this in turn adds authenticity to your message).

When I was an Evangelist, I went from being an unknown non-.NET developer in an Adobe/Macromedia scene, to being suddenly invited to speak at Microsoft Conferences, Twitter Followings, Facebook Friend Requests, Invites to Business Deals/Meetings and so on. You feel as if you’re now the one being dated whilst at the same time you in turn make others feel the same the ripples of influence continue.

That’s how you artificially pump a community up around a technology adoption. There are different flavors to the approach, but ultimately, your job is to become a band manager and not the rock stars (you scale more).

The messaging framework.

When the time comes where you need to broadcast your message to the crowd of followers, your main focus is to ensure you get traction around repeatable messaging. That is to say, you ensure that you all sing from the same hymn sheet and with enough repetition this message will be the consistent soundbyte you hear at a local conference near you.

For example:

  • Silverlight isn’t dead; it will be around for 20 years.
  • You can take your Silverlight skills today and reuse them with Win8 tomorrow, as in the end it’s just XAML and C#, right?
  • And so on..

These are examples of how you frame the conversation to break down resistance, or what Steve Jobs would call the “distortion field”. It’s sneaky, and often if you’re not paying too much attention, it will creep up on you and then you find yourself saying the above as if it became suddenly your idea (kind of a mutated confirmation bias at work?).

Change is the enemy.

That’s how you flip the script; that’s how you get people to stop looking behind and start thinking about what’s coming up. You can shift an entire community from the old to new in under 2-3 years using that formula mixed with enough conference blitz, blog post(s) and so on.

This is, however, all a false sense of change. That is to say at the conference / front lines, it looks as if things are moving forward fast, quick everyone get on the new wave!

At the cubicle level, the environment that when the conference etc. is over and everyone retreats back to their various developer enclosures. They are still likely staring at WinForms, Windows XP, WPF, Silverlight and so on for the next 1-2 years minimum.

This is where the thinking around change truly festers, as now it’s less about having XAML and C# skills but more about how to use them in an upcoming project. The bottom line is if you are writing Silverlight/WPF, the very notion or idea that you can transfer your skills in 2-3 years when Windows 8 dust settles is really pie in the sky broad stroke thinking.

Today, you have to File-New Silverlight/WPF Project, as it’s realistically the environment in which you are likely to get success in this .NET space. You could go down the path of HTML/JS and really get ready for devices of tomorrow, but that’s tomorrow, this is today.

Silverlight is at the end of it’s life, and in turn anything that takes a dependency on it is sure to decay over the next year or so. Windows 8 is not a desktop release; it’s a tablet release. The future around how Windows 8 plays a role in businesses of tomorrow is still a huge unknown.

Microsoft really needs to stop switching gears so fast here. If the future is to gravitate towards the next wave, then fine. Change is good, yet do so in a manner that has clarity attached.

Stop hiding behind the sound bytes of the usual muffin eaters at the same conference(s). Stop just abandoning the toys of today because they aren’t as shiny as the ones you make tomorrow.

Spend more time in the transition or bridging between the old wave and the new wave, whilst lastly settle on a message around how you transfer and not throwaway messaging of “well if you know how to write code you can write better code tomorrow”.

I think it’s clear we all can learn a language or two. That’s not the point, the point is: What incentive do I have to relearn (or go backwards in) in order to move forward?

WinRT is Silverlight 1.1 or 2.0 when it comes to development experiences. Windows Phone 7 Development vs. Windows 8 Development isn’t as clear as it could be. Lastly, if Silverlight has no more releases left in it, then how do other products like Lightswitch, Expression Blend, Visual Studio, etc. get affected by the end of life stigma?

Related Posts:

VS2011 “Reimagined” – Class View

Note: The below is an attempt to contribute to the discussion around Visual Studio vNext and what I think personally should eventuate into features for future generations of Visual Studio. The objective behind this is not to declare the UI examples as “done” but more to provoke a discussion around ways in which the tool itself could become more intelligent and contextually relevant to not just developers but also those of us who can do both design and code. I plan on compiling this into a more comprehensive document post public feedback.

Situation.

Today, the ClassView inside Visual Studio is pretty much useless for most parts, in that when you sit down inside the tool and begin stubbing out your codebase (initial file-new creation) you are probably in the “creative” mode of object composition.

Visual Studio in its current and proposed form does not really aid you in a way that makes sense to your natural approach to writing classes. That is to say, all it really can do is echo back to you what you’ve done or more to the point give you a “at a glance view” only.

Improvement.

The class view itself should have a more intelligent by design visual representation. When you are stubbing or opening an existing class, the tool should reflect more specifics around not only what the class composition looks like (at a glance view) but also should enable developers to approach their class designs in a more interactive fashion. The approach should enable developer(s) to hide and show methods, properties and so on within the class itself, meaning “get out of my way, I need to focus on this method for a minute” which in turn keeps the developer(s) focused on the task.

The ClassViewer should also make it quick to comment out large blocks of code, display visual issues relating to the large blocks of code whilst at the same time highlight which parts of the codes have and don’t have Attributes/Annotations attached.

Furthermore, the ClassViewer should also allow developer(s) to integrate their source and task tracking solutions (TFS) via a finite way, that is to say enable both overall class level commentary and “TODO” allocation(s). At the same time have similar approaches at a finite level such as “property, method, or other” areas of interest – (i.e. “TODO: this method is not great code, need to come back refactor this later”).

Feature breakdown.

image

The above is the overall fantasy user interface of what a class viewer could potential look like. Keeping in mind the UI itself isn’t accommodate every single use-case, but simply hints at the direction I am talking about.

Navigation.

image

Inside the ClassView there are the following Navigational items that represent different states of usage.

Documentation
TBA.

Stats
TBA.

Usage by
TBA.

Derived By

The “Derived By” view enables developers to gain a full understanding of how a class handles known inheritance chain by displaying a visual representation of how it relates to other interfaces and classes.

Minimap

image

This inheritance hierarchy will outline specifically how the classes’ relationship model would look like within a given solution (obviously only indexing classes known within an opened solution).

  • The end user is able to jump around inside the minimap view; to get an insight into what metadata (properties, methods etc.) is associated with each class without having to open the said class.
  • The end user is able to gain a satellite view what is inside each class via the Class Properties panel below the minimap.

Class Properties.

image

Interactive Elements.

  • The end user is able to double click on a minmap box (class file representation) and as such, the file will open directly into the code view area.
  • The end user is able to select each field, property, method etc. within the Class Properties data grid. Each time the user selects that specific area and If the file is opened, the code view will automatically position the cursor to the first character within that specific code block.
  • The end user is able to double click on the image first circle to indicate that this code block should be faded back to allow the developer to focus on other parts of the code base. When the circle turns red, the code block itself foreground colour will fade back to a passive state (i.e. all grey text) as whilst this code is still visible and compliable, it however visually isn’t displayed in a prominent state.
  • The end user is able to click on the image second circle to indicate that the code block itself should take on a breakpoint behaviour (when debugging please stop here). When the circle turns red, it will indicate that a debug breakpoint is in place. The circle itself right click context will also take on an as-is behavior found within Visual Studio we see today.
  • The end user is able to click on the image Tick icon (grey off, green on). If the Tick state is grey, this indicates that this code block has been commented out and is in a disabled state (meaning as per commenting code it will not show up at compile time).
  • The end user is able to click on the image Eye icon to switch the code block into either a private or public state (public is considered viewable outside the class itself, ie internal vs public are one in the same but will respect the specifics within the code itself).

Stateful Display.

  • Each row will indicate the name given to the property, its return or defined type, whether or not it is public or private and various tag elements attached to its composition.
  • When a row has a known error attached within its code block, the class view will display a red indication that this area needs the end users attention.
  • The image eye icon represents whether or not this class has been marked for public or private usage (i.e. public is considered whether the class is viewable from outside the class itself – ie internal is considered “viewable” etc.).
  • Tags associated to the row indicate elements of interest, in that the more additional per code block features built in, they will in turn display here (e.g.: Has Data Annotations, Codeblock is Read Only, Has notes attached etc.).

Tags.

My thinking is that development teams can attach tabs to each code block whilst at the same time the code itself will reflect what I call “decorators” that have been attached (ie attributes).

Example Tags.

  • image Attribute / Annotation. This tag will enable the developer to see at a glance as to what attributes or annotations are attached to this specific code block. This is mainly useful from a developer(s) perspective to ensure whether or not the class itself has the right amount of attributes (oops I forgot one?) whilst at the same time can provide an at-a-glance view as to what types of dependencies this class is likely to have (e.g use case Should EntityFramework Data Annotations be inside each POCO class? Or should it be handled in the DBContext itself?..before we answer that, lets see what code blocks have that dependency etc.).
  • image Locked. This ones a bit of a tricky concept, but initially the idea is to enable development teams to lock specific code blocks from other developer(s) manipulation, that is to say the idea is that when a developer is working on a specific set of code chunks and they don’t want other developer(s) to touch, they can insert code-locks in place. This in turn will empower other developer’s to still make minor modification(s) to the code whilst at the same time, check in the code itself but at the same time removing resolution conflicts at the end of the overall work stream (although code resolution is pretty simplified these days, this just adds an additional layer of protecting ones sandpit).
  • image Notes. When documenting issues within a task or bug, it’s at times helpful to leave traces behind that indicate or warn other developers to be careful of xyz issues within this code block (make sure you close out your while loop, make sure you clean-up your background threading etc.). The idea here is that developer(s) can leave both class and code-block specific notes of interest.
  • Insert Your idea here. These tag specific features outlined so far aren’t the exhausted list, they are simply thought provokers as to how far one can go within a specific code-block. The idea is to leverage the power Visual Studio to take on a context specific approach to the way you interact with a classes given composition. The tags themselves can be injected into the code base itself or they can simply reside in a database that surrounds the codebase (ie metdata attached outside of the physical file itself).

Discussion Points..

  • The idea behind this derived by and class properties view is that the way in which developer(s) code day in day out takes on a more helpful state, that is to say you are able to make at-a-glance decisions on what you see within the code file itself. At the same time providing a mini-map overarching view as to what the composition of your class looks like – given most complex classes can have a significant amount of code in place?
  • Tagging code-chunks is a way of attaching metadata to a given class without specifically having to pollute the class’s actual composition, these could be attachments that are project or solution specific or they can be actual code manipulation as well (private flipped to public etc.). The idea is simply to enable developer(s) to communicate with one another in a more direct and specific fashion whilst at the same time enable the developer(s) to shift their coding lense to enable them to zero in on what’s important to them at the time of coding (ie fading the less important code to a grey state).

Going forward, throw your ideas into the mix, how would you see this as being a positive or negative way forward?

Related Posts:

Decoding the use of grey in Visual Studio vNext

Visual Studio team have put out some UI updates to the vNext release. The thing that struck a chord with this update is how flat and grey it’s become, that is they’ve taken pretty much all colors out of the tool and pushed it back to a grey based palette.

Here are my thoughts:

On the choice of grey.

Grey is a color that I have used often in my UI’s and I have no issue with going 100% monochrome grey provided you could layer in depth. The thing about grey is that if it has to flat and left in a minimalist state it often will not work for situations where there is what I call “feature density.”

If you approach it from a pure Metro minimalist approach, then it can still work but you need to calibrate your contrast(s) to accommodate the end users ability to hunt and gather for tasks. That is to say this is where Gestalt Laws of Perceptual Organization comes into play.

The main “law” that one would pay attention to the most is the “Law of Continuity” – The mind continues visual, auditory, and kinetic pattern.

This law in its basic form is the process in which the brain decodes a bunch of patterns in full view and begins to assign inference to what it perceives as being the flow of design. That is to say, if you designed a data grid of numeric values that are right aligned, no borders then the fact the text becomes right aligned is what the brain perceives as being a column.

That law itself hints that at face value we as humans rely quite heavily on pattern recognition, we are constantly streaming in data on what we see; making snap judgment calls on where the similarities occur and more importantly how information is grouped or placed.

When you go limited shades of grey and you remove the sense of depth, you’re basically sending a scrambled message to the brain around where the grouping stops and starts, what form of continuity is still in place (is the UI composition unbroken and has a consistent experience in the way it tracks for information?)

It’s not that grey is bad, but one thing I have learnt when dealing with shallow color palettes is that when you do go down the path of flat minimalist design you need to rely quite heavily on at times with a secondary offsetting or complimentary color. If you don’t then its effectively taking your UI, changing it to greyscale and declaring done.

It is not that simple, color can often feed into the other law with Gestalts bag of psychology 101, that is to say law of similarity can often be your ally when it comes to color selection. The involvement of color can often leading the user into being tricked into how data despite its density can be easily grouped based on the context that a pattern of similarity immediately sticks out. Subtle things like vertical borders separating menus would indicate that the grouping both left and right of this border are what indicates, “These things are similar.”

Using the color red in a financial tabular summary also indicates this case as they are immediately stand out elements that dictate “these things are similar” given red indicates a negative value – arguably this is a bit of digital skeuomorphs at work (given red pens were used pre-digital world by account ledgers to indicate bad).

Ok I will never use flat grey again.

No, I’m not saying that flat grey shades are bad, what I am saying is that the way in which the Visual Studio team have executed this design is to be openly honest, lazy. It’s pretty much a case of taking the existing UI, cherry picking the parts they liked about the Metro design principles and then declaring done.

Sure they took a survey and found responded were not affected by the choice of grey, but anyone who’s been in the UX business for more than 5mins will tell you that initial reactions are false positives.

I call this the 10-second wow effect, in that if you get a respondent to rate a UI within the first 10seconds of seeing it, they will majority of the time score quite high. If you then ask the same respondents 10days, 10months, or a year from the initial question, the scores would most likely decline dramatically from the initial scoring – habitual usage and prolonged use will determine success.

We do judge a book by its cover and we do have an attractive bias.

Using flat grey in this case simply is not executed as well as it could be, simply because they have not added depth to the composition.

I know, gradients equal non-metro right. Wrong, metro design principles call for a minimalist approach now while Microsoft has executed on those principles with a consistent flat experience (content first marketing) they however are not correct in saying that gradients are not authentically digital.

Gradients are in place because they help us determine depth and color saturation levels within a digital composition that is to say they trick you into a digital skeumorphism, which is a good thing. Even though the UI is technically 2D they do give off a false signal that things are in fact 3D? which if you’ve spent enough time using GPS UI’s you’ll soon realize that we adore our given inbuilt depth perception engine.

Flattening out the UI in the typical metro-style UI’s work because they are dealing with the reality that data’s density has been removed that is to say they take on more of a minimalist design that has a high amount of energy and focus on breaking data down into quite a large code diet.

Microsoft has yet to come out with UI that handles large amounts of data and there is a reason they are not forthcoming with this as they themselves are still working through that problem. They have probably broken the first rule of digital design – they are bending their design visions to the principles and less on the principles evolving and guiding the design.

Examples of Grey working.

Here are some examples of a predominately grey palette being effective, that is to say Adobe have done quite well in their latest round of product design especially in the way they have balanced a minimalist design whilst still adhering to visual depth perception based needs (gradients).

image

image

Everything inside this UI is grouped as you would arguably expect it to be, the spacing is in place, and there is not a sense of crowding or abuse of colors. Gradients are not hard, they are very subtle in their use of light, or dark even though they appear to have different shades of grey, they are in fact the same color throughout.

Grey can be a deceiving color given I think it has to do with its natural state, but looking at this brain game from National Geographic, ask yourself the question “Is there two shades of grey here?”

image

The answer is no, the dark & light tips give you the illusion of difference in grey but what actually is also tricking the eye is the use of colors and a consistent horizon line.

Summary.

I disagree with the execution of this new look, I think they’ve taken a lazy approach to the design and to be fair, they aren’t really investing in improving the tool this release as they are highly most likely moving all investments into keeping up with Windows 8 release schedules. The design given to us is a quick cheap tactic to provoke the illusion of change given I am guessing the next release of Visual Studio will not have much of an exciting set of feature(s). The next release is likely to either be a massive service pack with a price tag (same tactic used with Windows7 vs. Windows Vista – under the hood things got tidied up, but really you were paying for a service pack + better UI) or a radical overhaul (I highly doubt).

Grey is a fine color to go full retard on (Tropic Thunder Quote) but only if you can balance the composition to adhere to a whole bunch of laws out there that aren’t just isolated to Gestalt psychology 101 but there is hours of reading in HCI circles around how humans unpick patterns.

Flattening out Icons to be a solid color isn’t also a great idea either, as we tend to rely on shape outlines to give us visual cues as to how what the meaning of objects are and by at times. Redesigning the shape or flattening out the shape if done poorly can only add friction or enforce a new round of learning / comprehension and some of the choices being made is probably unnecessary? (Icons are always this thing of guess-to-mation so I can’t fault this choice to harshly given in my years of doing this it’s very hit/miss – i.e. 3.5” inch disk represents save in UI, yet my kids today wouldn’t even have a clue what a floppy disk is? …it’s still there though!).

I’m not keen to just sit on my ivory throne and kick the crap out of the Visual Studio team for trying something new, I like this team and it actually pains me to decode their work. I instead am keen to see this conversation continue with them, I want them to keep experimenting and putting UI like this out there, as to me this tool can do a lot more than it does today. Discouraging them from trying and failing is in my view suffocating our potential but they also have to be open to new ideas and energy around this space as well (so I’d urge them to broker a better relationship with the community around design).

Going forward, I have started to type quite a long essay on how I would re-imagine Visual Studio 2011 (I am ignoring DevDev’s efforts to rebrand it VS11, you started the 20XX you are now going to finish it – marketing fail) and have sketched out some ideas.

I’ll post more on this later this week as I really want to craft this post more carefully than this one.

Related Posts:

Is AppStore bad for gaming business?

Today I was in the iPhone AppStore browsing the noise in hope of finding some signal, I found a game that caught my interest and then immediately went to the reviews to see if the author of the game can back up what they are selling.

I read the reviews and a few of them were pushing the notion that “save your 0.99c” agenda, and I for one was relieved – thankfully I did not waste that 99c I was saving.

That sobered me up, I thought to myself “I’m about to spend 99c on some bad coffee that I’ll unlikely finish while I wait for a meeting that I’ll no doubt move to a different spot for and buy yet another coffee”

The question I have is whether or not the concept of an AppStore is doing the market a positive or a negative in terms of how its conditioning us In making the purchase decisions.

How far have we come where went from spending $20-100 on games to now agonising over a $0.99c purchase and it appears the trending is pushing closer and closer to the $0.00 value.

Is this why we now are seeing games which are free-ware, you know the ones that haunt AppStore and Facebook. These are the games that get you addicted to their crack and slowly encourage you to spend $50 on diamonds to help increase your gameplay? ..give a little but not the entire farm and let the desperate/gullible micro pay their way to the abyss of content gratification.

Millions are being made on this, in fact the assumption we are often making now due to the various amounts of rumours around overnight millionaires occurring due to $2 micro purchases worldwide occurring. Its fair to say that when you do justify the $2 purchase you are silently telling yourself “Well, I’m only paying $2 but these guys are going to get millions because everyone else is paying and it all adds up”

We’ve switched from being a consumer and now have become their collective profit controller making assumptions and assertions round how much they should be allowed to make in total vs. letting the previous way of life which consisted of “Oh, they made money? Good for them” thinking.

I can’t but help wanting to ask more questions around this space, for instance – is this slowly killing the industry, or is it making it better? If word gets out that the gold rush in game development for devices is probably a false economy given its saturation levels are now encouraging mediocrity to dominate the way in which we gain enjoyment from games?

Is it me or is anyone else bored of Angry birds? Yet each season they continue to be the most prominent “this is how you’re supposed to make money and games” posturing.

I look at Minecraft itself and seeing how it was such a low price point to now being one of the biggest earners in the game industry and continue to grow, is that a good thing or a bad thing? Notch made a game that is now worth hundreds of millions of dollars and he didn’t have to pay Apple a cent or abide by the rinse/repeat formula of game development on devices.

Is there stillroom for another Minecraft? Fortresscraft on XBOX pretty much cut & pasted Minecrafts engine but whacked in a XBOX Avatar, charged a small amount and is now making millions.

Nothing creative happened, just lots of rinse and repeat formulas but the upside is these games are no longer expensive wastes of money; they are instead small micro payments – less of a sting in your buyer’s remorse.

Downside, as more and more of these games abuse the new market channels they in turn drive prices further and further down. Low prices mean that in order for truly exceptional games to stand out they first must meet the $2 or above threshold of quality bands. If they then succeed in that, they are then given a huge assumption of “well they earn $2 from millions of us so I’m not willing to pay $5 for it” thinking.

In 5 years, do you think a guy like Notch can get away with charging $15 for a game like Minecraft? Alternatively, do you think indie game developers are about to get a cold reality shock given the bubble may pop?

Will game studios like Valve have to keep lowering prices to the point where they just can’t justify the expensive pushing gaming envelopes further given the yield doesn’t’ add up to the costs it takes to create. If that were the case then they’d need to create 3-5 games that are money makers in order to build a war chest that funds the next killer gaming engine of choice.

Are game engine developers retreating to charging hefty prices for leasing their codebase thus reducing the mod / expansion on innovation from occurring? Why fight the war when you can build the bullets J

Now comes the next question, is Application development about to get worse or better given these market conditions today?

How I feel about buying apps

How I feel about buying apps

Related Posts:

Minecraft + Frustration + GeekFame + NotFinsihingWhatYouStarted = Angry Squarhead.

I’m a massive fan lately of minecraft, it’s quite an addictive game (even has my 8yr son hooked on its crack). It’s a game made by a swede named “Notch” who basically by all accounts slapped the game together during some off time he had.

The game now has millions of subscribers all paying their once-off fee to buy and the part that really threw me for a loop was he made it in Java…. Oh Java, how I often reflect on your greatness (pre-Microsoft that was my drug of choice).

So what’s the overall problem? Let me vent a little.

2012-01-05_11.34.54

Apparently Notch is caught up in both his new found geek celeb status and attention is focused elsewhere on a game called Scrolls which is pretty much a hexagon magic battle game that reminds me of chess – Sorry I Snoozed off.

To be fair, he made his mark and he’s now off doing other things and has left Minecraft in the hands of some new found employees he’s made in the company whilst he continues to also hang in some influential circles mainly the valve software guys – (Hey I know Robin @ Valve to, I used to play TF/Quake in Oz with them, and I’d pop in for a visit or two at Valve when I was at Seattle..).

That did sound a bit venomous, I guess for me the reason I’m frustrated as this game has so much more potential ahead of it but poor Notch has suffered from the dreaded curse of “Shiny object syndrome meets geek celeb install” where the attention is spent on vNext not vNow? (he’s got a company to grow I guess, so it makes sense).

Problem is this game is unfinished and now when you look at the mod community around it you can’t but help stare at all the failings of the game – that are forgiven provided you embrace the mods that occur on servers that allow them.  This is why Quake failed in the end, they forgot the reason why people played the game, its why Teamfortress team couldn’t also go further given the license issues of Quake 2 Engine (which was geared towards charging the mod community for usage).

I also watch the various staffers of Mojang via twitter and I can’t but help roll my eyes at some of the stuff being said, Its mainly due to me thinking “oh dear, they’re still coming to grips with fame… this one’s going to take a while..

As someone who’s seen a few geeks turn into the geek-celeb status, I almost want to email them “this is what you’re going to experience, here are the things you need to avoid and you should never forget what got you in the door in the first place – minecraft”.

Today we stare at the game, waiting with drool hanging down from our lips at the slightest hint of an update, and I’m the first to line up for it as well.

Curse you Mojang for starting something that you clearly aren’t enthusiastic in finishing to which I would simply say this (since it appears he’s a massive fan of Valve/TF).

In the early days of Teamfortress, Robin and the guys made a mod of Quake, it took the game to new heights outside id Softwares initial imagination, to be blunt, TF made Quake fun. Robin, John and the others were able to ship and they had talent and fame to match. Its what created the fusion between them and Valve and they’ve both since changed the landscape of gaming industry today to which one would be proud to say “hey I know that guy”… but the point is, they stayed focused and they created and Robin is quite a shy guy in person, but has insights into how the industry and its people function – deep insights that make you walk away and shake your head “that bastard was so right..”

Notch the CEO should probably spend a few more sessions with Robin and the guys on how to finish a product like Minecraft, I think we the audience would gain a huge amount of entertainment and fun from such a fusion of talent.

I am frustrated minecrafter because I want more…. Its an awesome game and Notch despite this attention span failing, deserves the success and riches that come with them. Sadly, we want an encore and I don’t’ think Cobalt and Scrolls will give him the equal amount of attention (sure you’ll get fan spillage happening, but seriously..)

Related Posts:

The Likes & Dislikes of Microsoft in 2011

The calendar increments by 1 year now and as it does I think about the last year and ponder what I liked and disliked in my sandbox that I call the Microsoft ethos

Windows Phone 7

  • I liked Nokias approach to branding the product; they really took what they saw and made it the focal point of what the experience for consumers should be. That is, they did what I asked at the start of the year; make the metro design your familiar face in the crowd.

  • I liked the WP7 Design contest; I rarely ever give an endorsement to contests as they are a desperate response to bad marketing, in this case though the designs that came back were actually tidy and immediately wanted you to explore the apps. Now to see if they make it into the appstore.
  • I disliked WP7 marketing from Microsoft, it was chaotic, it lacked depth and $500million in marketing spent later, I still can’t put my finger on one message that you could hang your hat on. Compare Apple iPhone / Android marketing to Wp7 and it baffles me as to what is going on in that team – I think they just carpet bomb SeaTac / LAX airports with it knowing that Microsoft Execs travel through there and hope that’s enough to convince them they are “everywhere” – reality is, Bus shelter ads aren’t putting the wp7 logo on the bottom of their “get our apps” signage – which is a fail.

    image

  • I disliked the WP7 app store pricing model, fact is they are charging the same rates as iPhone devs or there about and in the end you have a marketshare that Samsung is even beating. I agree with Laurence MoroneyReality check for two please and can we have that to go.
  • I disliked the compete b.s that came from Staffers at Microsoft around WP7, fight the internal metrics and rise above the whole “heh did you see that, Apple just copied us!” mentality. Its very weak and if you are to beat the competition then you need to stop watching their every move hoping and praying for a weakness to occur. If Apple copy you, great, internalize that victory but keep it internal and instead move the bar higher as the best way for people to absorb that reality is when someone who doesn’t have an MVP or Blue-badge says “Did Apple just copy Microsoft?”.

Windows 7 and 8

  • I liked the intent for Microsoft to bring balance to the UX force, which is a consistent looking brand / feel across all products from now on.
  • I disliked the execution of the consistent branding. I wished they would keep all design decisions in a central team, which is everything from website design to UI design(s) for products. Allowing individual teams within Microsoft to interpret Metro outside of the central team at this early critical stage is clearly not working. If you want to attract a design enriched audience that want to take inspiration from your work, stop farming it out to agencies who nickel/dime their way through design creation and instead double down on providing a central experience.

    Hate it when Microsoft gets a hold of a design concept..and then just sodomises it #badmetro #bldwin

  • I liked the energy that the Windows teams have around device development, we’ve asked for this way back in the days of Surface birth. I think that’s healthy for the industry and will put touch enabled devices into more and more people’s hands sooner rather than later.
  • I disliked the artificial inflation of the metrics (Windows and Wp7). Inside Microsoft you gauge success based on your ability to ignore qualitative data and instead focus on quantitative given it looks bigger. This often spills over into the marketing engine(s) at Microsoft resulting in just bad reality checks thus creating more distance between the ability to trust anything the brand states.

    image

  • I disliked the development experience required to get access to the touch enabled world. A friend of mine sent me this break down of tag trends over at Stackoverlow, basically if you are working with Silverlight and/or WPF the chances of you not using Stackoverflow in some form of way is next to zero. WPF and Silverlight dead? Can I have an extra order of reality check for team Sinofsky please?

    image

    image

  • I liked the notion that Windows 7 is on the rise over Windows XP, the growth you have is great, and the sooner we can stomp on the neck of Windows XP the happier my development sandbox will be.
  • I disliked the fact that Windows 7 has a huge market share right now, today, that I can’t access and instead am told to “chill” until Windows 8 AppStore comes online via Windows 8. It’s like the Microsoft team decided “How else can I really fuck my customer base over” then some clown in the back puts his hand up and tells them of an idea to hold back AppStore whilst everyone just sits there nodding like he’s telling them that touch will be the future for Microsoft back in 2007 – oh wait… has anyone seen JJ Allard lately as that guys going places.

Silverlight / WPF.

  • I liked the fact we got some releases for these products, shows there is still someone within the company stoking that release fire.
  • I liked Silverlights new 3D capabilities, it hints at what could have been possible had we had it sooner. We back in the early days would often discuss how 3D would be our next frontier of innovation for the product and my hat goes off to the engineering efforts for pulling it off – they worked hard.
  • I dislike that Silverlight release was late and I especially disliked the way it was done. Microsoft phoned in the release, let it happen in the dark of night instead of the grandeur we’ve been used to in the past. That for me sent a clear signal to the developer base – it’s time to move on, finish up your creations and wait for next shiny object to come to a install near you.
  • I dislike WPF feature list, it was less than we were promised (technically it was more tease / flirt) and lastly the release itself was more of an internal upgrade spilled over onto external HDD’s – that is to say, the features were more derived from internal needs than external. MIC check, is this thing on, WPF is dead in the eyes of Microsoft but its far from dead in the eyes of your average .NET code jockey.
  • I dislike the energy spent on HTML5 is the future, I’m yet to meet a developer who uses Silverlight/WPF get excited at the idea of abandoning this for HTML5. It must be the other developers I don’t’ see who want it – well that’s what we may be assuming amongst each and everyone one of us “must be the other guy needs it” (ie “Pretty girl syndrome”).

Azure.

  • I liked the SDK experiences that come with this ….product? … I think it is much easier at times than people give it credit for. I’ve used Amazon quite extensively this year and often will grow impatient that its not like Azure.
  • I dislike the pricing models for Azure. I’m a fairly intelligent guy but even today I’d not say I can for certain grasp the pricing model needed for me to respond to a work order request from some of my clients (mining companies who pay very large sums of money may I add).
  • I dislike the fact Scott Guthrie is running this only. In the short time he’s been the custodian of this product its gotten better, great, but Scott should be a higher power across all products. Steve Sinofsky you suck the life out of Microsoft development.
  • I liked the way Bizspark program is breaking down the pricing barrier of entry for Azure, I was skeptical of this program when it first started (My office was near the creator of this program back in the day, wand watched its birth). I think this program is what stands between adoption and non-adoption but at the same time it has really piss poor marketing behind it so unless you know someone who knows someone, it needs more help (See Catherine Eibner in Microsoft Australia, she’s got her head screwed on tight around how this should work going forward. Promote her to lead the charge here).

Internet Explorer.

I liked the fact IE6 is hated in a more formal fashion at Microsoft, but overall I just wish this product in its entirety would just die. Everyone else is embracing Webkit, stop fighting the obvious and bend over accept you lost proprietary way of life and jump into the stagnant waters of Webkit FTW.

Other.

  • WCF team can rot in hell. I think there is enough issues around this product to simply state, stop what your doing and think about its effects on your audience. Until then, rot in hell.
  • Entity Framework team, make a decision and stick with it or at least promote the reasons why you change APIs and their pro’s / con’s.
  • Zune. Great idea, pitty it never left Redmond zip code.
  • Surface 2 – Great idea, pitty it never left Redmond zip code.
  • Bing. I googled Bing, enough said but the fact you didn’t have a Santa Tracker at Christmas – you are dead to me.

Related Posts: