Microsoft were again in attendance for the second Apps World in London, bringing a slew of new devices to show to the public. The newly announced Nokia Lumia 1520 and Lumia 2520 were joined by the Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2, and visitors were able to get hands-on by visiting the device bar. If that wasn't enough to excite, there was also a 3D printer and an Xbox One running Forza 5.
If you want to try out some of these devices, or simply want to know more about developing apps for Windows 8 and Windows Phone, be sure to pop along to the stand tomorrow where our team will be refreshed and ready to help you out. We'll also have more surprises in store, so keep your eyes peeled!
For those of you who can't attend Apps World, here's a brief run-down of just some of our favourite talks from the event.
Keynote (Developer World) - 10.00 to 10.30
with James Whittaker (Microsoft)
To kick off the morning, James Whittaker of Microsoft took to the Developer World stage to talk about Super Apps, what they are and what they should be striving to do as apps continue to dominate the tech scene and cement their position as a vital living room component. The Super App is, as James puts it, an app with excessive users that consumes a large amount of latent or active intent. An app that is so widely used that it should be striving to provide a service to its userbase even outside of the app itself. Why should providing a great service be limited to the app itself? James argues that these Super Apps should be striving to provide the same experience at all times, and for everyone.
If you receive an email asking if you want to go see a band perform live, why do you have to move to your browser and search for the band name, location of the gig, nearby restaurants and other information when someone will already have looked for this before? Why can't you just have the answers be right there in the email, saving you the time and effort to hunt out the answers. This is what Super Apps should be striving for in the near future.
'Let's make every super app functional to consume information outside of the app.'
Helping the Lions Roar (Tech World) - 14.00 to 14.40
with Steve Dunford (Sequence)
For the creation of the official Lions app, Sequence had to build a system that allowed the app to become a companion second-screen experience alongside it's stand-alone features, to allow rugby fans to be served fresh content in real-time. Why was this important? 78% of smartphone users are actively using their devices while watching TV, so that's a huge number of fans watching the games that would also have a phone, tablet or laptop. By providing up to date data, statistics and commentary, user engagement would skyrocket. It certainly did when it deployed to Windows, Windows Phone, Android and iOS, but it wasn't easy.
By utilising a CMS in the cloud, the Lions app was able to become a thin, small package of the UI and platform-exclusive features, where all the content would be fed to the app on the go without the need to push updates to the app in each individual store. The cloud portion of this set-up was using Windows Azure, serving to both the .NET Windows apps and the Xamarin iOS and Android apps. It was a huge success, and while the Lions tour is done and dusted, the apps can still be found in-store to look at for inspiration.
Building a Cloud Back-End in Seconds (Droid World) - 16.00 to 16.30
with Steve Plank (Microsoft)
Did you know that you can create a cloud back end in about 50 seconds, which can work with Windows 8, Windows Phone, Android and iOS?
It's very difficult to manage the back end of your app without full-time dedication, as your service going down and redundancy issues could spell big trouble with the users of your apps. It's a huge bet on your reputation, because users are renown for being very vocal when problems like this occur, and rightly so. This is service management, a complex role that needs the full attention of someone who knows what they are doing. When you're in the crux of development, do you really want to be worrying about the servers of your previous apps?
Windows Azure is one of the solutions to this problem, providing your apps with the back end you need, without the hassle. The Windows Azure datacentres are built so that these common technical issues are never a problem, and your information is always backed up a total of six times across two datacentres, so no need to worry about data loss.
Be sure to try out the Windows Azure trial for $200 of Azure usage for 30 days, so you can see for yourself whether it's what you need for your apps. Don't stunt your development time by being your own service manager.
Starting an Indie Games Company at Uni (Gaming World) - 16.20 to 16.40
with James Mintram (Lemon Moose Games)
Thinking of starting an indie game studio at university? James Mintram from Lemon Moose Games tackled this very subject in his talk at Apps World. Taking to the Gaming World stage with an audience full of aspiring indie developers, James discussed starting an indie studio while at university and the trials and tribulations of doing this. James' talked about Lemon Moose's games's relationship with Microsoft, and how the software giant helped them to set up their business through the means of BizSpark, which enabled James to receive free software such as Microsoft Azure and Microsoft DreamSpark to build his gaming platform. James also provided advice to would-be indie game developers, encouraging them to employ an accountant and lawyer to manage their business affairs, as to operate as a professional business outfit from the offset. Find out more info about Microsoft's BizSpark.
App Design to Satisfy App Stores and Consumers Alike (Developer World) - 16.30 to 17.10
with Martin Bryant (The Next Web), James Griffin (Detica), Paul Cooper (Imagine Publishing), Andrew Spooner (Microsoft) and Kathryn Leach (BBC)
Responsive design is one of the hottest topics for developers working with multiple devices and screen sizes, and getting it right is critical for the end user. Learning how to re-flow content across devices and when browsers are resized should be top of mind, as some websites can feel like an entirely new experience in certain sizes. However, it's also important to remember that it's largely developers who will be the ones testing responsive design by dragging browser windows, so always be sure to consider the design from a typical users point of view.
We must also recognise where touch is appropriate, and remember that desktop apps aren't going to go away. Touch screens are so prevalent that there are kids that touch regular flat screen TVs expecting it to be as responsive as a mobile phone. If touch isn't appropriate in a given situation, then what about scroll wheels and sensors? What about voice recognition or pressure sensitivity? Also remember to factor in the target audience; while a kids game may not feel right with touch controls to an adult, a child may have a better experience with it due to the low precision versus a typical mouse.
But it's really when input works so well that it blends in with the experience and effectively makes the technology disappear that it really begins to shine. To children, the Xbox 360 game Kinectimals isn't a gesture-controlled video game, it's an interactive movie starring themselves. Moving in front of a camera and using voice controls may seem alien to us, but when it comes naturally to children, perhaps it's because we haven't grown up accepting them. Input like these, as well as new input methods we've yet to take advantage of, will become more natural as time goes on. You need only look to the launch of mainstream touch screens to see that.
Navigation is crucial, but it's an art that is still being fine-tuned and perfected. No one is going to say 'Wow, I love the navigation in that app!', but be wary that they may call out if they're given a sub-par experience.
[We'll be back at Apps World for the second day, so be sure to keep your eyes on the @Ubelly Twitter account for information, pictures and competitions!]