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Microsoft Pri0

Welcome to Microsoft Pri0: That's Microspeak for top priority, and that's the news and observations you'll find here from Seattle Times technology reporter Matt Day.

March 16, 2010 at 9:03 AM

MIX10: Day 1 of Microsoft Web conference summed up

This is the story that ran in The Seattle Times print paper today.

LAS VEGAS — To woo developers to build applications for its upcoming mobile phone, Microsoft scattered technology catnip throughout the MIX tech conference Monday — Twitter, Netflix, Foursquare and, finally, a cannon.

In Monday’s keynote presentation at the company’s conference for Web developers, Microsoft rolled a cannon on stage, piloted remotely by a prototype Windows Phone, then shot red shirts into the audience of 1,000-plus.

In February, Microsoft announced the Windows Phone 7 Series, a high-end device to compete with Apple’s iPhone and other smartphones.

Windows Phone isn’t expected to go on sale until the holiday shopping season, but Microsoft continued its pep rally for it in the hopes that developers will populate the world with apps to rival the wide world of iPhone apps.

The applications those developers build for the phone will be a linchpin to how successful the phone will be, as has been the case with iTunes apps for the iPhone.

What’s at stake is a battle for mobile users who have flocked to the iPhone, Google’s Android and Research In Motion’s BlackBerry since Microsoft fell behind with Windows Mobile innovation in the past few years.

Microsoft wants to extend its domination on the PC with Windows to other screens, including the mobile phone and the television.

While much of the talk Monday was about software code, Microsoft also shared information about new features, including a calendar one that alerts everyone you’ll be late for a meeting.

Here are some highlights from Day 1 of MIX at the Mandalay Bay convention center.

Anna and Miles, the Adam and Eve of Windows Phone design. In designing the phone, the Microsoft team created personas for the target customer: the couple Anna and Miles.

Joe Belfiore, corporate vice president of Windows Phone Program Management, said Anna is a part-time public-relations professional in Evanston, Ill., who commutes to Chicago by train. Anna wants to take photos of her son and share them with her parents in Europe.

Miles is a startup entrepreneur who also has to manage his company’s IT.

While imaginary, the two are real enough that Belfiore showed photos of them. They’re “lifestyle maximizers,” average age 38, 76 percent employed, 78 percent in a partnered relationship, Belfiore said.

“Because they have jobs, they have money and are more likely to buy a more expensive phone and load it up with apps,” he said.

Developers, developers, developers. Silverlight, Microsoft’s Web video and animation software, and XNA Framework, the game-development platform, will also serve as the building blocks of Windows Phone applications.

Silverlight has about 500,000 developers and XNA already has tens of thousands of developers, according to Todd Brix, senior director for Mobile Platform Product Management.

Silverlight 4 is to be finished in April; it reached the release-candidate milestone on Monday.

How developers will make money. Microsoft pushed the message that it would be easy to build apps. Scott Guthrie, corporate vice president for the .NET Developer Platform, said it takes as little as 30 minutes to build an application.

In addition to a pay-per-download model similar to the iPhone app store, the Windows Phone Marketplace will incorporate ad-supported applications and a “freemium” model, where developers can give away free trial software and charge for the full version.

The developer keeps 70 percent of the sales, while Microsoft keeps 30 percent.

The apps must undergo software certification through Microsoft.

Advertising. A prototype application called the AP News Reader built by Archetype hinted at how advertising would work on Windows Phone. In a demo, an animated Ford car rolled onto the bottom of the screen.

Puppet Steve Ballmer. Guthrie made a South Park-like puppet of Steve Ballmer on a Windows Phone during the keynote to demonstrate animation software, dressing him in his trademark red V-neck sweater over a blue-collared shirt. Once animated, puppet Ballmer shouted, “Find developers!”

Office docs on the phone. In a demo, Belfiore pulled up an Excel spreadsheet from the Office Docs hub, and was able to pan around, zoom in and out, search for a specific word or number and do basic management, such as sending files and saving to the phone’s memory.

Sync while you sleep. When the phone gets plugged in to charge at night, it will check whether it’s on a home Wi-Fi network. If it is, the phone will automatically upload photos from the phone to a PC and download music and video that’s been ordered.

Applications coming. Several demos showed apps coming to the Windows Phone. A Netflix app issues an alert that a DVD has arrived in the mailbox and shows a preview on the phone. An app from Seesmic, Twitter client builder, mashes tweets with a map. The AP News Reader app streams top stories, most shared stories and a photos page and has a built-in commenting section. A Foursquare app integrates the Twitter location game into a phone app.

Devices coming. Three devices shown Monday were an Asus touch-screen device, an LG touch-screen device with a slide-out landscape keyboard, and a Samsung “slate” device with a higher-end camera built in the back.

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