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This post is written Craig Kerwien, the Director of Site Management in the Office Division Product Management Group; he helped bring this app to life.
Building an Office Blog app for the Windows Phone began as a weekend DIY project. Although many people are familiar with RSS readers as a way to monitor blog activity (learn more about the Office Blog RSS feeds here), I was looking for a quicker way to monitor and stay up to date on the latest news from the Office Blog.
While rummaging around MSDN for code examples, I stumbled upon Chris Koenig's Windows Phone Starter Kit for Schools, which is an easy way for anyone to create and publish a Windows Phone app for your favorite school. Chris is a Microsoft Windows Phone Evangelist based in Texas, who developed a code package so beginning developers can easily build and publish a full-featured app by adjusting just a few settings. I thought this would be a great way to develop an app for the Office blogs.
In the span of a few hours on a Saturday, I had a working app. Here's all I had to do:
At this point, I could have declared the app done and published it to the Marketplace under my name. But I had higher ambitions: I wanted to publish the app under the Microsoft name, which would give it the Microsoft 'seal of approval' and provide broad visibility as an example for others to use and build from. We think it's cool that anyone can create a simple app for their blog using the same code that we used for the Office Blog app. So we kicked off the internal review process that all Microsoft products must undergo before they are released to the public.
I'll spare everyone the blow-by-blow details it takes to shepherd a Windows Phone app through the quality assurance reviews at Microsoft, which cover privacy, geopolitics, accessibility, Trustworthy Computing, and of course security reviews. Suffice to say it took longer than a few hours on a Saturday afternoon, and I think the effort was worth it.
Let me take this opportunity to thank Chris for developing the Windows Phone Starter Kit for School and helping me make code adjustments during code review. He recently developed another Starter Kit just for RSS-based applications, such as blogs. I encourage other blog owners to explore it.
If you want to try it out, the Starter Kit is free, and so are the development tools. To publish to the Windows Phone Marketplace, all you need to do is purchase an annual subscription at App Hub @ $99 USD/yr.
And, of course, we hope you'll use the app to monitor the news and information from the Office Blog. Enjoy!
-- Craig Kerwien
One small typo in your article: you accidently repeated "is purchase" up there in "all you need to do...".
Interesting links, thanks for sharing these. I have agree; the whole development process is setup very well. Athough I'm no full time developer myself (more a "commercial based systems administrator") it is something you have to cope with from time to time. Slightly offtopic but; advanced shell scripting is key with maintenance tasks on Unix environments. More ontopic: powershell scripting can make Windows administration so much easier...
And being in the process to slowly move away from Java and explore the possibilities of .NET (mainly VB & C#) I can say that Microsofts development platforms are top notch. Right now I'm using the express versions of Visual Studio (VB, C# & Web) and purchased a copy of Expression Studio Web pro. Money well spent; not only are these top products, more impressive is how they all fit together (IMO).
Still, I have to say it... My only gripe with developing for the Windows Phone is the IMO steep subscription fee. I recognize the potential (being able to publish apps through the marketplace), but if you're a mere hobby developer who only wants to run his own apps on his own phone then this is a rather steep price to pay. In my opinion of course.
Apart from that, thanks for sharing this; it did gave me some good insights in all this.
Outstanding! - Great example. Thank you for posting and huge thanks to Chris as well. For next release of the RSS Starter Kit, how about adding two features: (1) Let Users customize the experience a bit - chose from pre-loaded list of feeds, add feeds, change order, etc. almost like Pulse... & (2) image thumbnails on feed title if available, video thumbnail if video media type feed. - Thanks again.