Microsoft Hosts Global 'Appathon' to Promote Windows 8, Phone Apps

Microsoft held application development workshops at 110 locations globally Nov. 9 to teach developers how to write applications for Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8.

SUNNYVALE, CALIF. – Microsoft invited software developers to come here and to 109 other locations worldwide on Nov. 9 to learn about how to develop applications for Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 with the goals of building a richer software ecosystems for the new operating systems.

A total of 13,500 developers were registered to attend the daylong Gen Appathon where they heard presentations by Microsoft staff and independent developers and received hands-on training on how to create apps. Developers then spent time creating apps, after which organizers judged which of them were the best.

About 50 developers, who attended the Appathon at a Microsoft office here, represented an eclectic mix of applications ideas, including one app that teaches people how to play music to another designed to help fight jet lag.

The hands-on training is intended to interest developers in creating apps to fill the Windows Phone Store with mobile apps and to write new applications for Windows 8 computers, said Doris Chen, a developer evangelist for Microsoft and host of the Sunnyvale Appathon.

The Appathon also devoted time to training developers to build Windows Azure cloud applications. Some of the attendees had been at the Microsoft Build 2012 developer conference, which began Oct. 29 at Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond, Wash.

Key to expanding the universe of Windows developers is expanding the types of programming languages they can use, said Chen.

Besides supporting C#, a widely used language developed by Microsoft, and the security assertion markup language (SAML) for app security authentication, Windows 8 also supports Javascript and HTML5, she said.

“Javascript and HTML5, have become a first class citizen to use to develop on Windows 8,” Chen said. “This is actually a very big change. This will attract more developers.”

Developer Bill Ashton gave a presentation at Appathon to show how he adapted his application, StopJetLag, to run on Window Phone 8 devices, which came out Oct. 29. As its name suggests, StopJetLag provides long distance travelers with advice on how to control jet lag by eating or taking caffeine at the right times, when to get exposed to bright light and when to avoid it.

What Ashton finds particularly compelling in Windows Phone 8 is how the “Live Tiles” on the start page of a Windows Phone 8 device provide real time updates related to the apps each tile represents. A CNN app could provide a news update, an ESPN tile could add sports scores or a calendar app could provide an appointment reminder.

StopJetLag uses the Live Tile to remind the passenger what to do as they cross from one time zone to another in flight.

“With the tiles, they’ll get notifications that’ll come up and say ‘You should be getting exposed to bright light for the next three or four hours or … you should be eating at this time,” he said. “It can be easier for the traveler.”

Guy McNally, meanwhile, was learning more about Windows 8 to develop his app called RodisMusic, which teaches music to someone online, such as the piano or violin. A student plays a piece of music and the application provides feedback by analyzing how well the student performed the piece compared to how it should be played.

With this app, a music teacher can work one-on-one with a student, but also one to 1,000, McNally said. RodisMusic is already available on earlier versions of Windows, but he says it’s worth pursuing how to deliver it on Windows 8.

“This is an exciting new platform and we need to get our skates on and make sure that it works well on this new platform,” he said.