Using Windows Phone 7 to find Timmys

Barranger Ridler has built a smart phone app using the upcoming Windows Phone 7 platform to help him find the closest Tim Hortons whenever he’s travelling through remote towns across Ontario.

“I find the first thing I end up doing when I get to these towns is asking someone where is the local Tim Hortons,” said Ridler, who also runs a one-man developer shop called 4MK Mobile in Toronto.

The Where’s Timmys app lists the 10 closest Tim Hortons locations, based on the device’s GPS, and displays them on Bing Maps. After hearing of the Phone 7 developer tools at MIX 10 earlier this year, Ridler decided to build the app for himself, but has since planned to make the free app available on Windows Marketplace for Mobile.

“It’s night and day,” said Ridler of the Windows Phone 7 in comparison to its predecessor mobile platform with which he has built line of business apps.

“(The previous platform) wasn’t necessarily developer-friendly. The platform didn’t evolve at the same rate the hardware did,” said Ridler. “So a lot of making applications look decent was left up to a series of open source projects.”

Ridler said it took him only about 10 hours to learn the Phone 7 tools and build the Where’s Timmys app.

According to Joey Devilla, Microsoft developer evangelist, Windows Phone 7 is designed to be “a reboot of Microsoft mobile platform” with a new user interface designed by Canadian Albert Shum, and a re-worked programming model. “It’s a restart,” said Devilla.

Developers will still have the familiarity of tools and frameworks like Visual Studio, .Net, C#, Silverlight and XNA. “You can go from zero to app … it doesn’t take very much time to get up to speed and go from idea to working application,” said Devilla.

Development would take longer with earlier versions of Microsoft mobile development tools, but the company has worked to help developers focus on app functionality rather than building the functionality from scratch, said Devilla.

From the end user perspective, the design philosophy behind Phone 7 apps is “glance and go” such that users get information quickly without having to drill down deeply in functionality, said Devilla.

Another Canadian developer has built a game app that is a more complicated version of Sudoku, a Japanese number placement puzzle, using the Windows Phone 7 platform. Originally built for the Xbox, it took a mere hour to built Sudoku 3D for the smart phone, said Alexey Adamsky, a graduate student in Ryerson University’s Digital Media Zone.

“Basically it was really a painless experience,” said Adamsky.

While Adamsky acknowledges the new Phone 7 platform does expedite the development process, he said Sudoku 3D still took some time because of the amount of logic and computation required. He anticipates Sudoku 3D will be available with the launch of Windows Phone 7.

Follow Kathleen Lau on Twitter: @KathleenLau

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