Another Helping of Mango for Devs

Last month, we released Beta 2 of the Windows Phone SDK 7.1. Yesterday, Windows Phone Engineering CVP Terry Myerson announced Windows Phone OS RTM. Today, I’m excited to announce that we are offering a refresh of the beta tools to our registered developer community.

Starting this morning, you can download the Windows Phone SDK 7.1 “Beta 2 Refresh” from the ‘Mango’ Connect site. We’ve received positive feedback on the Mango tools and bits we’ve shared, but appreciate that many devs are still interested in working with a more complete build. Today’s refresh of the tools represent a month of great progress by the engineering team, further refining and improving the Mango developer experience.

…but wait! There’s more…

If that isn’t exciting enough, we’ve also pushed an OS update to the Microsoft Update servers this morning, allowing you to refresh retail Windows Phones that devs updated to Mango over the last month. If you previously updated, you can expect the following notice on your phone over the next few days:

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This happy little message is the sign that you can receive Build 7712, which corresponds to today’s WPSDK 7.1 release. Before you ask (and I know you will, because folks started asking yesterday :) ), this build is not yesterday’s RTM build – it’s still a pre-release build. For RTM, you’ll need to wait for the official update like everyone else (more on the why later in the post).

The process to update your phone with build 7712 is pretty straight-forward:

  1. Make a copy of the backup you took when you updated to the Mango Beta 2 pre-release (which I’m sure you did) and put it in a safe place, if it isn’t in one already
    Note: Make sure that you copy this backup and put it somewhere else; uninstalling Zune will auto-delete any backups previously taken
  2. Return to Connect.Microsoft.com (we’re using the same program you were invited to join last month) and download the freshly posted files, which includes a new Zune client and a new UpdateWP executable
  3. Head to the Control Panel and uninstall the Beta 2 software (Zune client and UpdateWP) and tools (WPSDK) that you installed last month
  4. Install the new software and tools that you just downloaded from Connect
  5. Fire up the new Zune client beta (4.8.2134.0) to check for the new update
  6. Zune will then update your phone from 7661 to 7712

For those who may be inspired by this release and update their phone for the first time, you’ll notice a much more streamlined experience from the one we rolled out last month. Based on the feedback (and support tickets) from developers participating in the program, the process has been improved in two places. First, we’ve updated the server logic in the first update (739x -> 7401) to better account for ‘Walshed’ phones and phones that had the support tool run incorrectly on them. Second, the Zune client has been updated to link your updates into a single update run. The new Zune client automatically checks for new updates after it completes an update – meaning you only need to start the update process once and Zune handles the rest until you arrive at your final destination build (in this case, 7712).

So why did we refresh the Beta?

Today’s refresh provides you with everything you need to update your app for Mango – the tools and the OS image – now. From this point forward, the tools will continue to be refined and finished (e.g. removing many of the ‘known issues’, improvements to the emulator and profiler, and a few cosmetic changes within VS). In fact, once you install the tools, you’ll notice that it shows up in the ‘Add/Remove Programs’ list with the ‘RC’ moniker. What you have here is a build in the early part of our Release Candidate cycle – the end result of which should be in your hands in the coming month.

For a full list of changes to between Beta 2 and the Refresh, I recommend checking out the release notes on Connect; but here are my top 5 improvements that I think that our devs will find extremely helpful:

  • Application platform APIs are now locked; you can feel confident to start getting ready for submitting your apps next month.
  • Emulator now has a nifty screenshot capability built in, allowing you quickly snap quality images of your app without the need of separate tools or cropping time. The images are great for use in app submission process or to share on your blog or with folks such as my team (hint hint).
  • The profiler has been greatly improved and provides memory profiling.
  • As of this drop, you can install NuGet into the free version of the WPSDK tools. I find NuGet to be one of my favorite productivity boosters and I’m happy to see the extension supported in the free tools.
  • The drop includes an initial peek at the Marketplace Test Kit; with the RC release, you’ll be able to use the included version of this toolkit to test your XAP file against the same certification testing tools that we use when ingesting apps for the Marketplace. For this refresh, it’s there but not fully functional; but more on this in a future blog post.

For the folks wondering why we’re not providing the ‘RTM’ version, there are two main reasons. First, the phone OS and the tools are two equal parts of the developer toolkit that correspond to one another. When we took this snapshot for the refresh, we took the latest RC drops of the tools and the corresponding OS version. Second, what we are providing is a genuine release candidate build, with enough code checked in and APIs locked down that this OS is close enough to RTM that, as a developer, it’s more than capable to see you through the upcoming RC drop of the tools and app submission. It’s important to remember that until the phone and mobile operator portion of Mango is complete, you’re still using a pre-release on your retail phone – no matter the MS build. Until that time, enjoy developing and cruising around on build 7712 – it’s a sweet ride, to be sure. :)

Remember the fine print

There’s a lot of goodness in this update that you should appreciate as a developer and as an end-user. As with the Mango OS Beta 2 pre-release, it only includes the Microsoft portion of the Mango update and carries all of the same caveats about beta software. And remember to protect your backup (have we mentioned you should protect your backup? keep it secret; keep it safe), as that’s your ticket back to the production Windows Phone train and any subsequent updates.

So…Start your engines

With WPSDK RC about a month away, now is the time to update your app to Mango:

  • Get the tools: If you’re a registered App Hub developer and you haven’t already activated the invitation code, go activate it now and get the tools from Connect!
  • Evaluate the impact of Fast App Switching and other Mango capabilities to your app. There’s an ever-growing list of developer resources that the team is producing to help you get to your apps to Mango.
  • App Compat should be top of mind. Take a look at the short list of top potential app compat concerns that Larry has tracked down so that you’re not surprised when your users start installing Mango
  • Lastly, if you’ve even considered Mango I would greatly appreciate you taking 5 mins of your time to answer a short survey about updating to Mango

The team continues to work hard to get you everything you need to bring your apps to life. If you have any additional questions, you can of course comment on this post; additionally, the Mango dev forum is pretty active, and my twitter handle is @cliffsimpkins. And Larry’s a great person to give a shout if you have any issues or questions on dev content; for those unaware, his handle recently changed to @larryalieberman.

But enough of my yammering – go get your phone updated and get developing!

7/27 18.29 PDT Update: I updated the above to emphasize step one of the process based on a confirmation from engineering – you must copy your backup elsewhere because the Zune uninstall auto-deletes any backups taken