Developers: Provoke discusses Windows Phone 7 and Azure

[box type=”info”]This is one of a series of sponsored blog posts highlighting New Zealand companies working with cutting-edge Microsoft technology. If you’re interested in Windows Phone 7 development, you should download the free Windows Phone Developer Tools and start building your own Windows Phone application.[/box]

Provoke are an online experience consultancy based out of Wellington in New Zealand. They build solutions using the full spectrum of Microsoft technologies: ASP.NET, Silverlight, SharePoint, and more. Coupled with their top-end user experience and design skills, it was a natural progression for Provoke to move into Windows Phone 7 development.

I had a chat with Provoke CTO Brendon Ford, and he took me through the Windows Phone 7 apps they have built. They’ve put together a couple of commercial apps: one for New Zealand Rugby that lets users track games and scores; and another for Fly Buys, allowing users to check their points balance and find deals.

“One of the great things about Windows Phone 7 development is that the developers are excited and engaged.”

Brendon made some interesting points about Windows Phone 7 development from the view of a development manager. Developers who already have experience with .NET and Silverlight can move to Windows Phone 7 very quickly, and he points out that developers are “excited and engaged” with mobile development work and will put the extra yards in without being asked. I’ve noticed this myself in our development shop too! The cost of entry is extremely low, so it’s a bit of a no-brainer to at least take the plunge. Brendon took it a step further by creating a development competition where Provoke developers who created an application for launch went in the draw to win a phone.

I also spoke to Michael McKenna, who developed one of those launch apps (“Want”, a location based, photographic wish-list). Michael said that the development story is “really familiar for a .NET developer”, and the transition was really easy. I asked him what his most difficult problem was, and he pointed out that XAML was a bit of a learning curve, and the device limitations in comparison to the emulator can be a trap.

Microsoft Azure

Brendon and I also chatted about Provoke’s use of Microsoft Azure. They’ve done things as simple as using a basic Azure instance for a short-term electronic Christmas card, and are looking at opportunities for Azure as a solution for peak loads. Brendon used the example of an All Blacks test, which would result in a very short, very heavy load. It would be crazy to have servers always running to handle that peak load, when they could run up additional Azure instances to cover the short demand period.

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