In this edition of The Midweek Download, we’ve got stories on the latest release of Try F#, the Windows Startup Challenge, plus how to design, optimize and submit your Windows Phone apps – tools and tips you’ll want to use.

Eight tips for designing Windows Phone apps. As part of the "App to the future" challenge, we’ve conducted Lightning Design Review sessions for a few weeks, and one thing struck Windows Phone Product Marketing Director JC Cimetiere as he was watching: review after review, he could clearly identify some recurring patterns. So Cimetiere asked Senior Interactive Designer, Lincoln Anderson, who hosts the reviews, to analyze common issues he sees and write down the top eight design tips for Windows Phone. To see what they came up with, head over to the Jan. 18 post on the Windows Phone Developer Blog. While you’re there, learn how to make your apps battery-friendly in this Jan. 17 post on Optimizing Battery Consumption of Windows Phone Applications.

Try F#—data console to big and broad data. Yesterday, we announced the latest release of Try F#, a set of resources that makes it easy to learn and program with F# in your browser. It’s available over a wide range of platforms and doesn’t require a download of Microsoft Visual Studio. Try F# quickly reveals the value of the versatile F# programming language. Try F# enables users to learn F# through new tutorials that focus on solving real-world problems, including analytical programming quandaries of the sort that are encountered in finance and data science. But Try F# is much more than a set of tutorials. Watch the video below to see how students at University College London and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute are using Try F# for real-world solutions. For the rest of the story, head to yesterday’s post on the Microsoft Research Connections Blog.

Get Microsoft Silverlight

App submission tips for Windows Phone 7 and Windows Phone 8. If you currently have a Windows Phone 7.x app that you’re thinking about updating to take advantage of Windows Phone 8 functionality, you have some decisions to make about support for your existing Windows Phone 7.x apps. To better serve your needs, the Windows Phone Dev Center now offers the ability to associate multiple XAPs with the same app GUID. This means that you can create, submit and maintain different versions of your app for Windows Phone 7 and Windows Phone 8. Head over to the Jan. 16 post on the Windows Phone Developer Blog for details, including step-by-step walkthroughs.

Building the Bing apps for Windows 8. For Windows 8, the Bing team built News, Weather, Finance, Sports, Travel and Maps apps. This Windows 8 App Developer Blog post shares a technical overview that provides insight on the architecture of these apps, key Windows 8 features and the contracts they use, common controls they employ, and world readiness more generally. Several members of the Bing team formed an apps team approximately one year ago to deliver a set of apps powered by Bing for Windows 8. This team hopes their insights and resources can help you develop your own apps.

Announcing the Windows Startup Challenge. In September, we partnered with Startup Weekend to give entrepreneurs technical mentorship, design guidance and other valuable resources through a series of Windows Bootcamps. Last week, we announced the next stage of this work: the Windows Startup Challenge. This challenge—a joint effort between Startup Weekend, DEMO and Windows — focuses on helping startup developers take an app from the prototype phase, through design and development, and finally to a great launch. If you are just starting out as a Windows Store app developer, this challenge will test your ability to prototype a business idea and bring your app to life. For the rest of the story, head over to the Jan. 15 post on the Windows Store for Developers blog.

Startup Challenge

After the storm - Esri maps out the future in the cloud. A storm hits. Trees down power lines, water levels rise. Emergency teams scramble to figure out the damage and who’s vulnerable. First responders think visually, so answering these questions often starts with a map. And those maps are frequently powered by Esri, a leader in Geographic Information Systems (GIS). A couple weeks ago, Microsoft Director Yvonne Muench visited their Redlands, Calif. headquarters on what just happened to be the day after Hurricane Sandy hit the Eastern seaboard. For about a year now, Esri has included a cloud-based component to the system called ArcGIS Online. How did their Windows Azure-hosted system do? Head over to this Jan 16. post on the Windows Azure Blog to find out. The image below shows a dynamic mash up of precinct-level historical voting data and FEMA impact zones for the disaster.

FEMA Map

Kinect for Windows shopping solutions showcased at National Retail Federation Expo. Microsoft Kinect for Windows has been playing an increasingly important role in retail, from interactive kiosks at stores such as Build-A-Bear Workshop, to virtual dressing rooms at fashion leaders like Bloomingdale's, to virtual showrooms at Nissan dealerships. This year's National Retail Federation (NRF) Convention and Expo, which took place last week, showcased several solutions that provide retailers with new ways to drive customer engagement, sales and loyalty. You can see one of them in the image below: Swivel Close-Up, a Kinect for Windows-based kiosk that lets customers visualize themselves in small accessories such as makeup, sunglasses and jewelry. See other ways retailers are changing the way customers shop in this Jan. 17 post on the Kinect for Windows Blog.

Kinect Swivel

That’s it for this edition of The Midweek Download! Thanks for reading!

Posted by Jeff Meisner
Editor, The Official Microsoft Blog