Was the 11th of July really the last time we put a blog post up? I think we should fire our community team for that sort of thing! Of course I’m being facetious when I say things like that – we don’t actually have a community team – but I do fully acknowledge that it hasn’t been good enough to leave everyone in the lurch about Meteor and the progress we’ve made in the months since our last update. With Windows Phone 7 just about to grace our shores; albeit in the next few months; it’s well-and-truly time to update everyone on what’s happened. With out further ado, a new video of Meteor approaches:
Meteor – Land Dolphin’s WP7 Media Center Remote Control
Unfortunately (or fortunately), I’m not above shameless copy-pasting, so below is the description from the video as it gives a pretty good overview of the video above:
This video is a short tour of the Meteor WP7 Media Center Remote Control. It shows off the panoramic hub that gives you access to the aspects of WMC that a user wants, including:
The Recent Section
A section that shows off the media that is currently playing and what has been recently played; all tracked by the server, so all clients are synchronised.
The New Section
You want to know what’s just been added to your library so you can quickly go to your freshly legally ripped or legally downloaded media.
You want full, simple, integrated access to all of your media. The Library makes it simple to browse and search through your library to exactly what you want, quickly.
The video shows off the fine control and response that is paramount in a Windows Phone 7 application with rich commanding and UI flare to notify the user that things have changed.
Finally, the video takes you a short tour of the library, showing the capabilities of Meteor including Music, TV and movies. Recorded TV and a full, capable EPG (TV guide) will be shown off in a future video.
So What’s Different?
There were a few things we weren’t happy with back in July and in the previous demos that we put out of Meteor, so we thought that we’d rework them.
We had a good look at what Microsoft had done with the Zune HD, as well as what they were doing with some of the earlier builds of the Music and Videos hub and we decided that it was a bit too complicated and confusing and didn’t fit in with the glance-and-go nature of WP7. We found that from a UI perspective, we needed to just take a step back and have a really good think about what WP7 and Metro are all about and make some changes to really make sure we embraced the spirit of the platform. WP7 apps should be Personal, Relevant and Connected, so we’ve gone to great lengths to make sure that Meteor hit the right notes.
The Recent Section
We decided pretty soon after releasing those last videos that the Now Playing section was super sweet, but there was just too much awesome going on to confine it in a Panorama section, so we decided to unleash it in its own page which not only let us get a bit more creative with it now that it was nicely abstracted away, but also made it so that the hub was far less cluttered and confusing. A good one-two punch that Rocky would be proud of. Is it worth mentioning I’ve only seen Rocky V and the latest Rocky? Probably do me more harm than good, I’d imagine.
Along with the Now Playing section, the History section needed to be reworked, and thus the Recent section was born. When you really think about it, Now Playing media and History media are all “recently played” media, so why not merge them into a single section and let the DataTemplate be the distinguishing factor? It seems completely obvious now that I think about it. I mean, what kind of idiot couldn’t see that?! I mean GEEZE! All joking aside, we decided to merge Now Playing and History into a single section and embrace the notion of “glance-able” tiles, letting the user get a quick snippet of information on the currently playing media and then make a decision from there. It also allows us to make great use of some of the awesome album art, cover art and screenshots that we utilise heavily throughout the rest of the application. The phone should be a wonderful showcase for this art, so we decided to put it front-and-centre whilst still keeping with the text-centric Metro paradigm.
The New Section
I often hear the same question when we’re sitting down to watch some shows for the night: “so… what new shows do you have?”. When I say often, I mean practically every night, without fail, all the freaking time; it’s actually a really big deal and a fairly big source of friction in our household, so we here at Land Dolphin felt that we needed to address this situation and come up with a good solution. The New Section is that solution. Using clever behind the scenes “stuff”, the Meteor service figures out what new stuff you’ve just added to your library and then the app shows it to you, you can then interact with it in exactly the same way that you interact with everything else, except this time you can just throw your partner/best friend/dog your phone and say “this is the new stuff, pick something!”. There are still some issues in the way it’s presented which I want to address, but that’s a polishing thing, the tech is there.
I’ve said it on Twitter a few times and I’ll take this opportunity to say it again: @adventful really is awesome. One of the Land Dolphin guys that we all look up to because he does some quoteunquote “Epic Stuff” is at it again and after many long hours, Meteor has the ability to act as an EPG (Electronic Program Guide). It’s not quite ready to show off just yet as there should be a bit more polish lathered upon it (as well as our need to hide our preciousssssss), but it’s looking excellent already and should be ready to demo shortly. Everyone out there who is interested in EPG/Remote scheduling/etc of TV, stay tuned.
What’s Stayed the Same and What’s to Come
One aspect of Meteor that we’ve always been very happy with has been the Library. The flow of browsing through your media, drilling into and filtering results by metadata and attributes is really satisfying and should work beautifully on a proper device. An absolute TON of work has gone into making it all run extremely smoothly and respond brilliantly to user interaction. It’s all heavily virtualised and there have been many hours put into making sure that the traffic between the phone and the server is minimal, so it should stay snappy, even with a boatload of data on the server; which we can very readily test.
As far as what’s coming up: we feel like we’re starting to get into the home stretch. There are still plenty of UI tweaks and changes to be done, definitely some work on the EPG and the flow within the Library, plenty of testing to do to make sure everything plays nicely together and a lot (and I mean alot) of usability testing to do. In fact, the major work that I see there; and some have disagreed with me on this; is usability and user experience. It’s something that is paramount to the success or failure of an app but it’s also the thing that is probably the hardest for us to actually do and the main problem is not having a physical device to test on. It’s all well and good to say “well, you can test gestures and workflows on the emulator; it’s fine”, but the emulator in no way properly replicates the experience that a user will have on a physical device. The tools are fantastic to a point, but when you reach that point, nothing but hardware will do.
User experience is one of the ways that we believe makes Meteor stand out from the crowd and the sooner we can get our hands on some actual, proper phones and get testing, the sooner we can get this app into people’s hands and get them integrating their media into their “digital lives”. I was sure that I’d manage to get a cheesy 2010 catchphrase into this post somewhere! Our next blog post definitely won’t be 4 months away, so stay tuned for more Meteor and other projects in the coming months.