reporter's notebook LAS VEGAS--Microsoft's Clint Rutkas was sent a rather intriguing e-mail a couple weeks back. Could he use a phone he'd never held to control a robot he hadn't built to send T-shirts into the crowd at the Mix10 conference.
Ever the adventurous type, Rutkas readily agreed. And sure enough, when Monday's keynote rolled around, Rutkas' Windows Phone T-Shirt Cannon was ready.
Rutkas said he didn't even get a prototype phone in his hands until a couple days into the project. Although he was 90 percent sure he could just do things remotely via the phone, Rutkas ended up putting a laptop in the robot as well "for safety." The cannon, he said, is capable of firing things off with hundreds of pounds-per-square-inch worth of pressure. "We could clear the room for sure," he said.
Although Rutkas is making the source code for the cannon available, he said there are some things that were done in the interest of time and might not be exactly best practices when it comes to software writing.
"There are things in there that we are not proud of, but they work," said Rutkas. Rutkas ended up building two of the cannons. He did it for two reasons. For one thing, he said, why build one when you can build two. The other reason, he said, was to have a backup.
The cannons didn't come cheap. The battlebot chassis is pricey and commercial T-shirt launchers (each robot had two launchers) cost $1,000 apiece as did an industrial strength pan-and-tilt mechanism. In all, Rutkas estimates he spent $10,000 on the stunt.
Of course, what attendees really wanted launched from the cannons were some of the actual phones, rather than the red polo shirts. Unfortunately, Mix participants had to settle for taking home a Windows-based emulator as well as a few glimpses at Windows Phone prototypes, none of which Microsoft developers were letting out of their hands.
Samsung gets in the Mix
In addition to the widely seen Windows Phone 7 Series prototypes and an LG model that had also been seen, a Samsung model was also spotted at Mix. I tried unsuccessfully to get a video of that device in action, but did get this photo from Microsoft showing the three devices side by side.
Microsoft goes native on Windows Phone
Meanwhile, even though Microsoft is telling developers to write their programs for the Windows Phone in Silverlight or XNA, the fact is that Microsoft's own applications weren't written that way.
As blogger Long Zheng noted, there's a mix of code in Microsoft's applications, including a fair bit of native device code.
Microsoft says the main reason that's the case is that it was developing Windows Phone, the applications, and the developer tools in parallel so it needed to do things somewhat differently.