Review: .NET Compact Framework 3.5 Data Driven Applications

0102_MockupCover_0 Like Peter Nowak I was asked to review this recent release. Unfortunately due to other commitments it has taken the best part of a month to finish it. To avoid repeating the same points I recommend you read Peter’s review. While the current focus at Microsoft is on the upcoming Windows Phone 7 platform, we should not forget that there is still a demand for line of business applications for custom Windows CE platforms and Windows Mobile (and its Windows Embedded Handheld offspring) for enterprise devices.

I think the format of following a real-world application through the book provides a nice thread to tie together the various concepts described but often with this kind of approach you find features are shoe-horned in to show off a particular technology – a good example in this case is the IrDA/Bluetooth transfer of accounts between agents in a Sales application. Peter noted that the book does not describe the current situation with Visual Studio 2010 and why 2008 is needed for .NETCF 3.5 development but I think this is excusable based on the timescales involved in writing a book and how clearly this message was communicated by Microsoft.

The application design focuses exclusively on Windows Mobile and doesn’t cover issues when targeting other Windows CE platforms (such as Windows Mobiles enforced single-instance versus Windows CE default support for multiple instances of an application or just difference between the shells and screen layout). It also doesn’t cover form rotation and design for different DPI screens or implemented a locked-down kiosk mode. A personal gripe is the use of a SerialPort to do a Bluetooth transfer which is not the nicest solution, but then I suppose I’m biased.

Ultimately there is some good content in the book but it is unfortunately let down by being late to the party and the application scenarios try too hard to be all things to all people and ultimately not always 100% believable. It provides a starting point to work from and introduces a lot of functional areas from data synchronisation through to automatic update.

By Peter Foot

Microsoft Windows Development MVP