Quick App: Microsoft Labs Seadragon Mobile for iPhone

Microsoft has just unleashed their first iPhone app! And no, it's not Office. Or an Xbox gamer tag list. Or a Live Mesh client. Now, we make fun of our frenemies from Redmond plenty plenty, but as much as the regular Microsoft platform and services groups and their un-branding serve up humor-fodder galore, the Windows Labs team just make really cool technology previews. Take Microsoft Labs' Seadragon Mobile for iPhone (iTunes link). It leverages their deep zooming Photosynth technology to let you explore huge amounts of massive (think gigapixel) images quickly, and then zoom in for detailed, closer looks.

The regular version uses Silverlight, which is Microsoft's web-deployment of .Net (as opposed to Air which is Adobe's client-side Flash environment -- confusing, we know), but since the iPhone doesn't support either of those interpreter bases, we get something pretty amazing: a native code iPhone app from Microsoft.

Playing around with a little, it seems snappy enough and render speeds while slow on 3G, are astounding given the amount of data that must be sitting behind the Seadragon curtain.

Have you given it a go yet? How's it working for you?

(Thanks to Marcol for the tip!)

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Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Quick App: Microsoft Labs Seadragon Mobile for iPhone


Got this app yesterday and its power is amazing with some great astronomy pics and the equivalent of a (slightly out of date) Google earth. The only downside is the browse bit is broken but searching comes up with some great stuff. I can't wait to start uploading my own stuff.

(disclaimer - I wrote the app :)
Browse Photosynth broke a day or two after we submitted the app (API changes on the server). I've got an update ready to submit to Apple that fixes it - hopefully it'll go up in the next week or so. It's a killer feature, so watch for it!
The maps used are from Virtual Earth (which powers Live maps as well) - hopefully they'll be refreshing them sometime in the future.

For the record, there are MS apps that are very good. The version of Office for the Mac is excellent and my company has worked with some .NET tools to support an SOA project with excellent success and scalability that in truth surprised us. IMHO, MS fails where they have a lot of legacy code and feel that they need to support everything they've ever done. Hopefully, they will build more for the iPhone that is equally as good.

this is a serious app.
i wish google maps loaded zoomed information as quickly as this, the "flow" in and out of visual information is much more organic on seadragon.
since we're a mac only household, we haven't been able to run photosynth in our home and am looking forward to Ben Vanik's bugfix!
on a largely unrelated note to mister Vanik.. please ask people higher up than you at microsoft to make an offer for flickr. such an acquisition would really benefit seadragon, and it'd really benefit flickr.

Seadragon is amazing on the iPhone the way it loads maps is much quicker and flows smoother, I can't wait for Office and Live Messenger!

You might want to compare the home screen on this app to the one in our iEnvision app (http://we-envision.com), which has been shipping since day 1. This app of course has a somewhat different focus from ours, but there are also a large number of similarities.

i don't really see any profound similarities between iEnvision [nice self-promo] and seadragon.
seadragon is all about advanced zooming and scaling through visual information, whereas iEnvision is a simple slideshow app.