Windows Phone 8: What's Microsoft's developer story?

Summary:On the development front, Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 seem to be joined at the hip.

This week on Twitter, a number of us Windows Phone watchers have been debating how and whether Microsoft will continue to support Silverlight and XNA gaming tools on Windows Phone 8, codenamed Apollo.

As if reading our Tweeted thoughts, Microsoft officials have posted on the Windows Phone Developer blog a few tidbits about what developers should expect on this front

In the April 5 post, Microsoft execs reiterated that "today’s Windows Phone applications and games will run on the next major version of Windows Phone." Will any reworking be required? The post doesn't get into particulars, beyond saying "much of your code will be transferrable."

Microsoft execs still have not stated publicly and officially what those of us on the receiving end of tips believe to be the case: Specifically, Windows Phone 8 will switch out the Windows Compact Embedded Core with "core" Windows components. I've also heard from reliable sources that Microsoft will be making a subset of the Window 8 Windows Runtime (WinRT) available to Windows Phone 8 developers.

Here's the paragraph from the April 5 blog post that's worth parsing:

"We’ve also heard some developers express concern about the long term future of Silverlight for Windows Phone. Please don’t panic; XAML and C#/VB.NET development in Windows 8 can be viewed as a direct evolution from today’s Silverlight. All of your managed programming skills are transferrable to building applications for Windows 8, and in many cases, much of your code will be transferrable as well. Note that when targeting a tablet vs. a phone, you do of course, need to design user experiences that are appropriately tailored to each device."

In other words, Windows Phone is going the way of Windows 8 on the developer side of the house. As is the case with Windows 8 Metro environment, XAML will be supported. While closely related, XAML is not Silverlight, as Silverlight developers working on Windows 8 apps have discovered.

Windows Phone Secrets author Paul Thurrott states this more directly than the Softies were willing to do:

"The Silverlight-based Windows Phone developer environment is going away in Windows Phone 8, and is being replaced by WinRT-based APIs like those in Windows 8. Why? Two reasons. First, Silverlight is dead, cancelled internally by Microsoft. And second, Windows Phone 8 is Windows 8 for all intents and purposes."

There's one other bit worth a mention from the new post, and it's in the comments. Cliff Simpkins, Senior Product Manager for Windows Phone, offered a bit of information about XNA support in Windows Phone 8:

"While not explicitly called out, XNA is very much a part of Larry's statement 'today's Windows Phone applications and games will run on the next major version of Windows Phone.' XNA is fully supported in the next major version and remains part of the Windows Phone family. We remain committed to supporting our developers' existing skills and code as we move ahead - together."

Here's what I've heard about XNA. As Windows 8 developers know, Microsoft has decided not to include XNA support for WinRT/Metro in Windows 8. It's only supported on the Desktop. With Windows Phone 8, according to one of my tipsters, Microsoft still will support XNA in the Windows Phone 8 software development kit, but will be pushing developers to write games for the platform using DirectX and native code, not XNA -- just like the case with Windows 8.

When will we finally hear more information about Windows Phone 8 from Microsoft? Sources say it could be soon, like May.... Update: Another of my contacts said to expect developer disclosure for Windows Phone 8 to happen in June.

Topics: Microsoft, Mobility, Operating Systems, Software, Software Development, Windows


Mary Jo Foley has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications, including ZDNet, eWeek and Baseline. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008). She also is the cohost of the "Windows Weekly" podcast on the TWiT network. Got a tip? Se... Full Bio

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