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

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 has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • developer story?

    way to complicated! FOSS is much more simple because you have the source code.
    The Linux Geek
    • Riiiiight

      More complicated?

      So Microsoft consolidating all it's dev platforms to WinRT is more complicated than Silverlight (+ .NET), WPF (+ .NET), WinForms (+.NET), GDI (+ C++)?

      And this is more complex than several hundred UI framework silos' available for a number of languages, platforms and systems.

      Don't get me wrong, I love open-source stuff - heck, I am in the middle of building a new start-up on HTML5 + JS, node, Cassandra, Mongo, etc., but don't kid yourself that open-source is somehow "simpler" than the consolidation we're seeing happen at Microsoft. It's not. If anything, the open-source world is a confusing mish-mash of stuff containing a few nuggets of goodness mixed in with A LOT of sticky, smelly ... less than good stuff.

      Just because someone's published their implementation of foo doesn't make it good. And just because a company chooses NOT to provide the source to their product doesn't make it bad.
      • This might hurt a bit

        Reality is, you are right. There's an overall crisis in the software industry - the pervasive complexity of everything. Open or not, it's all the same. To see a step toward simplicity should be applauded. But when you're a hammer - conversations about the deprecation of nails are painful. Even in the free world, we all work better - more productive, more innovative, higher quality - within constraint. Simple is brilliant.
  • I sincerely hope ...

    that Microsoft boldly deliver developers a rare and relatively smooth path to make a clean break and build apps that can truly span phone, tablet, laptop & desktop. They'd be INSANE not to run with this opportunity.

    I'd like to build one app in XAML + C/C++/C# or HTML5 + javascript and have it work with little change on phone, tablet, laptop & desktop.

    I want my apps to be able to expose contracts that define WHAT they're able to share and/or consume with other apps. I want my apps to be suspended in the background when the user is busy doing something else and to leap back to life when the user returns.

    I would like current WP7.x apps, games, etc. to run without change on WP8.
    • Geeks 1, Customers 0

      There is an old Irish curse: May All Your Wishes Come True.

      What you've described is Developer Heaven. But it's User Hell. Any app that does not get seriously "reimagined" while going from the desktop to a phone is going to be Hell to use on the phone. It won't be quite so bad going the other way, it'll just look like a toy app when it gets to the multi-windowed 23" screen.

      "The customer experience" is what the good software developers get right. They don't get it right by trying to design one experience that spans everything from phone to 55" TV. What they get out of that is cheap code. But lousy sales.
      Robert Hahn
      • Read what he said!

        He said span phone, tablet, laptop, desktop "with little change", i.e. changes to the interface to adapt to the screen size.
  • TF&ITW

    Empire of technological blogs TF&IT is looking for new staff ( posts writers ) or you can add to the partnership program and earn 30% of the profits from advertising.??
    J.M. USA
  • Major re-work for developers

    "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."

    The XAML in Silverlight for WP7 and XAML in Windows 8 is more or less the same, so porting the UI would be easy (Assuming Windows 8 and WP8 is more or less the same). Because the WinRT API's are different, developers may have to spend lot of time to port the code behind and test it all over again.

    Windows phone 8 is exiting for developers because it will finally support super phones and will bring more oppurtunities.
    • Same as before

      They said this with Windows Phone and it was true. We said it with Windows 8 and it's true. The development community remains Microsoft number one asset. Don't assume the worst. And, don't be afraid to learn a little.
  • Our Direction has changed...

    Believe Microsoft at your own peril!

    Windows 8 will be a smashing success in the mid to long term, both Destop & Tablets. Windows Phone however, is quite another story! They may succeed, but for developers, it falls into the "Who Cares" category.

    We don't need WP 7/8 to be a success, we have Android and iPhone, we just need MS to get the Tablet story together, and resolve the lunacy of a desktop having to boot up as a tablet.
    • Open your eyes...

      If the same code is transferrable among the different form factors, that could boost the popularity and income of W8 developers. Sure there's other platforms to develop for, but why support multiple platforms when 1 platform will get you tablet, desktop, laptop, and phone customers.
    • Win as one

      It is important to remember that Microsoft is investing deeply in the phone. They have serious money and people behind it every single day - getting better placement, getting more apps, getting better support. Windows 8 will be a success, I think you are right - there is latent demand for it. And will Microsoft use Windows 8 to drive Windows Phone? Would you?
  • Should not be a surprise

    When moving from one major OS to another, especially if there are significant internal changes. old apps will not work or work poorly while new apps will likely not work with the old OS.
    Hauling along the "must work with legacy" baggage is not always a good option.
    On another front, does this mean buyers of an existing app that will run on Win7 have to rebuy the new version for Win8 or will they just be allowed to upgrade? I suspect we will see both.
    • Not always

      It's Microsoft's M.O. to be backwards compatible. It's been the hallmark of Windows and possibly one of its greatest assets. Windows Phone appears to be following this heritage but this article causes some doubt. Doubt, I think, where none is warranted. But that's just me.
  • This doesn't inspire a ton of confidence.... consumers who may go out and purchase the Nokia Lumia 900 this weekend.

    From what I'm reading here, it's possible the Lumia may end up a dead-end device, running on legacy WP7 code.

    Sounds like the fractured nature of Symbian to me.
    • What consumer are you talking about?

      Will your IPhone 4 be Iphone 5-upgradeable? Will your new Android be able to install the next version of Fruit Salad? What consumer is asking these questions? None of them. They want to know if it does what they want. They want to know if they can connect with friends. They want to know if this phone is awesome. And the Lumia 900 is.

      I concede that you and I probably do ask those questions. My mom buys a phone because it works. You and I debate for months with ourselves because we aren't sure if the next version is better or not - and continue to use our older hardware as a result ;)
  • which would be no different than the fractured nature of android

    Except with a better and more secure os to start with and without all the android malware and spyware. so actually much better than any of the dead end android phones being sold today. Hmmm.
    Johnny Vegas
    • It would be so different

      Your comment makes me think you do not understand the device independence of XAML. It makes me think you do not understand the ubiquity of WinRt. It makes me think Windows is like Android. How wrong you are. Android is broken - not learning from the million-dollar mistakes of Windows Mobile. Windows is the culmination of lessons-learned. Any device, any size, any architecture. They are so different. You are so wrong. I am so sorry.
  • WP 7/8 Doesn't Matter

    I agree with fallonmassey that the phone doesn't matter. The tablet will succeed but I don't think the desktop is really going to get traction until Windows 9. If they release Windows 8 like the Consumer Review is, there is going to be chaos among consumers. (Even experienced ones but not power users). What IMHO they need to do is to give you a choice at setup to install Desktop, Metro, or both. That way everyone gets what they wants. If they leave "as is" there is going to be some great conversation for publications and bloggers.
    • MS wants...

      people using Metro. Once you've had a change to play around in the Metro interface, I think you'll agree that it is leaps and bounds ahead of standard desktop usage. I find everything to be instantaneous is Metro. Considering most people use their PC's for basic use, Metro will be perfect for 90% of all users. The rest can stay on Windows 7 so I don't have to hear these complaints anymore :)