With no early Windows 8.1 RTM bits, what's a developer to do?

With no early Windows 8.1 RTM bits, what's a developer to do?

Summary: Microsoft won't allow new Windows 8.1 apps to be published Windows Store until October 18, nor will the company be providing RTM bits early to devs for testing. So what should devs do now?


On August 27, Microsoft confirmed what had been rumored for a couple of weeks: Developers won't be getting early access to the Windows 8.1 RTM bits.


That revelation set off quite a storm on Twitter and in comments on blogs (including mine). How are developers supposed to be ready with apps that take advantage of Windows 8.1's new features and programming interfaces if they can't get access to the RTM bits ahead of the October 18 Windows 8.1 launch?

Developers have traditionally gotten early access via MSDN and TechNet, allowing them to test their apps against the RTM bits to make sure all works properly. But Microsoft began changing this pattern starting with Windows Phone 8, when the company opted to delay availability of the Windows Phone 8 SDK for most (but not all) developers until launch.

In the case of Windows Phone 8, Microsoft officials said they were holding back the SDK out of fear they'd reveal new features that they didn't want known until launch. (There were no major new features for Windows Phone 8 revealed during the launch that hadn't leaked previously.) In the Windows 8.1 case, secrecy doesn't seem to be the reason; instead, Microsoft is still updating the RTM code -- and plans to do so right up until just before launch.

Not too surprisingly, the Windows Store in 8.1 isn't opening for app publishing until October 18, the day Windows 8 becomes generally available, Microsoft officials confirmed in a post on the App Builder blog today. We still don't have a date as to when Microsoft will release the gold version of Visual Studio 2013 beyond some time before the end of calendar 2013. (Some company watchers had been expecting the VS 2013 final bits would be released today, too, given Windows 8.1 and Windows Server 2012 R2 both have been released to manufacturing.)

Between now and October 18, the Softies reiterated, developers should code against the Windows 8.1 customer preview bits that were released in late June, using the Visual Studio 2013 preview, which also was released to testers in late June. By doing so, developers can begin updating their apps to take advantage of Windows 8.1 features including faster app startup times, improved animation rendering, additional tile sizes and templates, the new Bing-centric search experience, new controls and more, Microsoft officials say.

On October 18, once the Windows Store opens, developers will be able to "onboard" new apps or an 8.1 version of their existing Windows 8 apps using the same app ID. That will allow developers to have their 8 and 8.1 apps share ratings and reviews, as well as allow users to automatically get the 8.1 verion of an app when they update. It also will allow developers to update both their Windows 8 and 8.1 apps if they choose.

Microsoft officials have said all existing Windows Store/Metro-Style Windows 8 apps will work on Windows 8.1. But there are some things that are not supported in the Visual Studio 2013 preview that supposedly will be supported by the time it's generally available, such as behaviors. That's leading to warranted developer questions about what else may be changing on the API and tooling front between now and launch.

Microsoft officials said there will be more guidance coming on the Windows App Builder blog "(a)s we approach the general availability of Windows 8.1 and of Visual Studio 2013." (That wording makes me think VS 2013 might not be generally available until October 18 or so. But no one from Microsoft is saying for now.) The other place to check for information on getting apps ready for publishing to the Windows Store in 8.1 is the Windows Dev Center, the Softies said.

There's also a white paper Microsoft released at Build this year, entitled "Optimizing your migrated Windows 8 apps: building better experiences with Windows 8.1" that may help those looking to update their Windows Store apps to Windows 8.1.

Here are a few more MSDN links that might help:

I'd like to hear from Windows developers who have built Windows 8 apps about what you've found re: how your app works or doesn't on Windows 8.1 customer preview. And anyone writing apps that take advantage of Windows 8.1's new features: Anything you're concerned as Microsoft marches toward launch?

Also: Any theories what else Microsoft may be doing on the tooling side that might have contributed to the decision to delay developer access to the bits? Could Microsoft possibly reveal a common app store for Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8 at the Windows 8.1 launch? Or something new along greater commonality of the phone and Windows code bases? Just thinking aloud....

Topics: Windows 8, Microsoft, Software Development, Web development


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).

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • My theory is this..

    When Win8 launch, what big apps were there? Which of those apps take any real advantage of cool APIs? So, there is no point this time with Win8.1
  • Developers, developers, developers

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8To-6VIJZRE Who cares anymore?
    Sead Horvat
  • With no early Windows 8.1 RTM bits, what's a developer to do?

    Wait like everyone else. Continue to develop your Microsoft Windows application because it will still run on Microsoft Windows 8.1. Its really a non-issue.
    • Thank you!

      I'm so glad you cleared that up for all of us. Everything is OK now. Thank you. Really. I am absolutely not being sarcastic or anything.
      • You want sarcasm?

        "Win 8.1 RTM will be available to all owners of the Surface RT".
        Try spreading that sarcastic rumour, and see how it flies.
        • Errr

          Windows RT 8.1 will be available to all Surface RT owners...
          Michael Alan Goff
    • It MIGHT run on 8.1

      Depending on what they change between now and the actual release.

      It really is an issue, whether you believe it or not.

      Obviously you are not a developer.
      • At least someone on here seems to "get it"

        You are right; it may or may not run on 8.1. For sure it will need to be re-built and re-tested and that's what early MSDN & TechNet developers did prior to the Microsoft "new model" of "screw the developers". This move is going to do serious damage to an already fragile Microsoft-Developer relationship. Perhaps that may be overreaction, but I WAS a Silverlight developer, so I've already suffered from Microsoft's bonehead decisions regarding "what they have done lately for developers" (which is absolutely nothing - current state)
        • Um we've had access for a couple months now

          Done the new feature dev, the rebuilding and the testing. Not screwed in the least. There's nothing that makes this build any more worth testing again than next weeks or the week after or the week after. No one besides OEMs will ever get them. I also did lots of Silverlight programming. I still use those c# and xaml skills all the time. I don't miss the SL runtime at all. Just like I don't miss flash. You don't still build flash sites do you? Plugins are dead, nothing boneheaded about it. At least you can leverage those skills unlike action script and flash mark up.
          Johnny Vegas
          • Well sorry

            but I don't agree. XAML went with Silverlight for me. I now use HTML5/JQuery with a JSON/REST communciation architecture. I do still use C# on the back-end, but we had about 6 major apps built in Silverlight that we had to redesigned and rebuilt at a large cost. Yes, I understand the move from plug-ins, that was never the point, the point was Scott Guthrie standing in the middle of a MS Dev Conference and promising everyone regarding Microsoft's commitment to Silverlight, then about a year later (after everyone was enthusiatically building Silverlight apps), he was re-assigned and Silverlight was dropped - aka Screw Developers yet again. As for "only OEM's see these bits", well I'm an OEM - A software OEM, hence I should see these bits as well at the same time. Let's just be honest, Microsoft has simply stepped in it again and they will pay dearly.
        • I doubt it would even need a rebuild

          They are not at all likely to change api's. And even if it does require a rebuild, all it takes is hitting that F7 key..
          • F7

            Transition from design view to code view?

            Have you ever even opened Visual Studio?
          • Yes

            I even used it to program. F7 is build solution in Visual c++, has been for many many years already.
          • It does not require a rebuild.

            No rebuild required. Service Packs never require a rebuild, and neither do major version changes.

            BTW, there are several shortcut layouts for Visual Studio, you chose one when you first start it after the install.
        • Not nothing...

          But in fact a negative - they have made things worse for developers. Compressed dev/qa time available before release. And favouring some devs - "to delay availability of the Windows Phone 8 SDK for **most** (but not (**all**) developers until launch."

          Way to go to cultivate loyalty and win hearts and minds, Microsoft!
    • wait

      Yes! Wait, for The Bright Future, by Microsoft.
    • Exactly

      Like in any other platform. Tools are there early but MS is also moving into a direction where they don't have to reveal everything before release. It is not a really a problem to test after GA. Of course I would like to have early access too and also final bits of VS 2013 because both are great and it feels stupid to wait for products that are just waiting for release. And waiting does not make much sense in this very competitive world anyway.

      But being secretive is just because of increased competition. With long release cycles and early access they would just give stuff away. A good example is graphics acceleration in a browser... lots of people claiming IE was not first :)
  • silly

    Write a web app that runs on all platforms and be done with this app nonsense. Can you imagine if we had to download an app for every web page when the internet was born? Why do people think apps are so great now? Most are really poorly written and drain the battery or only exist to generate ad revenue.
    • Umm... There were no web pages when the internet was born..

      Instead there was INN (internet news network) and mailing lists.

      And before that, there were ftp archives.

      Believe it or not, the internet existed for about 20 years before the web was born (first as ARPANET - 1969, then when TCP/IP standardized). The web was born about 1991/1992
    • this is funny

      Good luck with web app that runs on all platforms well. Web apps sound good to managers. Yeah, runs on anything... sucks on multiple platforms too.
      Besides some apps are impossible to write as web apps. Connectivity does not always exist. Bandwidth may be too expensive or native code may be necessary for performance reasons.
      Having said that it really sucks that devs do not get the latest 8.1 SDK. Sometimes small changes in OS can break programs at unexpected places. Like order of file locking or interpretation of default parameters. Without testing you simply do not know.