CES: Will 'Jupiter' be key to Microsoft's Windows 8 app store's future?

On the day Microsoft is expected to show off its first public glimpse of Windows 8 (at the Consumer Electronics Show this evening), there are a couple of new Windows 8 codenames circulating: Mosh and Jupiter.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

On the day Microsoft is expected to show off its first public glimpse of Windows 8 (at the Consumer Electronics Show this evening), there are a couple of new Windows 8 codenames circulating.

Windows Supersite's Paul Thurrott published a few tidbits about "Mosh" and "Jupiter" on January 5. Mosh is the alleged tile-based shell which will be part of Windows 8, and "Jupiter" is a new application model for Windows 8, according to Thurrott.

The tile-based shell concept is intriguing, if true. (I did a quick search for "Mosh" references and found a number of incoming "Mosh" search terms pointing to a Windows8Beta page about the Windows 8 UI, lending at least some credence to the idea that "Mosh" is real.) If Microsoft does add a tile-based interface to Windows 8, Microsoft will go some way toward addressing the folks, like yours truly, who really wanted to see a Windows Phone 7 experience on tablets and slates, rather than a pure Windows one. Microsoft so far has balked at allowing OEMs to port the Windows Phone operating system to slates and tablets, requiring them to use full-fledged Windows, instead.

But I'm even more interested in the rumored Jupiter information. Thurrott has heard that Jupiter is a new app model for Windows 8. What does this mean? From Thurrott's post:

"The (Win 8) app store will provide access to new, Silverlight based 'immersive' applications that are deployed as AppX packages (.appx). The Windows and Office teams are betting very heavily on this new app type, according to my source, and development has already begun using a beta version of Visual Studio 2012. These apps can be written in C#, Visual Basic, and even C++."

I have checked a bit and hear that Jupiter is, indeed, real (though the Softies aren't commenting on it officially). Microsoft has used Jupiter as a codename a few times previously, but this is supposedly something new and different and Windows 8 related.

Why is Jupiter potentially a big deal? We know, thanks to some leaked Windows 8 slides from last April, that Microsoft is readying an app store for Windows 8. The company has to do this if it really does plan to optimize Windows 8 for slates and tablets, among other form factors. But how does Microsoft populate this store -- especially if it wants to avoid the "Armageddon" that Apple is about to launch among its own developers (as my ZDNet blogging colleague David Gewirtz described it)?

If Microsoft could find a way to package up Silverlight apps, including possibly those that are being built for Windows Phone 7, and make those available alongside HTML5 apps and sites in the Windows 8 store, it could potentially make a lot of Windows 8 store apps available when Windows 8 launches. (I'd expect the Softies to ban Windows Presentation Foundation apps from the store, so as to avoid the pricing nightmare and developer cannibalization threatning Apple's developers.)

We also know from the Windows 8 slide leak that Microsoft is working to improve the servicing model with Windows 8. Servicing, in this case, means the way applications and services (remember the mysterious "Windows Web Services" that are part of Microsoft's future plans for Windows?) are installed and updated. If Jupiter can help Microsoft streamline this updating process for its own and third-party applications, that would be a big win for Windows 8, as well.

From what I hear, Microsoft isn't going to have a single app store (that will be common to Xbox, Windows 8 and Windows Phone) any time soon. That's a longer-term goal, but unlikely in the Windows 8 timeframe. I wonder if the idea is to have Jupiter establish the groundwork for all of these app stores, as Microsoft works on merging them....

Do I think CEO Steve Ballmer is going to show off the Windows 8 UI or talk about Jupiter during his CES keynote tonight? I'd be very very surprised. I'll be watching (and blogging it) starting at 9:30 p.m. ET tonight.

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