Microsoft opens Windows Phone 8 dev kit to world+dog
Claims it did everything right this time
Build 2012 Microsoft has officially launched the software development kit (SDK) for Windows Phone 8, delivering the final piece of what the company says is a common programming model across all of its latest OS platforms and devices.
"As you can see, we're combining an array of hardware, tools, and technology to deliver a fundamentally reimagined Windows platform," Kevin Gallo, Microsoft's director of program management for Windows Phone, said during his Tuesday keynote at the company's annual Build developer conference in Redmond.
Previously, Redmond had been unusually secretive about the developer tools for its latest smartphone platform, offering the kit only to a limited group of established developers as part of a closed preview program.
Microsoft had justified its clandestine approach by explaining that not all of WP8's features had been publicly announced when the preview SDK became available. Now that Phone 8 has been officially launched, however, there was presumably little reason to conceal the tools from the wider developer community any longer.
Gallo said that along the way, Microsoft asked for input on what coders wanted to see in the Windows Phone development platform. With the public release of the SDK, he said, Redmond has delivered at least 90 per cent of what they asked for.
The SDK, which was made available on Tuesday, is roughly a 1.6GB download, and it requires a 64-bit version of Windows 8 to run. It bundles a version of Microsoft's free Visual Studio Express 2012 IDE tailored specifically for WP8, plus a free version of the Blend 2012 UI design tool, though it can also integrate with tools from the full Visual Studio 2012 Professional Suite.
The kit also includes a selection of Windows Phone emulators based on Microsoft's Hyper-V virtualization technology. To use these components, however, developers will need machines based on processors that support Second Level Address Translation (SLAT), which generally means AMD Opteron and Intel Core processors released in 2007 or later.
Developers don't strictly need the emulators to build apps using the SDK, but without them, the only way to deploy and test their apps will be to use an actual Windows Phone.
"Over 75 per cent of the top-grossing apps are games," Gallo said. "With Windows Phone 8, Microsoft now has a common gaming platform across the entire Windows family."
Gallo explained that the common development platform Redmond has built across its various properties makes it easy to reuse code originally written for other platforms in apps for Windows Phone 8.
To demonstrate, he showed off an app built using code from a years-old third-party C++ library. The app package consisted of three Visual Studio projects. Two were frontend UIs; one for Windows 8 and one for Windows Phone 8. The third was a shared code library that contained the code for all the essential functions of the app, and that could be used to build a version for either platform.
As a further incentive to get developers on board, Gallo said Microsoft is slashing the fee for individual developers to register a Windows Phone Dev Center account from $99 to $8 for the next eight days only.
Whether the new SDK and the reduced fee will be enough to entice mobile developers to jump ship from other platforms is questionable, however. In many ways, Windows Phone 8 is the riskiest piece in Microsoft's new, more unified OS push, with earlier versions of the Windows Phone platform having failed to win many converts.
Still, in his own Build keynote on Tuesday, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer was adamant that the latest incarnation of the company's smartphone OS wouldn't stumble in the market the way earlier versions had, owing to its close ties to Windows 8.
"If you want the best experience with your new Windows computer – the best experience – you'll own a Windows Phone," Ballmer said. "If you want the experience that is most personal, you will buy a Windows Phone." ®
They don't make it appealing enough...
They want developers; but they also want developers to cough up quite a few bucks before they can actually do some tinkering with their phones, and I think that's where MS is missing the point.
I own a WP7.5 device, I like to tinker and I also have a fair amount of experience with C#.NET and VB.NET. Needless to say but I picked up the previous SDK and was actually quite pleased with it. It gives you the well known Visual Studio look, gets you a graphical phone display where you can setup your visual components and it gets you the emulator.
But here's the thing; messing with my phone is a whole lot more fun than messing with some emulator. But I can't do that because my phone is "dev locked"; iow: you can't hook it up to your PC and try to gain access to it, won't work.
And to unlock it, you guessed it, I need to cough up some big bucks.
That really doesn't appeal to me. I want to learn the environment, check how stuff works using MY phone, and I really don't mind coughing up, say, E 10,- / E 20,- to cover administrative costs which is bound to be involved with getting me an unlock for my phone.
Instead my choice is: Either you jump in fully or you can forget about it.
Chicken and the Egg: before I can decide if I want to jump in fully I'd like to gain some hands on experience. But in order to gain some hands on experience I gotta jump in fully.
Guess what? I'll simply not jump in at all.
Microsoft needs to make it more appealing if they want to get the interest of developers... Sure, you'll always have plenty of fortune seekers; but they come and go. Something I'm sure MS is going to find out soon enough.
"If you want the best experience with your new Windows computer – the best experience – you'll own a Windows Phone," Ballmer said. "If you want the experience that is most personal, you will buy a Windows Phone."
I think the problem for ballmer is that for years people didnt buy windows phones or tablets because they didn't want a desktop UI on a phone. Now he's betting they want a phone/tablet UI on a desktop/laptop. I don't and I suspect many others don't.
developer tools for android suck
developing on Android means a bunch of tools around Eclipse gobbled together, command line shit and almost no documentation if you're working in C++ - since everything is for Java. Debugging is almost a myth.
The dev tools on Microsoft are *the* highlight of the platform. Visual Studio Express is not cut down when it comes to mobile. it' all the tools that work for mobile. The so called "full" version of VS is totally unnecessary. What are you going to do, database modeling? It's not like it offers only part of the language, the editor or the debugger! All of these are there in full. The Express edition for phone even supports AddIns.
If you're going to be developing for mobile with a text editor, command line tools and basically GDB for Android, I don't see how you anyone could miss anything in Visual Express, since it's AT LEAST that plus a more elegant environment that ties it all in together.