Feeds

Windows Phone 8: Exceptional tools, but where are the devs?

Microsoft's vast scary world of versions and APIs

Intelligent flash storage arrays

Confused? You will be: let's talk on-demand compilation in the cloud

Another new feature is cloud-based compilation. The story here is that .NET apps are delivered as MSIL (Microsoft Intermediate Language) and compiled to native code at runtime. This cannot be done earlier due to hardware-specific considerations, but the process of compilation at every startup is demanding for the phone. In Windows Phone 8, apps are pre-compiled in the cloud to a format called MDIL that program manager Brandon Bray described as “90 per cent compiled”, speeding up performance.

With much in common between Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8, how can developers share code? The primary technique is a feature of Visual Studio 2012 called Portable Class Libraries. This is non-visual code in which Visual Studio will enforce compatibility with the platforms you specify.

The idea is to share the non-visual code between the platforms you select, and write a platform-specific user interface. Of course “portable” in Microsoft’s world means portable between variants of Windows rather than true cross-platform.

Developing for Windows Phone 8 requires Visual Studio 2012, though there is a free Express version for getting started, and Windows 8. One reason why Windows 8 is required is that the phone emulator runs on the Hyper-V virtualisation engine, which is not present in Windows 7.

You can target Windows Phone 7.x as well as 8. The emulator is comprehensive and lets you vary screen size and memory, and emulate location data and accelerometer movement. A Simulation Dashboard lets you test with a variety of scenarios such as low-signal strength.

Windows Phone 8 emulator

The Hyper-V emulator for Windows Phone 8

Deployment is normally through Microsoft’s store, but there is also provision for enterprises to install apps directly, such as via email or a microSD card. This is enabled by registering for an enterprise mobile code signing certificate and getting an Application Enrolment Token that enrols phones for use with company apps.

There are also a range of new features available to apps. These include lock screen notifications, a rich new map control and navigation API, speech API, wallet API for mobile payments including Near-Field Communications (NFC) where available, camera add-ins called Lens apps, and new photo and video capture APIs. The web browser control is now based on Internet Explorer 10.

In networking, there are APIs for Bluetooth, proximity including NFC, IPv6 support, and native Winsock support for those familiar with Windows sockets programming. In-app purchases are supported. A new storage API is a subset of that in the Windows Runtime and includes SD card access.

Native code support in Windows Phone 8 has enabled better support from third-party libraries, and Tony Garcia from Unity took the stage at BUILD to show off use of this popular game development framework on Windows Phone 8.

This is a big release, with much that is significant. Visual Studio is well liked by developers, and if it were competing on ease of development alone, Microsoft would be prospering in mobile. As it is though, it struggles, because of two well-entrenched competitors in the form of Apple iOS and Google Android. Development company Thoughtworks said this in its Technology Radar, a survey of software development trends:

Despite a promising start to Windows Phone, a well thought-out user interface, and probably the best development experience of any mobile platform, we have seen several stumbles in the execution of the platform strategy by Microsoft and its partners. This makes us less optimistic about the future of the platform than we were in the last radar.

This was in relation to Windows Phone 7. If the platform was already good for developers, Windows Phone 8 is exceptional. Whether that is enough to win customers from other platforms remains an open question. ®

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
Preview redux: Microsoft ships new Windows 10 build with 7,000 changes
Latest bleeding-edge bits borrow Action Center from Windows Phone
Google opens Inbox – email for people too thick to handle email
Print this article out and give it to someone tech-y if you get stuck
Microsoft promises Windows 10 will mean two-factor auth for all
Sneak peek at security features Redmond's baking into new OS
FTDI yanks chip-bricking driver from Windows Update, vows to fight on
Next driver to battle fake chips with 'non-invasive' methods
UNIX greybeards threaten Debian fork over systemd plan
'Veteran Unix Admins' fear desktop emphasis is betraying open source
Entity Framework goes 'code first' as Microsoft pulls visual design tool
Visual Studio database diagramming's out the window
Google+ goes TITSUP. But WHO knew? How long? Anyone ... Hello ...
Wobbly Gmail, Contacts, Calendar on the other hand ...
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
New hybrid storage solutions
Tackling data challenges through emerging hybrid storage solutions that enable optimum database performance whilst managing costs and increasingly large data stores.