Feeds

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

Microsoft's vast scary world of versions and APIs

Build a business case: developing custom apps

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. ®

Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup

More from The Register

next story
'Stop dissing Google or quit': OK, I quit, says Code Club co-founder
And now a message from our sponsors: 'STFU or else'
Why has the web gone to hell? Market chaos and HUMAN NATURE
Tim Berners-Lee isn't happy, but we should be
Microsoft boots 1,500 dodgy apps from the Windows Store
DEVELOPERS! DEVELOPERS! DEVELOPERS! Naughty, misleading developers!
Mozilla's 'Tiles' ads debut in new Firefox nightlies
You can try turning them off and on again
Apple promises to lift Curse of the Drained iPhone 5 Battery
Have you tried turning it off and...? Never mind, here's a replacement
Uber, Lyft and cutting corners: The true face of the Sharing Economy
Casual labour and tired ideas = not really web-tastic
Linux turns 23 and Linus Torvalds celebrates as only he can
No, not with swearing, but by controlling the release cycle
prev story

Whitepapers

Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Backing up distributed data
Eliminating the redundant use of bandwidth and storage capacity and application consolidation in the modern data center.
The essential guide to IT transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIOs automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.