Microsoft Struts Out Windows 8, Developer Story at BUILD

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2011-09-13

Microsoft Struts Out Windows 8, Developer Story at BUILD

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Having promised to shed more light on its developer story for Windows 8 at its BUILD conference, Microsoft gave developers a peek at the direction it is going with the upcoming operating system along with more details about the OS itself.

At an invitation-only pre-conference workshop here, Microsoft showed off a new Developer Preview version of Windows 8 and said developers will be able to create Windows 8 applications using a variety of languages and technologies, including HTML5 and JavaScript, as well as the Extensible Application Markup Language (XAML), C++, C# and Visual Basic. Windows 8 is the code name for the next major release of Windows.

Speaking at the September 12 workshop, known as "backstage," Ales Holecek, a Microsoft distinguished engineer working on Windows, said Microsoft's idea with Windows 8 is to "put XAML, HTML and JavaScript on an equal footing."

Holecek displayed a diagram depicting the Windows 8 app model featuring what he called Windows Runtime APIs. Above that layer, Holecek listed Metro style apps and desktop apps. Windows 8 introduces a new Metro style user interface that is built for touch. Holecek said Metro style apps can be built using XAML, C, C++, C#, Visual Basic, HTML and JavaScript. However, the desktop apps - which include Internet Explorer apps, Win32 apps and .NET/Silverlight apps - can be built with HTML and JavaScript, C and C++, and C# and Visual Basic, respectively, he said.

Overall, Holecek listed four summarizing points regarding Windows 8. The upcoming OS will:

  • Provide new APIs and tools for building Metro apps
  • Make it so developers can have rapid and scaleable development of Metro style apps
  • Give everybody a choice of tools and languages - including JavaScript, HTML, C#, C++, Visual Basic and XAML - all in Intel x86, Intel x64 and ARM processors
  • Provide a very complete and thought out Windows Store

"If you build your app with the tools we showed and you use HTML and JavaScript, it just runs on ARM," said Steven Sinofsky, president of Microsoft's Windows and Windows Live Division. "What we did is way underneath abstract out the differences between the hardware."

"The platform takes care of the differences for developers," said Julie Larson-Green, corporate vice president of Windows Experience at Microsoft.

Meanwhile, the Windows 8 Developer Preview comes with Visual Studio 11 Express and its coding resources, as well as Microsoft Expression Blend, which is a modern design environment that enables users to drag and drop elements, then move, style and refine them via an interactive design surface.

Meanwhile, a new Windows Dev Center will provide what developers need to start building their apps, including the latest tools, APIs, compilers, debuggers, sample apps and documentation. And the Windows Store will allow developers to distribute their apps everywhere Windows is sold worldwide.

"We re-imagined Windows," Sinofsky said in his opening keynote at BUILD on Sept. 13. "From the chipset to the user experience, Windows 8 brings a new range of capabilities without compromise."

Sinofsky said, essentially, Windows 8 makes Windows 7 even better. And noting that Microsoft has sold more than 450 million copies of Windows 7, sad Windows 8 is built upon the foundation of Windows 7, but delivering improvements in performance, security, privacy and system reliability.

Microsoft Struts Out Windows 8, Developer Story at BUILD

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Larson-Green said planning for Windows 8 began in June of 2009, even before Microsoft was done with Windows 7. She said Microsoft was not reacting to anything in the market at the time--such as tablets--because nothing like that existed at the time.

Larson-Green also said Windows 8 is application-centric, in that it focuses on how apps are shown and what apps can do. Windows 8 is powered by apps, enables apps to work together and allows users to sync content across their devices.

Jensen Harris, partner director of program management for Windows Experience, gave several demonstrations of Windows 8 in use, including the use of the five Windows 8 "Charms": Search, Share, Start, Devices and Settings. Harris also discussed the concept of Contracts in Windows 8. The notion of Contracts is a part of the Windows 8 developer platform and Contracts let apps share Charms and bring up options for how applications can interoperate or share data. Harris said the closest metaphor to a Contract is the Clipboard.

Also, with a preview version Internet Explorer 10 included, Windows 8 provides touch-first browsing, not just browsing on a touch device. Internet Explorer 10 puts sites at the center on new Windows 8 devices, Microsoft said.

Meanwhile, discussing Windows for business, Iain MacDonald, partner director of program management for Windows, said Microsoft will deliver Windows To Go. With Windows To Go, enterprise IT pros can provide users with bootable USB storage devices containing a copy of Windows 8, along with their business apps, data, and settings. When users are finished and log off, they simply remove the USB device, leaving no data or information behind, MacDonald said.

Moreover, with support for ARM-based chipsets, x86 devices, touch and sensors, Windows 8 works across a spectrum of devices -- from 10-inch tablets and laptops to all-in-ones with 27-inch high-definition screens, Microsoft said. Also, with Windows 8, new ultrathin PCs and tablets turn on instantly, run all day on a single charge and stay connected to the Internet even in standby mode. And Windows 8 runs on PCs and is compatible with the devices and programs users use today on Windows 7 to deliver the performance users expect of a PC, Microsoft said.

Developers will be able to download the Windows Developer Preview via the new Windows Dev Center later this week, Microsoft officials said.


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