Following weeks of little information about an exact release date, Microsoft finally issued its Windows Phone SDK 8.0 to developers.
Last month, Microsoft had promised a “near-final” SDK for select developers, adding that a “full” SDK would be publicly available later in 2012. In a Sept. 5 posting on The Windows Phone Developer Bog, Microsoft executive Todd Brix suggested that access to the SDK preview was limited, something that didn’t sit well with some developers and pundits.
“A full SDK will come, but not until the company properly unveils the operating system—which is currently rumored to happen on October 29th,” Ars Technica writer Peter Bright complained the day after Brix’s blog posting. “Presuming Windows Phone 8 devices ship this year—and Microsoft is certainly talking as if they will—that leaves developers little time to update their applications and get ready for the new platform.”
But now it’s here, the day after Microsoft officially launched Windows Phone 8 at a high-profile event in California. The SDK includes a standalone version of Visual Studio Express 2012; it also works as an “add-in” to Visual Studio 2012 Professional, Premium or Ultimate editions. There are also tools and emulators for testing the actual Windows Phone app once it’s built.
But the question originally raised by Bright still stands: by releasing the full SDK so close to Windows Phone 8’s rollout date, Microsoft has deprived legions of potential developers the chance to have their apps latest polished and ready for downloading just as the first Windows Phone 8 devices arrive on store shelves. On the other hand, Microsoft claims that the Windows Phone store already features some 120,000 apps which will run on Windows Phone 8 devices—in light of that, the company might not care overly much about apps built specifically for Windows Phone 8 taking a little bit more time to actually appear in its app storefront.
While Windows Phone 7.x apps will run on Windows Phone 8, Windows Phone 7.x devices won’t have the ability to run apps designed for the next-generation platform. “We wanted to ensure that new users would have access to all the applications,” Greg Sullivan, Windows Phone senior project manager, said in an interview the day after Windows Phone 8 was announced this past summer. However, he added, “when you evolve a platform, you can’t take all the functionality downstream.”
Windows Phone 8 features include a “Kid’s Corner,” which lets children run rampant within a specialized area of an adult’s device without the adult in question worrying about unapproved purchases and other oopsies; Wallet, which lets users store credit-card information and other personal data on their phone; and a streamlined Skype app for communication. But Windows Phone 8 faces significant competition this holiday season from the iPhone 5 and a variety of Android phones; in a bid to create a healthy software ecosystem and push back against those mature platforms, Microsoft will doubtlessly continue to court third-party mobile developers.