Category Archives: Developing Apps for Microsoft Surface, Windows 8, WinRT

Developing Apps for Microsoft Surface, Windows 8, Windows RT and Windows Phone 8

Recently, at one of the conference i presented at Microsoft Technology center, i was asked the following questions.

  • Is .NET dead? What is .NET Client profile?
  • Is Windows 8 compatible with my current Windows app?
  • Can I build Windows 8 Metro apps in .NET?
  • Can I build apps for both Windows 8 and Windows Phone?

The following table summarizes the latest devices and their operating systems as well as the development technologies along with other useful information (for developers)


Well, here are some of the answers and commonly used Windows 8 terminology.

  • Windows Phone 8 now shares a common core with Windows 8. This means you can expect to write apps for one and easily port it to the other, with UI retooling of course. Developers targeting both should use C#/VB + XAML for apps, and C++/D3D for games. Portable class library definitely helps when developing for both the platforms.
  • The term “Metro Apps” now called “Microsoft Design Language” denotes apps that can be purchased in the official Windows App Store and that are built on top of the WinRT runtime, using either C# + XAML, or WinJS + HTML5. Even though Windows Phone features a Metro user interface (and the original one at that), the term Metro Apps does NOT apply to Windows Phone 7.5 apps.
  • The term “Metro Games” denotes apps that can be purchased in the official Windows App Store and that are built on top of the WinRT runtime, using Direct3D (D3D) and C++. Windows RT & Windows 8 Metro games cannot be built in XNA.
  • XNA can still be used to create Windows Phone 7.5, 7.8 and 8.0 games, and sold in the marketplace. You will not need to keep Visual Studio 2010 since Visual Studio 2012 and the Windows Phone 8.0 SDK will still support new development in XNA.
  • WinRT is the new native Runtime for Windows RT and the Metro side of Windows 8. It completely replaces .NET and Win32. Let me make this clear: If you look under the covers of WinRT, there is no .NET and no Win32, all you’ll find is the Windows Kernel. Since the only dev platform supported by Windows RT is WinRT, that means you cannot use .NET to build apps for Windows RT (or for the Metro side of Windows 8). Read this post on Paul Thurrott’s Windows Supersite for a more in-depth explanation.
  • WinRT is not based on .NET but you can use a subset of .NET from WinRT. Microsoft provides a subset of managed types called the .NET APIs for Metro style apps which enables .NET Framework developers to create Metro style apps within a familiar programming framework. Note that porting some .NET apps to WinRT could be trivial while others could be hard, based on which namespaces & classes you use. Check this section of the Metro style development documentation for more details.
  • Side-loading implicates installing non-certified applications using external media, thus bypassing the official Microsoft Windows App Store, whether it originates from a CD/DVD, USB key or web download. Note that developers can always side-load their own apps in a developer-unlocked device.
  • Xbox LIVE games are always platform specific. Microsoft Surface and Windows Phone both feature Xbox LIVE enabled games but this does NOT mean it runs the same Xbox LIVE Arcade games as the Xbox 360.
  • 2D game development can also be done using the same platform as apps. For example, on Windows Phone, 2D games can be built in Silverlight and do not require XNA.
  • Confused about version numbers for Windows Phone? Read my blog post that demystifies it all here.
  • Windows 8 can also be installed on any PC running Windows 7 today, and will also come pre-loaded on future generations of OEM (Dell, HP, Lenovo, Toshiba, etc.) computers, laptops, notebooks, Ultrabooks, Netbooks and tablets. The first column applies to all these other Windows 8 computers as well.
  • Windows RT will also be available on third-party tablet devices offered by Microsoft’s OEM partners (Samsung, Toshiba, Lenovo, etc.) Windows RT cannot be installed manually by a consumer, it must be licensed and pre-loaded by the OEM manufacturing the tablet.