Windows Phone 8 SDK Preview program is now open

Today we begin accepting requests for access to the Windows Phone SDK 8.0 Developer Preview program. The objective is to let developers of our most-downloaded apps start optimizing them for Windows Phone 8, and we expect the majority of published developers in this situation to qualify for access.

To apply, please visit the Microsoft Connect site and complete a short application. Be sure to have your Developer ID and Application’s Product ID on hand, as well as the name of your local Phone Champ (if you don’t know your local Phone Champ, you can always get in touch via the Find My Champ app). We’ll be taking applications until Monday, September 17 at 5pm PDT. If you’re accepted to the program, you’ll hear from us in the following week with instructions on how to download the SDK and get support for questions and issues.

I know that many of you want to know why we simply don’t publically release the full SDK now. The reason is that not all Windows Phone 8 features have been announced and our SDK includes comprehensive emulators that allow developers to test apps against a wide range of Windows Phone features. We recognize that this is a different approach to delivering tools than we’ve taken in the past. Our goal is to generate as much Windows Phone 8 excitement as possible to attract new customers when phones go on sale. This is one of many steps we’re taking to help give you what you (and we) want most.

Windows Phone 8 remains on track to hit store shelves later this year and we very much want developers to create new apps for the platform, so please bear with us. There will be more SDK news in the coming weeks.

Today you may have also seen the online launch event for Visual Studio 2012. The Windows Phone SDK 8.0 is built on top of Visual Studio 2012, and will give you the ability to build applications and games that target both Windows Phone 8 as well as Windows Phone 7.5. Windows Phone SDK 7.1 can be installed side-by-side with Visual Studio 2012 and runs on Windows 8.