Dev Center now open for Windows Phone 8.1 and universal Windows app submissions

I’m Keith and I manage the engineering teams accountable for the Dev Center experience. Over the past few months the team has been hard at work enabling the universal Windows app experience announced at //build/ 2014. If you haven’t already, I’d like to encourage you to download Visual Studio Update 2 RC to get started developing apps for Windows Phone 8.1 and download the Windows Phone Preview for Developers announced earlier today to test your Windows Phone 8.1 apps. You might also check out this article to help you get started.

Today I’m pleased to announce the opening of the Windows Phone Dev Center for publishing your Windows Phone 8.1 apps and for linking your Windows and Windows Phone apps to create universal Windows apps. Today’s release also includes enhancements to address your feedback. We’re listening to your suggestions and identified a few areas to improve your experience with the Dev Center in this release.

The Windows Phone Dev Center roll-out has begun and you should start seeing updates and new features later today. And later this week we will release an update to the Windows Dev Center. Let’s take a look at the key features.

New shared features across Windows Phone and Windows Dev Center

1. Linking Windows Store and Windows Phone apps to create a universal Windows app: Linking provides a ‘get once and download for all compatible Windows devices’ customer experience, which we expect to increase both paid and free app downloads across device types. For those of you integrating in-app purchase, the linked app experience extends to durable in-app offers that use the same identifier in both Stores. Linking is accomplished by using the same reserved names for the app in both Stores, and is not limited to Windows Phone 8.1 apps. In fact, existing or new Windows Phone apps may be linked to Windows 8.0 or 8.1 apps. Click here to learn more. The images below illustrates what users will see when your apps are linked.

halo universal 

If your Windows Phone app has an 8.1 package, you get two additional benefits from linking your apps – the ability to roam application data across phones, tablets and PCs, and a single notification channel via Windows Push Notification Services (WNS).

2. App name reservation: Developers now have the ability to reserve names for new Windows Phone apps for up to 12 months in advance of release (this capability is already available for Windows Store). If you are an existing Windows Phone developer you can continue to update your apps without reserving a name, until you decide to add a Windows Phone 8.1 package. And, once you update to Windows Phone 8.1, your apps may keep the current display name even if the name has been reserved for another app in the Windows Phone Store. Learn more about name reservation.

3. Credit card validation no longer required: Last November we released unified registration enabling developers to register for one account to submit apps to both the Windows Store and Windows Phone Store. In the next few days with the availability of the Windows Dev Center, we are simplifying that experience by no longer requiring a credit card for identity validation during registration and enabling PayPal as a registration payment and renewal option (in markets where PayPal is currently supported).

4. Consolidated price tiers: Last week we rolled out a single set of price tiers across Stores to simplify pricing and support universal Windows apps. This consolidated pricing is applicable for paid apps and in-app purchase and expands Windows developer opportunity with the addition of US$0.99 and $1.29 (USD) price tiers to Windows Store; apps priced in this range represent 55% of Windows Phone transactions today. In addition to consolidation, we also adjusted for local factors including changes in foreign exchange rates, taxes and market-specific pricing options. The new price tiers are live now for all apps and may impact your current app pricing. You’ll want to visit Dev Center to review your app pricing and make any necessary adjustments. 

5. Consistent certification policies: Like price tiers, uniform app policies help to support universal Windows apps. With this release we’ve harmonized app certification policies across Stores and you’ll want to take a moment to review them.

New for Windows Phone Dev Center

In addition to the features shared by both Stores, we made some enhancements to the Windows Phone Dev Center to support Windows Phone 8.1, as well as simplify and accelerate app submission.

1. Windows Phone 8.1 package submissions: Developers have a choice to continue using the Silverlight platform updated with new features in the Windows Phone 8.1 SDK (package type: xap) or use the Windows Runtime platform to maximize code re-use across their apps for phones, tablets and PCs (package type: appx, appxbundle). What’s next for Windows Phone 8 developers is a great resource for comparing the two options. Click here to learn more about some important points related to Windows Phone 8.1 submissions.

2. One app, multiple packages: Existing Windows Phone 7.1 and 8.0 apps in the Windows Phone Store will automatically be made available to Windows Phone 8.1 devices without any developer action required. We encourage you to add a Windows Phone 8.1 package to existing app to take advantage of features introduced in Windows Phone 8.1

3. Simplified package targeting: For apps that have more than one package, platform version is used to target a package to a given phone. For example, if an app has a Windows Phone 8.0 package, it will be offered to both Windows Phone 8 and Windows Phone 8.1 devices. Once the app is updated with an additional 8.1 package, the 8.0 package will only be offered to Windows Phone 8 devices while the 8.1 package will be offered to Windows Phone 8.1 devices. Click here to learn more.

4. Redesigned Dev Center: We heard from you that the documentation you were looking for was at times hard to find and that the site itself was not intuitive to navigate. At //build/ we rolled out a new approach to documentation that provides one consolidated set of documents for Windows devices and today we’re showcasing a new redesigned Dev Center that over time we will integrate across properties.

5. Reduced certification times: In the event you didn’t see the news earlier, we rolled out enhancements to the Windows Phone app certification workflow that in most cases reduces certification times to a few hours vs. days. Over time we will continue to make improvements and reduce certification times for Windows developers as well.

Coming soon, new Windows Dev Center features

This month we are also launching enhancements specific to the Windows Dev Center, to improve flexibility in app submission and pricing.

1. Promotional pricing: This feature gives developers the ability to set app pricing with specific start and end dates. This feature is extremely useful for scenarios such as reduced pricing during a holiday season or promotional period.

2. Pre-submission validation checks: A common reason for app certification failure is the lack of a privacy policy in the app listing data or Settings charm. We know this can be frustrating, so we added a check to alert you to provide a privacy policy before submission, if necessary. We will now also automatically put the privacy policy you provide with your app in the Settings charm.

3. Touch-enabled device targeting: You can define, during app submission, whether an app requires a touch-enabled device. If you indicate touch is required, your app will not be shown on the Windows Store Live tile and will be filtered from the ‘Spotlight’ and ‘Picks for You’ sections of the Store for non-touch devices. These apps will be visible in lists such as ‘top free’ to properly reflect Store app ranking. If a user decides to install these apps to a PC that is detected to not have touch capability, a warning will be displayed that the necessary hardware to properly run the app is not available. If the user decides to move ahead with the install, the ability to rate or review the app will not be available.

To learn more, I encourage you to view the Windows Phone and Windows: Dev Center and App Submission Deep Dive session from //build 2014. We recognize we have more work to do and you can expect regular updates from me as we roll out additional enhancements and changes. We want to hear your feedback, as it guides us on where to focus our efforts to provide you with the best Dev Center experience.