Extending platform commonality through universal Windows apps

Extending platform commonality through universal Windows apps

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Today during our BUILD conference in San Francisco we unveiled the latest Windows software for phones, tablets, and PCs. Windows Phone 8.1 further establishes Windows Phone as the world’s most personal smartphone, with an even more engaging Start screen, the fastest keyboard on the market, thanks to Word Flow, and of course Cortana – the only personal digital assistant built around you. We also shared Windows 8.1 Update features such as UI improvements for mouse and keyboard users, the ability to pin Windows Store apps to the taskbar, and Internet Explorer compatibility enhancements. These OS features, and a new wave of devices that consumers will love, open up new opportunities for developers.

With this release of the Windows developer platform we set out to accomplish three major goals: 1) Reach customers across phones, tablets, and PCs; 2) Deliver innovation that supports developer investments; 3) Make cross-platform technology easier and more capable.

Reaching customers across phones, tablets, and PCs

Windows Phone 8 brought the same core set of operating system components used by Windows 8 to the modern UI of Windows Phone. Today we’re taking an even bigger step with Windows Phone 8.1 and Windows 8.1 Update by empowering developers to create universal Windows apps for a common Windows runtime.

Since universal Windows apps run on the same Windows runtime, developers have a common way of building and architecting apps for phones, tablets and PCs; from how they handle suspend and resume and do background processing, to the way they manage in-app security.

To help developers create universal Windows apps for Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1, we’ve announced the release of Visual Studio 2013 Update 2 RC. In addition to enhanced productivity and collaboration features, Visual Studio 2013 Update 2 RC includes Shared Projects that allow developers to create an app that is easily tailored to render a contextually appropriate experience across Windows phones, tablets and PCs. Get the tools now!

Innovation that supports developer investments

We’ve designed Windows for the long term, to address developers’ needs today, while respecting prior investments. We do this with one familiar toolset based on Visual Studio 2013, with support for C#, C++, JavaScript, XAML, DirectX, and HTML. The tools and technology stacks already used by hundreds of thousands of developers extend app development across Windows devices. Developers who have built apps for Windows 8.1 will find it fairly easy to reuse their work and bring tailored experiences to Windows Phone 8.1. Windows Phone 8 developers can use the same code, and also access new features, when they develop for Windows Phone 8.1.

Windows now also offers an expansive set of common APIs for everything from displaying notification toasts to accessing the file system and device capabilities. With Windows Phone 8.1, we are adding a wide array of new features including support for Bluetooth LE to connect to devices, Action Center extensibility to more effectively connect with users, triggers to ensure battery-friendly multitasking, VPN so end users can connect to their workplace, and many more.

Even Cortana delivers developer extensibility. Cortana brings a significant evolution of the speech technology developed by Windows and Bing, which first appeared in Windows Phone 8. In Windows Phone 8.1 we expose new enhancements to the Speech API that developers can use to integrate their apps with the Cortana family of services. Developers can now leverage speech recognition and voice commands to denote a series of actions triggered by heuristically derived scenarios that are surfaced through the Cortana speech recognition service. Fewer steps and more types of natural verbal exchanges open more apps. All of this is delivered through a simple API so developers who use Windows Phone 8 speech features today can plug into Cortana with little additional effort.

Developers are interacting with tablets and Windows computers in new ways as well. Kinect for Windows v2 will be released this summer. Soon developers can start building Kinect apps for Windows Store and publish or commercially deploy Kinect apps and solutions.

We’re also improving the way people find and use apps, as well as increasing monetization options and providing a more consistent Store experience across devices and markets. Developers can choose to link apps among phones, tablets and PCs so when a user downloads an app on one device they can install it on all of their Windows devices, increasing usage and engagement. Windows 8.1 Update brings the Store icon and pinned apps to the taskbar on the desktop. Developers are also getting more ways to market and monetize apps, such as common price tiers that bring the popular $0.99 and $1.29 price point to PCs, and updated advertising SDKs that support more rich media standards for better fill rates.

Also, by popular demand, we’ll soon be piloting a program through which developers can directly respond to app reviews to address potential confusion or other issues that may be hurting their ratings. These are just a few of the new Windows Store features being detailed this week during BUILD. Todd Brix will share much more detail about what’s new in Windows Store later today.

Make cross-platform technology easier and more capable

We’ve also been working for developers who may not already be on the Windows platform by supporting a mix of languages, runtimes, frameworks, and protocols that run across devices. Middleware partners like Unity have helped developers bring thousands of titles to the Windows Store. In a newly released beta version, Unity is delivering support for Windows Phone 8.1, including universal Windows apps.

Microsoft Open Technologies also works with various open source communities to contribute code to popular C++ frameworks and optimize them for Windows devices. For example, Windows Store supports Cocos2D-X, openFrameworks, OpenCV, Cinder, and Ogre3D apps. Box2D and Bullet also have joined the Windows Store. jQuery now fully supports Windows Runtime, so web developers can build Windows 8 apps reusing their existing code and skills. Developers who use HTML5 to build cross-platform apps for iOS and Android with tools like Apache Cordovawill find it easy to port their apps to Windows.

In fact, we’re taking a much more pragmatic approach to the web in general. We know that HTML is a critical cross-platform technology. Windows Phone 8.1 brings the same powerful hardware-accelerated IE11 HTML engine in Windows 8.1 to the phone. We’ve made great strides in extending IE to developers by focusing on open standards. Now we want to focus even more on interoperability. We already support WebGL and other technologies, such as media streaming extensions for adaptive streaming scenarios.

Today we’re also announcing that Microsoft Open Technologies has brought the Windows Library for JavaScript (WinJS) cross-platform apps and is open sourcing it under the Apache 2.0 license. Find the source code on GitHub. Use this powerful Windows development framework to build high-quality web apps across a variety of browsers and devices beyond Windows, including Chrome, Firefox, Android, and iOS.

Where we go from here

We’re enabling universal Windows apps for a common Windows runtime today, and we know we have more work to do, including expanding the range of devices running universal Windows apps so developers can reach more customers in more places, from Xbox One and the Internet of Things scenarios, to millions more desktop Windows users. We also continue to strive to make the app development, submission, and management process faster and easier. In the coming weeks and months, you’ll see additional updates to the Windows platform – including tools and Store – all designed to deliver even better experiences and enable greater opportunity for our developer community.

9 Comments
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  • I'm a MSFT guy, but honestly, who cares.

    I'm not sure why we're talking about a Single App Dev approach in 2014 for Windows, it's a non issue in an Enterprise.

    Consumers - No place for WP, only Android or iPhone

    Corporate - Full of iPads, now Mini's

    Employees - GOWL (Good old Windows Laptops), awaiting replacement. No enterprise is even turning to Win 8, they're all evaluating Chromebook or will retain Win 7.

    What IT / Enterprise cares is, how can we Develop a Single App for All 3 Platforms - iOS, Android and if it works in Win Tablet it's great, if not, forget it !!!

    Metro UI doesn't align with JQuery Mobile, JQTouch, Sencha, etc other open source frameworks. It has WinJS, hence no way they're going to ditch jQuery Mobile/other open source Fx and get resources to build in WinJS, so, Win Tablets doesn't have a place in Enterprise too.

    When MSFT is going to realize this, I'm not sure.

    What Windows, WP, WinTab, WinRT team need to realize is, using VS.NET how to develop a Single App for All 3 Platforms - iOS, Android & Windows. When / Whether it'll happen, don't know. It's the only way we can save and bring in within a single shot all the iOS/Android/Html 5 Developers and Enterprises to think about Windows again.

  • sree3
    0 Posts

    recently i read that someone from ms has said that they may extend cortana to android and ios platform.....i just wanna say what is the speciality of windows phone if android has everything that ios have and moreover they never gave windows platform any apps y is ms so concerned

  • I am really looking forward to updating some of my apps to the 8.1 versions (especially the ones from Windows Phone 7). But since most of the apps with Windows Phone and Windows Store versions were created independently of each other, so one of my main tasks will be picking out the code that should be shared. I would like to use Universal Apps to do this, but it seems that even the final release of Visual Studio 2013 Update 2 does not have a Universal App template for VB.NET (as stated above "with support for C#, C++, JavaScript, XAML, DirectX, and HTML", but it does not list VB.NET). When are there plans for a Universal App template for VB.NET? I'm sure that there will be one at some point, but I want to know how long so I can determine whether it is worth it to try to start picking out the shared code now or just work on my new apps or the ones that do not have both phone and store version. I'm sure I am not the only one who would like to see the Universal App template become available for VB.NET as soon as possible.

  • This is great news.  I hope more controls will be added to the toolkit as well such as maps which are indispensable for todays location aware apps

  • LMKz
    0 Posts

    Hi, I've been playing with the notifications centre on the WP8.1 emulator in VS2013 Update 2 RC, and strangely it looks like there is no option to add a "quick action" for mobile data?? This is the number 1 item I would regularly need to turn on/off so I find it strange this is not included, when a bunch of more obscure settings are. Seems many others agree:

    windowsphone.uservoice.com/.../5536817-mobile-data-on-off-option-to-quick-settings-

    Please tell me this is just a bad joke and that setting will be in the RTM of 8.1?? Otherwise something is seriously wrong down at MS...

  • Its a bold move, really good Microsoft, that way you can catch new developers and make the Windows community family grow up! (:

  • is it true that the windows phone 8.1 update rolls out at 14th april

  • @smallmountain You comment seems so invalid I'm unsure if you're trolling. To suggest Microsoft should stop shipping Office on the desktop to validate that it is truly investing in mobile is absolutely absurd. Your comment doesn't even make sense. Satya has said multiple times Microsoft is "mobile first, cloud first".  If you agree that they are trying to catch up in the mobile world, then obviously the majority of their resources should be spent improving their mobile offerings otherwise they will never catch up and this would risk the success of their cloud services. If you watched any of the keynotes at //Build2014 it would appear obvious they are doing everything they can to provide the best development platform across EVERY Microsoft technology stack.  There were improvements to desktop development: 1st: Universal apps on Windows 8.1 update 1 can now run in a window on the desktop. This inherently opens new ways to development for the desktop and exposes your application to a larger audience which increases ROI. 2nd: They showed a preview demo of a feature which converts legacy desktop apps into Client Server model which auto generates markup. You may argue that the are only indirect improvements but infact this is the beginning of a paradigm shift in desktop development. Just because you don't hear announcements about your personal top priorities does not mean they are leaving the "desktop to completely stagnate."

  • The desktop has been left out in the cold yet again.  If Microsoft isn't going to stop shipping Office for the desktop, it needs to update the desktop dev platform for the rest of us.  How can the company that is using its profits from the desktop world to try to catch up in the mobile world allow the desktop to completely stagnate as Microsoft has for the past 5 years?