Microsoft really, really wants you on the Windows RT bandwagon

On day 2 at TechEd Europe 2012, Microsoft rushed us out to the outskirts of Amsterdam into a revamped tennis hall (which sounds far less impressive than it actually was) to tell us about Windows 8. And after a fairly generic walkthrough of the features, Microsoft jumped right into the meat of developing for Windows 8 and some of the under-the-hood enhancements.

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Microsoft talks developer price sharing and WinRT platform

Ted Dworkin, Partner Director of Program Management, entered the stage at the Windows 8 workshop to talk about all the benefits of jumping on the Metro bandwagon: "We'll give developers 70% of their revenue and even 80%, if the app earns more than $25,000 -- we want to entice developers to develop great apps."

Microsoft knows that even a solid platform is worthless without the right content. However, revenue sharing alone isn't going to draw the masses of iOS or Android developers to the Metro side. Antoine LeBlond, Microsoft's Vice President for Windows Web Services, hopped on stage and emphasized why the tablet-opimized Metro UI is the future: "Next year, tablets will outsell desktop PCs. Touch is coming to PCs and that's going to change the way UIs are designed."

An about 1 hour long demo was dedicated entirely to how a simple blog reader app was developed and how the WinRT platform works. Key points of the demo:

  • WinRT is hardware accelerated: every animation, every single bitmap you see on screen is accelerated by your GPU.
  • A new set of APIs: some of the original Win32 APIs and a new (but fairly limited) set of new Metro APIs. Microsoft has over 500 samples that'll show you exactly how to use these new APIs:
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  • Programming languages used: Developers can code their Metro style apps in C/C++, C#, VB, XAML, DX, Javascript and last, but not least, HTML.
  • Runs on ARM devices: The same app package that you build on Visual Studio 2012 will work on x86, x64 and ARM devices.
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  • Analytics: Developers get the chance to get detailed statistics on the app, such as total downloads of apps, popularity divided among countries, age groups, etc.

In talking with Metro developers at the event, they praised the simple approach and the design capabilities of Metro. What didn't stand out, however, are the extremely limited sets of APIs. While Win32 was more flexible and offered developers creative ways to access hardware and certain Windows features, WinRT apps have only a very limited set of instructions with next to no access to Windows features or direct file system access.

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