Windows Phone 8 is going to launch this month. Microsoft needs this to be a hit, or it could lose its small lead over RIM when BlackBerry 10 launches early next year. The key to victory is apps, but apps require developers. Microsoft thinks it has a development platform that will attract developers from all over the world.
Microsoft is already off to a good start with over 120,000 apps now available on the Windows Store. Those apps are available in over 50 languages and in 191 countries. It's a large potential user base that developers will want to tap into, but how hard will it be to develop for Windows Phone 8?
The platform should be free of complication for those who have experience in building apps for Windows proper. Microsoft is rather proud that Windows Phone 8 shares the same core as Windows 8. That means developers can build apps in C++ using the company's "brand new native app model." Developers can also use C++ in XAML-based C# apps and Visual Basic.NET apps.
Talented game developers will also find that Windows Phone 8 presents them with the tools they need to create immersive games on the platform. Microsoft has introduced the Direct3D app which gives developers "low-level acess to Direct3D APIs for graphics, XAudio2, and WASAPI for audio ads well as a host of other needed C++ APIs."
Game developers will seen an added benefit of being able to seamlessly port games between Windows Phone 8 and Windos 8. Games can also take advantage of a variety of game engines that have been optimized for Windows 8, including Unity3D, FMOD and Havok. Unreal is currently available on Windows RT, but we might see it on Windows Phone 8 as well.
Moving beyond gaming, Microsoft has also introduced some XAML control improvements that it claims will help developers "create visually responsive, beautiful, and consistent apps."
It should be noted that Windows Phone 8 will automatically scale any apps that were built for Windows Phone 7. Old Windows Phone hardware had a resolution of 480x800, but new devices feature HD displays of either 768x1280 or 720x1280. Microsoft also notes that developers can build apps in any resolution they want, and the software will scale apps to the appropriate resolution.
There are countless other new features that Microsoft has implemented for Windows Phone 8 that developers will undoubtedly appreciate. The strong ties to Windows 8 may help Windows Phone 8 ride on any success that its big brother may bring in. The ability to run the same software across any device running Windows 8 might just be its saving grace.