Posted by:Ranjani Rao November 24th, 2011

The announcement of Windows 8 back in June ignited a lot of excitement among Windows users and developers alike. Windows 8 promises to bridge the gap between PCs and tablets, with features that make it an ideal platform for touch based and classic UI devices. Windows 8 desktops will in fact release with two modes – Metro (touch-based) and Classic or Tiled (conventional desktop).

With the spotlight almost exclusively on the touch capabilities of Windows 8 and building apps with HTML5 and JavaScript, .NET and Silverlight developers were understandably anxious. Were there skills going to become archaic? Fortunately, no. Microsoft clarified its stand on .NET at the Build Developer Conference in September. Not only will .NET be part of Windows 8, it will play a most important role in its growth with the .NET 4.5 Framework.

Windows 8 in Tiled mode takes inspiration from Windows Phone 7, built on Silverlight. Silverlight has been used in Windows Azure, System Center and Windows InTune; and Microsoft will soon release Visual Studio LightSwitch for developing Silverlight applications. Assuredly, Silverlight is not on the way out. What’s more, existing Silverlight apps can be ported to Windows 8 and even Windows Phone with a few tweaks.

Metro style apps can be developed using C, C#, C++, Visual Basic, HTML5/JavaScript, and XAML. Apps in Tiled mode will run as before so there’s immense potential here for developers though the future lies in Metro. The long and short of it all is that .NET developers have nothing to worry about.

Windows’ developer tools will play an important role in driving app development on Windows 8 and Microsoft has done a good job with them. According to ECI’s McCormick, they are ‘very polished, very excellent-looking at this stage of the game.’

The Build Conference also saw the developer preview of Visual Studio 11 or vNext. The platform is tuned for building Windows 8 and HTML5 applications. It includes templates for building Metro style apps with JavaScript, C#, VB, or C++.

The .NET 4.5 Framework supports faster development of client UI code with asynchronous programming in C# and Visual Basic and server code that scales easily. The application includes a new server garbage collector that reduces pause times. The Parallel Computing Platform too includes new features that enable dataflow programming and other productivity enhancements.

Windows 8 will breathe new life into Microsoft. HP software architect Kevin Barnett sees Windows 8 as the biggest change to the platform after Windows 95. Microsoft hasn’t made much of an impact in the smartphone or tablet arena yet but Windows 8 could change all that, challenging iOS and Android. In fact, companies developing touch-based apps and hitherto only catering to iOS and Android have set plans in motion to include Windows Phone in their portfolio since demo releases of Windows 8.

Microsoft ultimately plans to unify the operating system across tablets, PCs, and phones though it’s not going to happen in the next release. There’s no dearth of opportunities for Windows developers.

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