Microsoft has finally done the decent thing and released the Windows Phone 8 Software Development Kit, something it has held back — unless you were one of a lucky chosen few — due to not wanting to reveal the last few secrets concerning the OS until it was ready to announce them.
Whether features like Kids Corner and the Rooms feature in the People Hub, all revealed at the launch event this week, were secrets worth keeping is a point entirely up for debate. Originally promised during the summer, the “we want to keep our secrets” line has always sounded more like an excuse, and that the OS was simply not ready.
This lateness has left many developers out in the cold, unable to adapt or test their apps for Windows Phone 8, while they waited around for Microsoft to release the essential software package.
The delayed SDK appears to have had a knock-on effect inside the Windows Phone Store too, where although there are 120,000 applications, the number being added since the summer has been falling. It’s hardly a surprise, given that Microsoft effectively killed off Windows Phone 7 when it announced Windows Phone 8 in June.
Nokia also releases developer tools
Now though, developers can get to work, as the SDK offers everything from the tools needed to create new apps to virtual test environments specific to certain Windows Phone 8 handsets. Although Windows Phone 7 apps will work on new phones, they will need to be updated if they’re to make use of Windows Phone 8’s new features, something that Arstechnica.com says will “require quite a bit of effort.”
While these updates are sure to happen, it probably won’t do so overnight, potentially leaving Windows Phone 8 with apps that don’t offer new owners anything more than the same app running on older devices. Even iOS developers are still catching up with the switch to a taller screen resolution on the iPhone 5, after all.
To encourage development, Nokia has launched a pair of programs to accompany the SDK, the Nokia Ad Exchange and the Nokia Premium Developer Program. The first is to help incorporate adverts into applications and is free to download, while the second costs $99 per year, but includes membership to the Windows Phone Dev Center and a collection of other handy tools, plus access to Nokia’s tech support too.
With the SDK out now as a free download from Microsoft, the Windows Phone Store should show signs of growth again, which should be a relief to those about to purchase a Windows Phone 8 handset.