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Windows 8 app development: What you need to know

Enterprise IT administrators need to be aware of what Microsoft Windows 8 brings to line-of-business applications running on enterprise desktops. What do Windows 8 app development teams need to know? Where should they start researching what is new with Windows? Here are four things for IT and application developers to consider when evaluating the new operating system.

To ARM or not to ARM

One of the first big questions that Windows 8 developers must answer is what processor type and chipset they will program (and eventually compile) for. Windows has been primarily targeted at x86 32-bit and x64 64-bit chipsets for all of its life, with some notable exceptions for Itanium and other very high-end processors.

But ARM chips, which Windows RT supports, have several advantages, including lower power requirements, a smaller design that more easily fits in tablets and smartphones, and a much lower cost than traditional x86 instruction set hardware.

The tradeoff is that existing custom applications, including code you may have written internally, will not work out of the box on Windows RT tablets -- they will need to be recompiled at the very least and in some cases rewritten entirely.

Form factor and Microsoft Windows 8 app development

Windows 8 was designed for the post-PC world, in which the user is not necessarily chained to a desk with a monitor, CPU, keyboard and mouse as his only tools to get work done. Windows 8 is meant to be used on desktops and laptops, but it was also designed with a significant emphasis on tablets, with a touch-first mentality.

The Metro environment -- make that the Windows Store app environment -- works really well at screen resolutions of 1366 x 768 or better, and not well at all under that resolution. As you design or redesign applications and services, keep in mind that a landscape or widescreen orientation at that size or better will enable you to "future proof" against future changes to the Windows Store app environment.

Contracts and sharing

More on Windows 8 app development

How Windows Runtime and Metro style can ease sysadmin tasks

The implications of Windows 8 on ARM for desktops and tablets

Faceoff: Windows 8 tablets -- who are they best for?

Microsoft's developer chief talks about developing software for Windows 8

Contracts are new to Windows and allow Windows Store apps to define how they exchange information. For example, the sharing contract lets an application expose some details of the data stored within it to another application. So a contact information application could, for example, expose records to a mail-merge program through the use of a share contract; Windows would manage the provisioning of data through this standard.

Contracts and sharing among Windows Store apps have big (and good) implications for line-of-business applications that your business might develop. They represent a new way to expose the same data to multiple applications to act on that data across a suite of tools.

Connected standby

One of the new power management features included in the Windows 8 reference hardware is an idle feature called "connected standby." This is a low-power idle state that lets applications be up-to-date with current, live content while allowing consistent, long battery life.

Connected standby helps show fresh data when a user turns on a PC even if it wasn't shut down. Windows Store apps that support connected standby are coded to suspend operations when unused, while registered background tasks allow them to remain fresh via network connectivity. Push notifications provide a way for these suspended applications to know of cloud-originated events.

This was first published in November 2012

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