Click here to close now.


Apache Authors: Liz McMillan, Craig Lowell, Jim Scott, AppDynamics Blog, Dana Gardner

Related Topics: Microsoft Cloud, Silverlight, Apache

Microsoft Cloud: Blog Post

The Road to Windows 8 Development Success

Key Tenets and Skills

Did you spend the weekend getting to know your Surface – like many of those who lined up at Microsoft Stores across the country?

And now you’re considering getting your own application into the Windows Store, but not sure where to begin?

Well, we all started somewhere, and although I’m far from laying claim to a Windows 8 app with thousands of downloads, over the past few months of working with developers as well as on my own, I’ve settled on my own shortlist of things to know about Windows 8 development that are I feel are keys to future success.

Read the store certification requirements, then read them again.

For your application to be in the Windows Store, it must pass certification which comprises a set of security, technical, and content compliance tests. Simply leaving a debug statement in your code or forgetting to provide a privacy policy for your application can result in rejection. Before you submit your app you’ll definitely want to make sure it passes the Windows Application Certification Kit on your own device. Take a look as well at Resolving certification errors to avoid common issues and the resulting delay in getting your application on the market.

User experience matters.

Windows Store applications are different. They look different and act differently from what many of us have previously built on the Windows platform – whether it be Windows Forms, WPF, Silverlight or ASP.NET. It’s not just a matter of translating user interface elements or applying a new theme or skin. Successful Windows 8 applications will embrace the modern Windows application design, which have been influenced by movements like the Swiss Style and Bauhaus. Take time to embrace the Windows 8 design principles, and eschew skeumorphism!.

When it comes to crafting that user experience, there are many different avenues available: XAML (with Visual Basic, C#, and C++), DirectX with C++, and CSS with HTML5 and JavaScript. The more adept you are with those rendering technologies, the more compelling your app will be. In that journey, you’ll likely find yourself gravitating more and more to the incredible functionality of Blend for Visual Studio.

For building games, even more options abound, including multiple JavaScript libraries like ImpactJS and EaselJS and offerings like GameSalad and Construct 2. Full-featured game engines like Unreal Engine 3 and Unity have also announced support for Windows 8.

Embrace the MVVM pattern.

Windows 8 applications typically consist of just a few (or perhaps even just one) page, with controls and data-binding governing much of the experience. The Model-View-ViewModel design pattern (which is a close cousin of Presentation Model, Model-View-Presenter and Model-View-Controller) has quickly become the de facto model for XAML based application development, whether it be Silverlight, WPF, or Windows 8. For HTML5/JS applications, data-binding is also a key facet; however, since two-way binding is not explicitly supported, there can be a bit more work involved when using MVVM.

You’ll find there’s even a DefaultViewModel property for many of the XAML-based Windows 8 project templates to steer you toward this goal.  There are also some excellent blog posts from various authors on the topic, and the MVVM Light Toolkit (from Laurent Bugnion) is a common starting point.

Windows Store applications are mobile applications.

If you’ve built applications for Windows Phone or even iOS or Android, you will be familiar with a focus on providing a consistent, responsive user experience. To guarantee that level of experience regardless of the what is currently running on that device, applications are necessarily constrained. They run within a sandbox with limited access outside of that sandbox (unless authorized by the user), and they have a very distinct lifecycle controlled by the user and the operating system more so than by the developer.

Successful applications built for Windows 8 will be mindful of battery life, provide both a connected and a disconnected experience, work well on low-power devices, and mold the experience to the characteristics of the device on which they are executing thus becoming authentically digital.

Understand the application lifecycle.

Every Windows 8 Store application is bound by the same lifecycle, and it’s incumbent on the developer to understand when state transitions occur and what actions should be taken as a result.

For instance, an application can be activated by clicking on its live tile of course, but it may also be activated through a search or by another application via protocol activation. And as soon that other application is brought into view, the current application is suspended. It’s then up to the developer to save any application state, since a suspended application could be completely terminated by the operating system – with no further notification - should there be memory or battery life pressure.

State diagram showing transitions between app execution states

Asynchrony is the norm.

Windows 8 applications are often characterized in marketing-speak as fast and fluid. The consistency of performance in reaction to user input is a key part of the experience and enforced by strict timing requirements. For instance, applications much launch within five seconds or less and must suspend in two seconds or less.

In fact, any operation that takes more than 200 ms is a prime candidate for an asynchronous implementation, one that does not require the UI to stop and wait for it to complete. This is baked into Windows RT as well since most file and network operations are available only as asynchronous methods.

Luckily asynchronous processing has become that much easier in .NET 4.5, and Visual Basic and C# developers can leverage the async/await pattern, allowing them to code in a synchronous style but with asynchronous methods. JavaScript developers can use promises that similarly abstract the complexities of asynchronous programming. And if you’re a C++ developer, then you’ll be using the task class that’s part of the Concurrency Runtime,

Notifications can be a key application differentiator.

Notifications are a fantastic feature of the Windows 8 platform, one that can take your application from meh to wow. A built-in notification engine can serve up tile, toast, and badge updates to your application even when the application isn’t running - thus expanding its presence and impact in the eyes of your users.

Live tile updatesTile notifications provide the glance-and-go experience that differentiates the Windows 8 Start Screen. Live tiles are the only persistent visual presence of your application on the user’s device, and they are “live” solely because of notifications, providing updates to your application and enticing the user to run your app again and again.

Toast notifications are more personalized and immediate, informing the user of something of specific interest that’s actionable right at that time. Used appropriately they can provide a compelling, just-in-time experience and be part of an application the user just can’t do with out.

Lastly, badges are essentially an extension of the tile, providing a quick indication of the state of an application, like whether a video has been paused or how many unread e-mails are in your in-box.

Leverage contracts and extensions to broaden your application’s presence.

The sandbox model of a Windows Store application at first seems incredibly constraining – you can’t write to the file system, can’t read from the registry, can’t even detect what version of Windows is currently running! If you step back and view things from an end-user perspective though, you’ll realize that many of those capabilities serve the developer and not the user. In Windows 8 the user is in charge, and a consistent experience is paramount.

In some ways it’s liberating and democratizing for developers, there are defined rules – contracts, if you will – that every application has access to and no application can circumvent.

  • Want to save a file to C:\ directly? Your application can, but the user must approve that action through the file picker.
  • Want to have your application automatically handle a certain type of file? You can, but via file activation, and even then the user gets to pick which application she wants to response to that request (from among installed applications than can handle that file type).
  • Want to search across data managed by other applications? You can - via the search contract.

It’s through these contracts and extensions that your users’ experience can extend beyond the boundaries of your own application and your application can reach new users through discovery mechanisms built-in to the Windows 8 runtime.

The Cloud is a unifier.

Does anyone have only one internet connected device in this day and age? We have smartphones, laptops, desktops, game consoles, etc., many of which run similar or companion applications, and increasingly we expect our experiences to transcend the device. We watch a movie on our slate or phone during the commute on the train and expect to finish that movie at home on our Xbox. We increasingly rely on apps like OneNote and Evernote to make our to-do list available wherever we happen to be at the time.

Underlying the connected experiences is the cloud, and within Windows 8 it’s not a bolted-on experience. SkyDrive is a first class citizen, your social media presence on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google are linked in the People app, and developers can make use of roaming storage which automatically handles the synchronization of application data across Windows 8 devices linked to a given user’s Microsoft account.

Windows Azure - try free for 90 daysStepping it up a notch, Windows 8 applications can easily tie into Windows Azure Mobile Services for common application needs like simple structured data storage, authentication across identity providers like Facebook and Twitter, and to provide the plumbing for push notifications. Of course you don’t have to stop there, Windows Azure has numerous other services that you can easily tap into to increase the impact, reach, and agility of your application.

Your profits are in your hands.

Having your application in the Windows Store is a tremendous opportunity, with over 670 millions upgradeable licenses of Windows 7 in the wild now and an estimated 300 million units of Windows 8 shipping in 2013, so take some time to decide how to monetize your application, as there are several options you can use alone or in combination.

  • You can simply charge for your application (anywhere from $1.49 to $999.99), where each download is a purchase and you retain 70% of the proceeds (or 80% once you’ve reached the $25,000 mark). Optionally, you can opt to enable a time-limited or feature-limited trial as part of your application, which can significantly increase your purchase rate over an application without such an option.
  • You might decide not to charge for the app at all and make your money from ads presented within your application via the Microsoft Advertising SDK or a third-party ad provider. By the way, according to a 2011 Gartner report, mobile advertising revenue is slated to reach $20.6 billion 2015, up from $3.3 billion in 2011.
  • Increasingly, applications are turning to in-app purchases as a primary monetization technique either using the built-in Windows.ApplicationModel.Store namespace or a third-party commerce provider. As food for thought, in July 2011 Distimo noted that although only 4% of all iPhone applications leveraged in-app purchases, those purchases accounted for 72% of all application revenue, a 150% increase over the prior year. That same report also showed that free downloads of applications exceeded those of paid applications by a factor of five.

Before settling on your approach, do take time to review other apps in your category and the monetization trends for those applications. Different types of applications engender different expectations on the part of end users. For example, statistics from the Windows Phone store indicate that consumers are more likely to pay for games than for any other category of applications, by a factor of six.

In conclusion, I wish you good luck on your Windows 8 development journey, and I welcome your thoughts, stories, and feedback!

More Stories By Jim O'Neil

Jim is a Technology Evangelist for Microsoft who covers the Northeast District, namely, New England and upstate New York. He is focused on engaging with the development community in the area through user groups, code camps, BarCamps, Microsoft-sponsored events, etc., and just in general serve as ambassador for Microsoft. Since 2009, Jim has been focusing on software development scenarios using cloud computing and Windows Azure. You can follow Jim on Twitter at @jimoneil

@ThingsExpo Stories
SYS-CON Events announced today that Luxoft Holding, Inc., a leading provider of software development services and innovative IT solutions, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's @ThingsExpo, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Luxoft’s software development services consist of core and mission-critical custom software development and support, product engineering and testing, and technology consulting.
“In the past year we've seen a lot of stabilization of WebRTC. You can now use it in production with a far greater degree of certainty. A lot of the real developments in the past year have been in things like the data channel, which will enable a whole new type of application," explained Peter Dunkley, Technical Director at Acision, in this interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
NHK, Japan Broadcasting, will feature the upcoming @ThingsExpo Silicon Valley in a special 'Internet of Things' and smart technology documentary that will be filmed on the expo floor between November 3 to 5, 2015, in Santa Clara. NHK is the sole public TV network in Japan equivalent to the BBC in the UK and the largest in Asia with many award-winning science and technology programs. Japanese TV is producing a documentary about IoT and Smart technology and will be covering @ThingsExpo Silicon Valley. The program, to be aired during the peak viewership season of the year, will have a major impac...
Developing software for the Internet of Things (IoT) comes with its own set of challenges. Security, privacy, and unified standards are a few key issues. In addition, each IoT product is comprised of at least three separate application components: the software embedded in the device, the backend big-data service, and the mobile application for the end user's controls. Each component is developed by a different team, using different technologies and practices, and deployed to a different stack/target - this makes the integration of these separate pipelines and the coordination of software upd...
"Matrix is an ambitious open standard and implementation that's set up to break down the fragmentation problems that exist in IP messaging and VoIP communication," explained John Woolf, Technical Evangelist at Matrix, in this interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
You have your devices and your data, but what about the rest of your Internet of Things story? Two popular classes of technologies that nicely handle the Big Data analytics for Internet of Things are Apache Hadoop and NoSQL. Hadoop is designed for parallelizing analytical work across many servers and is ideal for the massive data volumes you create with IoT devices. NoSQL databases such as Apache HBase are ideal for storing and retrieving IoT data as “time series data.”
There are so many tools and techniques for data analytics that even for a data scientist the choices, possible systems, and even the types of data can be daunting. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Harrold, Global CTO for Big Data Solutions for EMC Corporation, will show how to perform a simple, but meaningful analysis of social sentiment data using freely available tools that take only minutes to download and install. Participants will get the download information, scripts, and complete end-to-end walkthrough of the analysis from start to finish. Participants will also be given the pract...
Clearly the way forward is to move to cloud be it bare metal, VMs or containers. One aspect of the current public clouds that is slowing this cloud migration is cloud lock-in. Every cloud vendor is trying to make it very difficult to move out once a customer has chosen their cloud. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Naveen Nimmu, CEO of Clouber, Inc., will advocate that making the inter-cloud migration as simple as changing airlines would help the entire industry to quickly adopt the cloud without worrying about any lock-in fears. In fact by having standard APIs for IaaS would help PaaS expl...
SYS-CON Events announced today that ProfitBricks, the provider of painless cloud infrastructure, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. ProfitBricks is the IaaS provider that offers a painless cloud experience for all IT users, with no learning curve. ProfitBricks boasts flexible cloud servers and networking, an integrated Data Center Designer tool for visual control over the cloud and the best price/performance value available. ProfitBricks was named one of the coolest Clo...
Organizations already struggle with the simple collection of data resulting from the proliferation of IoT, lacking the right infrastructure to manage it. They can't only rely on the cloud to collect and utilize this data because many applications still require dedicated infrastructure for security, redundancy, performance, etc. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Emil Sayegh, CEO of Codero Hosting, will discuss how in order to resolve the inherent issues, companies need to combine dedicated and cloud solutions through hybrid hosting – a sustainable solution for the data required to manage I...
WebRTC is about the data channel as much as about video and audio conferencing. However, basically all commercial WebRTC applications have been built with a focus on audio and video. The handling of “data” has been limited to text chat and file download – all other data sharing seems to end with screensharing. What is holding back a more intensive use of peer-to-peer data? In her session at @ThingsExpo, Dr Silvia Pfeiffer, WebRTC Applications Team Lead at National ICT Australia, will look at different existing uses of peer-to-peer data sharing and how it can become useful in a live session to...
Mobile messaging has been a popular communication channel for more than 20 years. Finnish engineer Matti Makkonen invented the idea for SMS (Short Message Service) in 1984, making his vision a reality on December 3, 1992 by sending the first message ("Happy Christmas") from a PC to a cell phone. Since then, the technology has evolved immensely, from both a technology standpoint, and in our everyday uses for it. Originally used for person-to-person (P2P) communication, i.e., Sally sends a text message to Betty – mobile messaging now offers tremendous value to businesses for customer and empl...
Scott Guthrie's keynote presentation "Journey to the intelligent cloud" is a must view video. This is from AzureCon 2015, September 29, 2015 I have reproduced some screen shots in case you are unable to view this long video for one reason or another. One of the highlights is 3 datacenters coming on line in India.
Nowadays, a large number of sensors and devices are connected to the network. Leading-edge IoT technologies integrate various types of sensor data to create a new value for several business decision scenarios. The transparent cloud is a model of a new IoT emergence service platform. Many service providers store and access various types of sensor data in order to create and find out new business values by integrating such data.
SYS-CON Events announced today that IBM Cloud Data Services has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 17th Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. IBM Cloud Data Services offers a portfolio of integrated, best-of-breed cloud data services for developers focused on mobile computing and analytics use cases.
Apps and devices shouldn't stop working when there's limited or no network connectivity. Learn how to bring data stored in a cloud database to the edge of the network (and back again) whenever an Internet connection is available. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Bradley Holt, Developer Advocate at IBM Cloud Data Services, will demonstrate techniques for replicating cloud databases with devices in order to build offline-first mobile or Internet of Things (IoT) apps that can provide a better, faster user experience, both offline and online. The focus of this talk will be on IBM Cloudant, Apa...
The enterprise is being consumerized, and the consumer is being enterprised. Moore's Law does not matter anymore, the future belongs to business virtualization powered by invisible service architecture, powered by hyperscale and hyperconvergence, and facilitated by vertical streaming and horizontal scaling and consolidation. Both buyers and sellers want instant results, and from paperwork to paperless to mindless is the ultimate goal for any seamless transaction. The sweetest sweet spot in innovation is automation. The most painful pain point for any business is the mismatch between supplies a...
As a company adopts a DevOps approach to software development, what are key things that both the Dev and Ops side of the business must keep in mind to ensure effective continuous delivery? In his session at DevOps Summit, Mark Hydar, Head of DevOps, Ericsson TV Platforms, will share best practices and provide helpful tips for Ops teams to adopt an open line of communication with the development side of the house to ensure success between the two sides.
As more and more data is generated from a variety of connected devices, the need to get insights from this data and predict future behavior and trends is increasingly essential for businesses. Real-time stream processing is needed in a variety of different industries such as Manufacturing, Oil and Gas, Automobile, Finance, Online Retail, Smart Grids, and Healthcare. Azure Stream Analytics is a fully managed distributed stream computation service that provides low latency, scalable processing of streaming data in the cloud with an enterprise grade SLA. It features built-in integration with Azur...
WebRTC: together these advances have created a perfect storm of technologies that are disrupting and transforming classic communications models and ecosystems. In his session at WebRTC Summit, Cary Bran, VP of Innovation and New Ventures at Plantronics and PLT Labs, will provide an overview of this technological shift, including associated business and consumer communications impacts, and opportunities it may enable, complement or entirely transform.