Click here to close now.

Welcome!

Silverlight Authors: Srinivasan Sundara Rajan, Yeshim Deniz, Greg O'Connor, Trevor Parsons, AppDynamics Blog

Related Topics: .NET, Silverlight, Apache

.NET: 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
One of the biggest impacts of the Internet of Things is and will continue to be on data; specifically data volume, management and usage. Companies are scrambling to adapt to this new and unpredictable data reality with legacy infrastructure that cannot handle the speed and volume of data. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Don DeLoach, CEO and president of Infobright, will discuss how companies need to rethink their data infrastructure to participate in the IoT, including: Data storage: Understanding the kinds of data: structured, unstructured, big/small? Analytics: What kinds and how responsiv...
Since 2008 and for the first time in history, more than half of humans live in urban areas, urging cities to become “smart.” Today, cities can leverage the wide availability of smartphones combined with new technologies such as Beacons or NFC to connect their urban furniture and environment to create citizen-first services that improve transportation, way-finding and information delivery. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Laetitia Gazel-Anthoine, CEO of Connecthings, will focus on successful use cases.
The Workspace-as-a-Service (WaaS) market will grow to $6.4B by 2018. In his session at 16th Cloud Expo, Seth Bostock, CEO of IndependenceIT, will begin by walking the audience through the evolution of Workspace as-a-Service, where it is now vs. where it going. To look beyond the desktop we must understand exactly what WaaS is, who the users are, and where it is going in the future. IT departments, ISVs and service providers must look to workflow and automation capabilities to adapt to growing demand and the rapidly changing workspace model.
Sensor-enabled things are becoming more commonplace, precursors to a larger and more complex framework that most consider the ultimate promise of the IoT: things connecting, interacting, sharing, storing, and over time perhaps learning and predicting based on habits, behaviors, location, preferences, purchases and more. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Tom Wesselman, Director of Communications Ecosystem Architecture at Plantronics, will examine the still nascent IoT as it is coalescing, including what it is today, what it might ultimately be, the role of wearable tech, and technology gaps stil...
Almost everyone sees the potential of Internet of Things but how can businesses truly unlock that potential. The key will be in the ability to discover business insight in the midst of an ocean of Big Data generated from billions of embedded devices via Systems of Discover. Businesses will also need to ensure that they can sustain that insight by leveraging the cloud for global reach, scale and elasticity.
The Internet of Things (IoT) promises to evolve the way the world does business; however, understanding how to apply it to your company can be a mystery. Most people struggle with understanding the potential business uses or tend to get caught up in the technology, resulting in solutions that fail to meet even minimum business goals. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jesse Shiah, CEO / President / Co-Founder of AgilePoint Inc., showed what is needed to leverage the IoT to transform your business. He discussed opportunities and challenges ahead for the IoT from a market and technical point of vie...
IoT is still a vague buzzword for many people. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Mike Kavis, Vice President & Principal Cloud Architect at Cloud Technology Partners, discussed the business value of IoT that goes far beyond the general public's perception that IoT is all about wearables and home consumer services. He also discussed how IoT is perceived by investors and how venture capitalist access this space. Other topics discussed were barriers to success, what is new, what is old, and what the future may hold. Mike Kavis is Vice President & Principal Cloud Architect at Cloud Technology Pa...
Hadoop as a Service (as offered by handful of niche vendors now) is a cloud computing solution that makes medium and large-scale data processing accessible, easy, fast and inexpensive. In his session at Big Data Expo, Kumar Ramamurthy, Vice President and Chief Technologist, EIM & Big Data, at Virtusa, will discuss how this is achieved by eliminating the operational challenges of running Hadoop, so one can focus on business growth. The fragmented Hadoop distribution world and various PaaS solutions that provide a Hadoop flavor either make choices for customers very flexible in the name of opti...
The true value of the Internet of Things (IoT) lies not just in the data, but through the services that protect the data, perform the analysis and present findings in a usable way. With many IoT elements rooted in traditional IT components, Big Data and IoT isn’t just a play for enterprise. In fact, the IoT presents SMBs with the prospect of launching entirely new activities and exploring innovative areas. CompTIA research identifies several areas where IoT is expected to have the greatest impact.
Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs) are increasing at an unprecedented rate. The threat landscape of today is drastically different than just a few years ago. Attacks are much more organized and sophisticated. They are harder to detect and even harder to anticipate. In the foreseeable future it's going to get a whole lot harder. Everything you know today will change. Keeping up with this changing landscape is already a daunting task. Your organization needs to use the latest tools, methods and expertise to guard against those threats. But will that be enough? In the foreseeable future attacks w...
Disruptive macro trends in technology are impacting and dramatically changing the "art of the possible" relative to supply chain management practices through the innovative use of IoT, cloud, machine learning and Big Data to enable connected ecosystems of engagement. Enterprise informatics can now move beyond point solutions that merely monitor the past and implement integrated enterprise fabrics that enable end-to-end supply chain visibility to improve customer service delivery and optimize supplier management. Learn about enterprise architecture strategies for designing connected systems tha...
Dale Kim is the Director of Industry Solutions at MapR. His background includes a variety of technical and management roles at information technology companies. While his experience includes work with relational databases, much of his career pertains to non-relational data in the areas of search, content management, and NoSQL, and includes senior roles in technical marketing, sales engineering, and support engineering. Dale holds an MBA from Santa Clara University, and a BA in Computer Science from the University of California, Berkeley.
Wearable devices have come of age. The primary applications of wearables so far have been "the Quantified Self" or the tracking of one's fitness and health status. We propose the evolution of wearables into social and emotional communication devices. Our BE(tm) sensor uses light to visualize the skin conductance response. Our sensors are very inexpensive and can be massively distributed to audiences or groups of any size, in order to gauge reactions to performances, video, or any kind of presentation. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Jocelyn Scheirer, CEO & Founder of Bionolux, will discuss ho...
The cloud is now a fact of life but generating recurring revenues that are driven by solutions and services on a consumption model have been hard to implement, until now. In their session at 16th Cloud Expo, Ermanno Bonifazi, CEO & Founder of Solgenia, and Ian Khan, Global Strategic Positioning & Brand Manager at Solgenia, will discuss how a top European telco has leveraged the innovative recurring revenue generating capability of the consumption cloud to enable a unique cloud monetization model to drive results.
As organizations shift toward IT-as-a-service models, the need for managing and protecting data residing across physical, virtual, and now cloud environments grows with it. CommVault can ensure protection &E-Discovery of your data – whether in a private cloud, a Service Provider delivered public cloud, or a hybrid cloud environment – across the heterogeneous enterprise. In his session at 16th Cloud Expo, Randy De Meno, Chief Technologist - Windows Products and Microsoft Partnerships, will discuss how to cut costs, scale easily, and unleash insight with CommVault Simpana software, the only si...
Analytics is the foundation of smart data and now, with the ability to run Hadoop directly on smart storage systems like Cloudian HyperStore, enterprises will gain huge business advantages in terms of scalability, efficiency and cost savings as they move closer to realizing the potential of the Internet of Things. In his session at 16th Cloud Expo, Paul Turner, technology evangelist and CMO at Cloudian, Inc., will discuss the revolutionary notion that the storage world is transitioning from mere Big Data to smart data. He will argue that today’s hybrid cloud storage solutions, with commodity...
Cloud data governance was previously an avoided function when cloud deployments were relatively small. With the rapid adoption in public cloud – both rogue and sanctioned, it’s not uncommon to find regulated data dumped into public cloud and unprotected. This is why enterprises and cloud providers alike need to embrace a cloud data governance function and map policies, processes and technology controls accordingly. In her session at 15th Cloud Expo, Evelyn de Souza, Data Privacy and Compliance Strategy Leader at Cisco Systems, will focus on how to set up a cloud data governance program and s...
Every innovation or invention was originally a daydream. You like to imagine a “what-if” scenario. And with all the attention being paid to the so-called Internet of Things (IoT) you don’t have to stretch the imagination too much to see how this may impact commercial and homeowners insurance. We’re beyond the point of accepting this as a leap of faith. The groundwork is laid. Now it’s just a matter of time. We can thank the inventors of smart thermostats for developing a practical business application that everyone can relate to. Gone are the salad days of smart home apps, the early chalkb...
Roberto Medrano, Executive Vice President at SOA Software, had reached 30,000 page views on his home page - http://RobertoMedrano.SYS-CON.com/ - on the SYS-CON family of online magazines, which includes Cloud Computing Journal, Internet of Things Journal, Big Data Journal, and SOA World Magazine. He is a recognized executive in the information technology fields of SOA, internet security, governance, and compliance. He has extensive experience with both start-ups and large companies, having been involved at the beginning of four IT industries: EDA, Open Systems, Computer Security and now SOA.
The industrial software market has treated data with the mentality of “collect everything now, worry about how to use it later.” We now find ourselves buried in data, with the pervasive connectivity of the (Industrial) Internet of Things only piling on more numbers. There’s too much data and not enough information. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Bob Gates, Global Marketing Director, GE’s Intelligent Platforms business, to discuss how realizing the power of IoT, software developers are now focused on understanding how industrial data can create intelligence for industrial operations. Imagine ...