Developers clamor for unified dev tools for Microsoft's 3 OSs

Analysts expect a long-term integration of smartphone/tablet/desktop OSs

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Vertisan makes the Shotly golf app for Windows Phone 7 and 8 and iOS, and is about to release a social networking app for golfers called Golfly, which is being showcased on Windows 8 devices. It will allow users with a tablet to remotely follow someone playing golf, picking up their inputs on shots from a smartphone running Shotly, with the ability to interact and send text messages, such as "Great shot!" Both Shotly and Golfly are free apps, although in-app purchasing and upgrades are available.

Vertisan sees a chance for Windows Phone and Windows tablets to grow in market share, partly because of the ease of development of apps. He said he and other developers have seen efficiencies in using Microsoft's C# and XAML programming languages in building apps for Windows.

"The base core of the OSs is coming together and that's a good thing to help speed to market of apps ... but to a certain extent the operating systems need to remain a little bit separate," added Atley Hunter, a developer of Windows Phone and Windows 8 apps.

"Moving Windows Phone to the full Windows kernel made a big difference in device management, security and hardware support, [which] allowed the development platform to grow closer together allowing increased code re-use," added Tom Verheoff, a partner for Methyllium, which recently built the Windows 8 hotel booking app for Booking.com.

"Really unifying the [three] platforms into one Windows development environment would be a big improvement for the developer experience. Windows Phone 8 already allows reusing big parts of an app's codebase, but reusing even more would allow developers to save time and money," Verheoff said.

Creating a single, unified development environment for all the OSs "should definitely be a high priority" for Microsoft, Verhoeff added. Doing so would "make the life of every developer on the platform a lot easier and grow the addressable user base."

Chris Houdeshell, a project manager for an energy company who also codes for the Windows platforms in his spare time, said it is "vital that Microsoft merges certain aspects of Windows Phone and Windows." Noting that although the platforms share a kernel, networking stack and other features, he said, there is "more that can be combined and shared," such as a common Bluetooth stack and much of the user interface and user experience. He urged Microsoft to share complete integration of Windows RT API's with the other two platforms.

Microsoft's position

Microsoft officials haven't been explicit in describing their plans for integrating their operating systems or development platforms. However, they pointed to several examples of how developers can share code among the different OSs.

In February, Greg Sullivan, senior product manager for Windows Phone, noted the common kernel in Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8, and said it was possible that Microsoft will eventually have a single app store for buying applications that work on different devices.

A Microsoft spokeswoman this week told Computerworld that code can already be shared by developers across Windows 8, RT and Windows Phone 8, but added, "it will always be necessary for developers to tailor experiences appropriately for different device types."

The spokeswoman offered a link to a Microsoft Web page dated May 31 on how to maximize code reuse between Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8.

She also offered a shared code example that was featured in a Build session PowerPoint presentation.

Asked whether it would make sense to merge Windows and Windows Phone, if only to give developers a quick way to write once, run anywhere, Microsoft responded: "While developers cannot currently develop a single app for use across Windows 8, Windows RT and Windows Phone 8, substantial code can be shared across all. It will always be necessary for developers to tailor experiences appropriately for different device types. Microsoft is committed to making app builders' lives easier, and driving alignment wherever it makes sense in as timely a manner as possible."

This article, Developers clamor for unified dev tools for Microsoft's 3 operating systems, was originally published at Computerworld.com.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

See more by Matt Hamblen on Computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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