Here is a compact yet deep technical explanation about how Windows 8 fits with prior versions and other Microsoft products and competitors.
Related topics elsewhere on this same website (WilsonMar.com):
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The Windows 8 launch fanfare Oct 29, 2012 was confusing for many because Microsoft added several new dimensions to the Windows brand name.
Before version 8, there were different editions of Windows with various features, called Basic, Professional, Enterprise, etc. But there was similarity in the Windows user interface (UI) within Desktop executables built using Windows Presentation Foundation running under C# or VB under .NET.
But with version 8, it seems Microsoft wants consumers to think conceptually of Windows like Santa Claus, of being all things to all people - one UI from large screens to tiny hand-held devices.
But such grand thinking is confusing to understand the whole ecosystem around the operating systems.
Samsung decided not to release WinRT tablets based on this confusion.
TIP: Ironically, to fully grasp all the technologies involved, one now has to mentally remove the Windows brand name.
The title Pro (for Professional) has a more substantial meaning that it did before Windows 8. Windows 8 Pro is different from Windows RT (Run-Time) down to the silicon chip design powering the devices. The Windows 8 Pro edition requires the more powerful Intel architecture to run the desktop executables users have been running on Windows 7 and prior versions of Windows desktop operating systems.
What is new is WinRT using the smaller and more power-efficient Qualcomm chip also inside Apple and Android devices as well as Windows Phone 7 and 8. Qualcomm chips are not powerful enough to run desktop executables designed for more powerful Intel chips, so that keeps WinRT from supporting legacy Windows executables.
Regardless, it is impressive that Microsoft is trying to pull off providing the same programming interface to two completely different chip architectures. It's like one rider standing on top of two galloping horses at the same time. Apple has not been able to pull that off.
Windows Surface 3 tablet ditched RT.
This, I think, is one reason for the hundreds of thousands of apps count difference between the Windows Apps Store vs. Google Play and Apple iTunes. But this one decision by Microsoft has a big effect on the perception of an inadequate number of apps. It's also questionable whether Android and Apple count app names which were registered but not actually made available as actual apps.
The store adds Support for in-app purchases, with a "wallet" for linking credit cards and storing loyalty cards.
BTW, Windows 7 had Microsft's Segoe fonts built-in.
The most visible aspect of the Windows 8 launch in 2012 was the square tile look and feel (what has was first called Modern, then Metro, and now simply Windows UI),
That look was introduced when Windows Phone 7 first went at the end of October 2010. So one would think that apps created for Windows 7 would work on Windows Phone 8 which has a similar look and feel.
But apprearance belie more significant differences under the display.
Windows 8 hopefully will overcome reluctance to Windows Phone 7's within enterprises due to lack of on-device encryption, lack of support for complex-password policies, lack of VPN, and unpopular design in Microsoft Office on the device.
Windows Phone 8 comes with an edition of Microsoft Office.
Unlike Windows Phone 7 devices, some Windows Phone 8 devices can have a wider 16:9 screen aspect ratio shown on big screen HD movie houses.
Windows Phone 7 had to be hard wired to Zune software on the desktop to transfer files.
Windows Phone 8 don't need that, plus get over-the-air OS updates.
Windows Phone 8 has NFC (near-field communication) capability to read tags on business cards, posters, menus to like share URLs among NFC devices, what Microsoft calls NFC for consumers Tap + Share. Add a secure SIM card carriers control to enable mobile payments.
Deep down, all Windows 8 editions and Windows Phone 8 share the same multi-core kernel and hardware drivers (for NTFS file system, threading, networking, proximity sensor, graphics support, multimedia, location, and in-app purchases) that were improvements over Windows 7 desktop OS.
This is why Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 development must occur on a Windows 8 machine, and not on a Windows 7 desktop.
Internally, Windows Phone runs a subset of the run-time adopted from WinRT, which was written in C++ and "projected" into C#, VB.NET, and C++.
Phone-specific additions to Windows Phone 8 Runtime (not available on Windows 8 desktop and tablet editions) include:
But one has to really work to figure out commonalities and work out what goes where such as architecting to an MVVM (Model, View, ViewModel) design pattern. Code sharing is done at among different project for each platform, not one code base for multiple platforms.
Like Apple and Android apps stores which carries in the same store apps for both tablets and phones of various editions, the Windows Phone Store (http://www.windowsphone.com/en-us/store) carries apps for both Windows Phone 8 and 7 devices.
This is deceiving because Windows Phone 7 and 8 have a different operating system kernel inside. So drivers in a Windows Phone 8 are basically not compatible with drivers under Windows Phone 7. There is binary app incompatibility.
This is why WP 7 apps not re-compiled for WP8 run in Quirks Mode on WP 8 devices. Some behaviours cannot be quirked. Example of incompatibilities requiring quirks mode: Assembly.GetType property method searches for the specified type in mscorlib.dll as well as in the assembly on which it is called on WP OS 7.1, but on WP8, it searches for the specified type only in the assembly on which it is called.
When WP 7 app source is re-compiled into WP 8 apps, those apps then reference WP 8 drivers. The .NET API for WP8 includes all types and APIs from Wndows Phone OS 7.1. New namespaces added to WP8 include:
Windows Phone 7 devices can NOT upgrade to the Windows Phone 8 operating system. This is even though hardware is being sold.
Microsoft's Support Lifecycle page says
Windows Phone 7.8 will receive security updates 9 September 2014.
Windows Phone 8 will sunset on 8 July 2014 (before 7.8 sunset).
Pressing the Windows button in the middle brings the user to the main menu in Microsoft's "hub and spoke" design.
The Windows Phone 8 back button (at the lower left corner of the device) intereprets a long press holding down to flip among multiple tasks.
Windows Phone 7.5 devices were codenamed Mango during development until release in May 2011. It replaced Windows Phone 7.0 devices.
Windows Phone SDK 7.8 in early 2013 adds resizable Live Tiles and new themes at the UI level.
Windows Phone SDK 7.11 Update (code named Tango) to Windows Phone SDK 7.1 enables weaker hardware (such as 800 Mhz Nokia Lumia 610) in China and other emerging markets. Each app has up to 90 MB of the 256MB RAM, but swaps after 60 MB are used. To opt out of installing on such devices, the app's WinAppManiffext.xml file should contain:
<Deployment AppPlatformVersion="7.1"> <App> ... <Requirements> <Requirement Name="ID_REQ_MEMORY_90"> </Requirements>
This lack of upgradability is frustrating to Windows Phone 7 device owners. After all, Apple iPhones can be upgraded. But many Android phone cannot be upgraded.
Much of the dead-end in Windows Phones was inevitable, and planned. For faster performance, .NET 3.0 was burned into Windows Phone 7 ROM chips. Windows 8 use the newer .NET 4.5 software machine, also burned into the WinPhone 8 device ROM along with IE10.
Apps for Windows Phone 8 devices cannot be built using WinJS>.
Internet Explorer 10 on all editions of Windows 8 supports a subset of HTML5.
The Windows 8 WinJS library covers functionality similiar to the Windows.UI.Xaml.Controls namespaces in the Windows Runtime exposed using API metadata format (Windows.winmd) similar to that used by the .NET framework (Ecma-335).
The most commonality in code base for programming Windows Phone 7 and 8 is leveraging C# coding using XAML> also previously used for programming Silverlight web apps.
Visual Studio desktop development tools are also used.
XBox One released Oct. 2013 (codenamed "Durango") does not run programs from XBox 360.
XBox consoles have been in a separate world, largely because it runs programs from the stand-alone Microsoft Store.com offering mainly games and consoles powered by Nvidia chips and developed using the .NET Framework Class Library in XNA Game Studio (which was extended to develop .NET (managed) apps manipulating low-level graphics on Windows Phone 7).
Alas, native XNA coding with Windows 8 is no longer an option for game development.
The alternative now is hard-core C++ coding referencing DirectX 11.1 integrated into the Windows 8 SDK.
So XNA developers were forced to extend their assets by recompiling XNA 4 C# code using MonoGame which then feeds into SharpDX to provide an API to Windows 8 DirectX. This approach enables games to be not just in the Windows 8 Store, but also iOS, Android, Mac OS X, and Linux PlayStation Suites.
Alex Kipman, the visionary behind the Kinect sensor also designed the Microsoft HoloLens.
The Kinect SDK initially supported development in WPF and C++ with DirectX. But it has grown to support other development platforms:
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