Microsoft official: The time is right for developers to build Win8 Metro apps

The new version of the OS is in its final stage of development

With Windows 8 in its final phase of development, Microsoft is encouraging commercial and in-house enterprise developers to start building Metro-style applications for Microsoft's new operating system for desktops, laptops and tablets.

Because Windows 8 is still in a test version -- Release Preview -- it is possible that applications built now will have to be modified to take into account any changes made to the OS between now and then, but the modifications wouldn't be major, according to a Microsoft official.

"We only have one more milestone left for Windows 8 -- the RTM [Release to Manufacturing] -- so there's the potential that there may be some changes you'd need to make to match the final version," said Jason Zander, corporate vice president for the Visual Studio team in the Developer Division at Microsoft.

"But we're not making a ton of breaking changes, so it's a good time to start building applications for the environment. We're not 100 percent close, but we're getting pretty close," he said during an interview at the TechEd North America conference.

It's critical for Microsoft to generate enthusiasm among developers, especially commercial developers, so that at launch Windows 8 will have a healthy number and variety of applications built for the new Metro user interface, which has been designed for the touch-based screens so popular in tablets. The Metro interface will also work in desktops and laptops used with keyboards and mice.

According to Zander, momentum is picking up. "We're seeing good takeup already. You've got some applications already built into the Release Preview, which isn't even the final release of the product. We're seeing a lot of people pick up those tools and starting to build applications," he said.

However, that's not the impression everyone has gotten. According to IDC analyst Al Gillen, IDC research shows that commercial developers aren't moving as quickly as they should be to Windows 8 and the Metro UI.

"They're taking a wait-and-see attitude to see how successful and compelling the product is at release," he said. "This implies it'll be tough for Microsoft to have the kinds of apps in the Windows Store for Windows 8 to be successful."

Windows 8 will also contain the traditional Windows desktop interface, so users will be able to toggle between it and the Metro interface. Microsoft hasn't given an official release date for Windows 8, but it's widely expected to be ready before the end of the year. Windows 8 Metro applications can be built using the latest version of Visual Studio, called Visual Studio 2012, which itself is in a pre-release version, although it is certified by Microsoft for building production applications.

Juan Carlos Perez covers enterprise communication/collaboration suites, operating systems, browsers and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Juan on Twitter at @JuanCPerezIDG.

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