Undoubtedly you’ve experienced the buzz and anticipation for Windows 8, and perhaps you’ve already downloaded the Windows 8 Consumer Preview and given it a go on your own. One thing is clear, the Metro experience and Window Store deployment model are a significant shift in the way you’ll be building and distributing apps in the near future. The time to start is now though, before Windows 8 hits the general consumer market, and here’s a quick guide to some of the key resources to help you on your way.

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The on-line entry point for Windows 8 development is the Windows Dev Center.  Here you’ll be able to download the Consumer Preview as well as Visual Studio 2011 Beta.  The Dev Center also includes Metro design guidance and assets, code examples, and tutorials in all of the supported programming environments (HTML/JavaScript, C#, VB, and C++). In addition to the Dev Center, I suggest you keep tabs on the Building Windows 8 blog where Stephen Sinofsky posts frequently on the progress and principles behind the latest version of Windows.

There is also a progression of in-person events to guide your application development all the way into the Windows Store:

Windows Dev Camps

Windows Dev Camps are free, full-day events covering the Windows 8 platform including the Metro design philosophy, the programming environments, and the logistics of the Windows Store. Bring your laptop with Windows 8 and Visual Studio loaded though, because the day will be capped off with a hands-on lab. These camps are being held all over the world and more are being added, but for now here are the options available in the Northeast.

Metro Accelerator Labs

Once you’ve started working on your application and are looking for some additional guidance, consider signing up for a three-day Metro Accelerator Lab. These are not training sessions per se, but rather an opportunity for you to churn out some code on your app alongside some other awesome developers, so be sure to bring your laptop outfitted with Visual Studio and Windows 8.

There will be some experienced Microsoft folks on hand as well to provide guidance as you get your application ready for submission to the Windows Store. Note, this is a “Metro” lab, so if you’re working on a Windows Phone 7 application, please feel free to sign up as well.

Ready.Set () {Code} Challenge  - Boston, MAThere is a Metro Accelerator Lab scheduled for June 6 – 8th at the Microsoft Office in Waltham, and there are a few others scheduled along the East Coast. The Waltham version will be a special one, since Day 2 of the event will be the Boston stop of the Ready.Set() {Code} Challenge being run by Nokia.  Note, this event does require a separate registration.

Application Excellence Labs

Unless you’re developing apps only for yourself or your internal enterprise, you’ll need to get your application into the Windows Store or no one will know about it or be able to install it!  My colleague G. Andrew Duthie has a great post on the role of the Windows Store in this new development ecosystem, and he notes that at this point entry into the Windows Store is by invitation only.

The Windows Store has a blog too!One of the easiest ways to get that invitation is to sign up for an Application Excellence Lab, which is a one-on-one session with one of our Premier Field Engineers (PFE) who will review your application for performance, adherence to the Metro design principles, and other items. If your application passes muster, you’ll get a token enabling you to submit your application to the Windows Store. If your application doesn’t make the cut, you’ll get some valuable and actionable feedback to make the necessary improvements, which should result in a more successful app in the long run.

These labs are by invitation only, so if you’re at the point in your Windows 8 Metro application’s development where you’re ready to submit it to the Windows Store, let Chris or me know and we’ll connect you with a PFE for an appointment.