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New Windows Phone SDK 8.0 update for GDR2 - good for thorough testing

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New Windows Phone SDK 8.0 update for GDR2 - good for thorough testing

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by Andy Wigley, Microsoft Technical Evangelist

This is the first of a regular monthly column by Windows Phone Technical Evangelist Andy Wigley. For those of you who don't know Andy, he helps developers build apps for Windows Phone devices and tablets, slates and other mobile computers running Windows. Andy kicks off by explaining the one good thing that’s in the new Windows Phone 8 SDK.

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Microsoft has just released a new optional update to the Windows Phone 8.0 SDK. To give it its full title, this is the ‘Windows Phone SDK 8.0 Update for Windows Phone 8.0.10322’ and all it does is add some new emulator images to your installation.

The Windows Phone SDK 8.0 Update for Windows Phone 8.0.10322 adds four new emulator images to an existing installation of Windows Phone SDK 8.0. This update requires that you have installed Visual Studio 2012 Update 2 or later. To check if you have this update, go to the Help menu, option About it should state the version as something like Microsoft Visual Studio Express 2012 for Windows Phone Version 11.0.60610.01 Update 3. If you don’t have the update, go to ToolsExtension and Updates and check under the Updates category, sub-option Product Updates– you can install the Visual Studio Update 3 or later from there.

Microsoft’s ‘softly-softly’ approach to Windows Phone Platform Upgrades

From time to time, you may see criticism of Windows Phone by commentators saying things like “Nokia makes fantastic phones, they are just held back by Microsoft’s slow development of the OS”. To my mind, that’s a bit unfair. Yes, of course, we’d love to see new releases of the Windows Phone 8.0 OS *every month* if we could, but of course that’s unrealistic. And in any case, if you look at the facts, Microsoft has actually released two significant platform updates since the initial release of Windows Phone 8 – which was only in November 2012 let’s not forget. As Joe Belfiore (@joebelfiore), Microsoft’s Corporate VP of Windows Phone Program Management recently tweeted in response to a tweet claiming we’d shipped nothing in 13 months:

13 months? WP8 lunched around November. J GDR1 shipped right after, GDR2 is on devices now w/update starting to ramp up.

Recent new phone releases from Nokia such as the wonderful, slim 925 (my own phone J) and the amazing 1020 with its’ incredible camera (yes, got one of those on order J) both come with GDR2 and the update is being rolled out to existing devices right now. And industry analysts have posted numerous times about the likelihood of additional major updates coming later this year and early next, though Microsoft has not confirmed any of the speculation. What has been announced is the Enterprise Feature Packcoming in 2014, which brings support for features such as app auto-triggered VPN, enhanced mobile device management, S/MIME email encryption, EAP/TLS Wi-Fi authentication and improved certificate management.

What’s new for users in GDR2

Back to the latest update: The GDR2 update brings support for new devices such as the Lumia 1020, but also brings a number of usability updates for all Windows Phone 8 users, such as support for the CardDAV and CalDAV protocols that allow people to sync Google contacts and calendar information, the return of FM Radio (this was on many Windows Phone 7 devices but didn’t make it into the Windows Phone 8 RTM), improved stability and performance in Skype and Internet Explorer, improvements to Xbox Music, the ability to set your favourite Lens so that it is automatically selected when you press the camera button, and the extension of Data Sense to make it easier for network operators to deploy it. You can read full details at the Windows Phone 8 update historypage.

What’s new for developers in GDR2

Actually, very little. No new APIs, just a number of bug fixes, such as HttpWebRequest will now send cookies stored in the CookieContainer, but no major new functionality. But that could be seen as a good thing right? Delivering stability in the developer platform is one important way that Microsoft supports developers, in contrast to the fragmentation we see in the platform of one of our competitors.

So why the new Windows Phone 8.0 SDK update then? Again, it’s all about supporting our developers. The Windows Phone emulator is not just a PC-based simulator, it is a Hyper-V virtual machine that really is running the Windows Phone 8.0 OS, albeit compiled to X86 rather than ARM as it is on real phones. But the release of these new emulator images with GDR2 will be welcomed by many professional development shops, as it gives them the ability to do thorough testing on the (slightly different) variants of Windows Phone 8 their apps will encounter after release.

  • Bluetooth LE is a MAJOR update that finally lets us play with heart rate monitors, fitbits etc. How about a code sample on that?

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