It’s been an incredibly exciting year. Since last year’s //Build conference, nearly half a million developers, designers and entrepreneurs from more than 80 countries have started building great, high-quality, Windows 8 apps. To build these apps, they’ve taken advantage of many of the tools, training, and breadth of resources that we’ve made available. With the recent grand opening of Windows Store in more than 200 markets and 100 languages around the world, the Windows Store already has many fantastic apps. Many more are on the way—such as apps from ESPN, Twitter and Dropbox.

We believe the Store is a tremendous opportunity not just for established software development companies, but for individuals and startups that have the creativity and ambition to build great, next-generation apps. We have a number of programs designed for startups and just recently built on our partnership with RocketSpace with the first Windows Store App Lab.

The entrance to the Windows Store App Lab.

Developers at the Windows Store App Lab

The Windows Store App Labs are designed to help individual developers and startups build and test apps on the newest Windows 8 hardware, including Surface. At our kick-off event in San Francisco, we had a full house with over 120 entrepreneurs, designers and developers in attendance.  Partners such as Flixster, Wikipedia and Appfluence joined to demo their apps, talk about why they built for Windows 8 and the support offered by Microsoft. In particular, they underscored the ease of building apps using HTML5 and JavaScript while still getting the power and performance of a native app. Flixster mentioned that they were able to build their app in just a few weeks and Wikipedia noted that their app started with one person building the first version within a few weeks.

Whether you have an app in progress or a set of design ideas you want to advance, we designed our Windows Store App Labs to provide you with in-depth technical guidance and leading design assistance to get your app launched in the Windows Store. The labs are free and are being offered in over 30 technology and design hubs around the world—including San Francisco, New York, Toronto, London, Paris, Berlin, Shanghai, and Bangalore.

We’re excited about these opportunities to help startups and developers create incredible apps. App builders can either drop in or register to attend a Windows Store App Lab for a guaranteed four-hour slot.

Looking ahead, be sure to follow @windevs to learn more about other App Lab launch events around the world, or visit windowsstore.com.

-Ted