Microsoft Updates .NET Framework for Phone

The new releases from Microsoft just keep coming. In addition to the new Windows 8 operating system, Surface tablet, and Windows Phone 8 OS, the software giant unveiled updates to its .NET framework that should make it easier to write smartphone apps, as well as a Windows Phone SDK. You can read the full details about the framework on Microsoft’s .NET framework blog. The blog notes that major updates to the .NET framework runtime and code generation process have let to startup time improvements as high as 50 percent. Other highlights of this release include a new async programming model and much better garbage collector, leading to more responsive apps for the end user. What you’re essentially dealing with in the new framework, which Microsoft has dubbed “.NET for Windows Phone 8,” is the .NET Framework 4.5, optimized to work specifically with the software giant’s new Windows Phone 8 operating system. The key that makes the whole thing work is the integration of CoreCLR. As Microsoft’s blog explains, “CoreCLR is the core of the common language runtime (CLR) in the .NET Framework, which also delivers stability and high performance in .NET Framework apps to hundreds of million of end-users around the planet.” Since Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 are built on a shared core, it made sense that Windows Phone 8 would benefit from the same core in the .NET framework that makes regular Windows apps work. The addition of the async programming model is a really big deal. Most systems run on multicore hardware these days, including smartphones running Windows Phone 8. The improvements to the .NET framework enable you to write apps that take advantage of this by, among other things, using the new “async” and “await” language keywords, or by accessing the Task Parallel Library. These new features let you leverage “both the async model and the multiple cores on end-user devices,” according to Microsoft, which lets you speed up your applications’ response times. You’ll also see faster apps thanks to the CoreCLR engine, which replaces .NET Compact Framework in Windows Phone 8. This engine includes what Microsoft describes as “our world-class auto-tuning garbage collector.” The company says the new collector helps to make your apps start faster and respond more quickly to user commands. Microsoft turned to its own cloud for even more ways to speed up your Windows Phone 8 apps. Instead of compiling on users’ phones, such apps get compiled to ARM code in the Windows Phone Store itself, before they get downloaded and deployed onto the app purchaser’s device. This means the phone’s CPU won’t be taxed with the task, so apps load faster and use less battery power. Compare that to Windows Phone 7.x, where app code was compiled every time the app was launched, and the CPU burned battery power compiling that code. Microsoft notes that “You can test out the pre-compiled binaries on your Windows Phone 8 devices using Visual Studio 2012.” And what about those Windows Phone 7.1 apps? According to Microsoft, Windows Phone 8 “is designed to run existing Windows Phone apps unchanged” but “It is recommended that you test your 7.1 app using the Windows Phone 8 device or emulator to ensure that you are getting a compatible experience.” The Windows Phone 8 SDK can help you write Windows Phone 8 apps. It includes a stand-alone version of Visual Studio Express 2012 for Windows Phone; Windows Phone 8 emulators; a UI designer for both 7.1 and 8 apps; a server client to help with application life cycle management and source control of apps; and a game studio to help you build games for Windows Phone, Xbox 360, and desktop apps. Unlike the preview SDK, offered in September, this SDK will be available to everyone.