How do I get started building Windows Phone 8 apps?

Windows Phone 8 Start ScreenWhat do you need to build a Windows Phone 8 app?

Windows Phone 8 was released at the end of 2012 and I am already getting questions from students about developing and testing Windows Phone 8 apps. First of all let me clear up two common misconceptions

  • Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 are not the same platform. They have some things in common but they are not the same platform and if you build an app for one you can’t just take the same code and run it on the other. You can create portable class libraries that can be used on both platforms, and with good design you can re-use a lot of your code, but they are not the same platform
  • There are separate stores for Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8. As a student you can get free access to the Windows store and free access to the Windows Phone store.

Okay with that out of the way, let’s look at what you need to install to start developing Windows Phone 8 apps.

You have two choices:

Install the Windows Phone 8 SDK

If you have a laptop that meets the requirements and running Windows 8, you can install the latest and greatest Windows Phone 8 SDK. This gives you access to the new phone 8 features such as NFC and the wallet. To install the Windows Phone 8 SDK the biggest hurdles are usually the requirements for

You may be able to install the SDK without these requirements but you won’t be able to run the emulator for testing. That’s fine if you have a Windows Phone 8 device you can use to test, but if you don’t you will want the emulator.

Can I install the Windows Phone 8 SDK in a VM? You had to ask didn’t you? Well in an ironic twist, you can, but because the emulator itself runs as a Hyper-V machine you can’t install it in Hyper-V. I have however seen blog posts that say you can do it in VMware. Nokia wrote a blog post on how to install the Windows Phone 8 SDK in virtual machine. Of course I recommend you upgrade to Windows 8 rather than running it in a virtual machine (see PC World’s article on Why to upgrade to Windows 8)

Install the Windows Phone 7 SDK

If your current laptop can’t support the Windows Phone 8 SDK, you can still build Windows Phone 8 apps using the Windows Phone 7 SDK. The drawback is you won’t be able to use the newest features, but that doesn’t prevent you from building a great app.

This will run on Windows Vista with Service Pack 2, and Windows 7, it does require DirectX 10 or greater to run the emulator.

Are you a student? Get the full version of Visual Studio

If you are a student, why not install the full version of Visual Studio instead of using the Express version that comes with the SDK?

When you install the Windows Phone SDK it will install visual Studio Express so you have everything you need to build and test a phone app. However, if you are a student, you can get Visual Studio for free through DreamSpark, so why not use the full version. You should install Visual Studio first from DreamSpark and then install the Windows Phone SDK. When you install the SDK it will add the Windows Phone project templates to your existing installation of Visual Studio.

Are you a Canadian? Get rewards for your apps

The Developer Movement program can get you rewards for your Windows Phone 8 and Windows Phone apps!

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