February 2013

Volume 28 Number 02

Editor's Note - Inside Modern Apps

By Michael Desmond | February 2013

Michael DesmondThis month MSDN Magazine welcomes Rachel Appel and her Modern Apps column. Readers of the magazine and Web site might be familiar with Appel’s work. She wrote the popular Web Dev Report column on the MSDN Magazine Web site up until September of last year. And she appeared in our Windows 8 Special Edition, published in October, with a look at the unique aspects of the Windows Store application lifecycle.

This month, Modern Apps debuts with a quick rundown of what you need to get started with Windows Store app development, and explores the new features and capabilities that enable developers to create powerful applications for Windows 8 and the Windows Runtime. Going forward, you can expect Appel to dig deeper into the Windows Store app dev experience. In the March issue, look for the column to explore the important topic of data access and storage for Windows Store apps.

Appel’s column arrives a few short months after Bruno Terkaly and Ricardo Villalobos came on board as authors of the new Azure Insider column. And just last month Charles Petzold re-branded his column as DirectX Factor, reflecting his focus on the powerful DirectX development infrastructure in the Windows Runtime.

The changes reflect the significant progress we’ve seen from Microsoft in updating its developer infrastructure. Windows 8 and the Windows Runtime present a compelling target for an incredibly broad range of software developers, and the new columns from Appel and Petzold aim to empower those people—from business devs working with C# to Web programmers working with JavaScript to native coders working with C++. Similarly, major updates in developer tooling for Azure have changed the game in the cloud development space, and Terkaly and Villalobos are here to help guide you through it.

‘It’s New and Shiny’

As for Rachel Appel, she’s been writing for MSDN Magazine and its Web site for more than a year now, and was a Microsoft technical evangelist for years before that. A veteran programmer, Appel has been in the software development racket since the late 1980s, first writing back-end enterprise applications in COBOL. She struck out on her own as an independent consultant, trainer and mentor, earning MVP recognition from Microsoft, before joining Microsoft as a technical evangelist. Today, she spends a great deal of her time giving talks at conferences, working with customers and blogging about development issues.

When I asked Appel how a former COBOL programmer ends up helping lead the charge on Windows Store app development, she couldn’t resist a joke—“The short answer? It’s new and shiny”—before providing a more serious response.

“I enjoy learning about new technologies and the latest in software development,” Appel says. “As a tech evangelist, being out in the public allows me to see and work with all kinds of awesome ideas and code.”

She goes on to praise some of the built-in features of Windows 8, including Search and Share contracts, the rich sensor platforms and the device APIs. “You can access it all through open, standard HTML5 and ES5 [ECMAScript 5] if you want, or you can use C#/Visual Basic/C++ and XAML, as all languages have parity.”

In her community engagements, Appel says she sometimes fields questions about the Windows Runtime and its relationship to the Microsoft .NET Framework. Her message: The .NET Framework is not going anywhere.

“Windows Runtime is not a .NET replacement. Rather, many of the WinRT APIs are wrappers around classic .NET or Win32 libraries, so those underlying frameworks are still available,” Appel says. “Yes, you can write WinRT apps in HTML5. And, yes, it’s real HTML5.”

Appel urges readers of her Modern Apps column to also check out the GenerationApp site (bit.ly/W8GenAppDev), which features articles and tutorials aimed at developers building Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 apps.

There’s a whole lot going on with the emergence of Windows 8 and the Windows Runtime, and our new columns are designed to address that activity. Is there something you want to see Appel cover in her Modern Apps column? E-mail her at rachel@rachelappel.com.

Michael Desmond is the Editor-in-Chief of MSDN Magazine.