Will Windows Phone 7 apps “just work” in Windows Phone 8?

By Kip Kniskern | In Mobile | Posted September 26, 2012 40 comments

3731_hero2_htc_winphone_8s_thumb_461A0730Microsoft has been taking a very interesting route in launching Windows Phone 8, locking down the SDK and refusing to allow journalists to play with the new interface, something that has been common in the past.  It’s becoming more clear that Microsoft’s reasoning for locking down the SDK, so that new unannounced features wouldn’t be revealed, doesn’t seem to be holding much water.  Recently, in an editorial, one Windows Phone enthusiast and blogger, “Sheeds” from WPDownUnder.com, is postulating that backwards “app-compat” may be a reason for the secrecy, and the delay in getting the OS out in public.

Sheeds noticed a change in tone from Microsoft’s initial statements on compatibility.  Microsoft first announced Windows Phone 8 in June, and even before that, in April, Microsoft said that Windows Phone 7 apps would run in Windows Phone 8 (emphasis in original):

With regard to existing applications: today’s Windows Phone applications and games will run on the next major version of Windows Phone. Driving application compatibility is a function of Microsoft’s commitment to its developers. Regardless of what we release in terms of new developer features and functionality, we have made a large investment in protecting your existing investments.

But as Sheeds notes, the messaging isn’t quite so confident as we get closer to launch.  On September 7th, on the Windows Phone Developer blog, Andrew Whitechapel wrote a whole long blog post answering the question “How do you ensure that an app built for an earlier release of Windows Phone continues to work great on Windows Phone 8?”:

Even though almost everything is different, our app platform maintains a high degree of backward compatibility. So, from the perspective of the platform APIs, you generally don’t have to do anything – your app should just continue to work, without any changes. Where this becomes a little less cut-and-dried is if you’re doing anything unusual or unsupported in your app (more below).

Then, in the nomination form for gaining early entry into the Windows Phone 8 program, Sheeds points out further indications that all may not be well in migrating Windows Phone 7 apps to Windows Phone 8:

‘Do you agree to download the WP SDK 8.0 Preview and to promptly test your WP7 application’ and ‘Do you agree to promptly report any issues you find while running your WP7 application on WP8?’ The NDA questions follow immediately after this.

and notes that in a podcast, Windows Phone Product Manager Cliff Simpkins again brings up app compat:

WP8 was designed to run all WP7 Apps…and where we saw that Apps that were designed for 7 could use some tweaking, whether there was performance [issues] or you know [starts to say compatibility then moves to] App and binary code compatibility might go a little bit wonky in some cases – but you get that with any release.

Sheeds goes on to say:

Regardless of how or why code may need to be “fixed” or “optimised” one thing appears certain – and that is that it the reality of the situation right now, 6 weeks from an unofficial WP8 launch, is that Developers may not be where Microsoft had hoped back in June of 2012, with “…..existing apps [to] launch and run faster on Windows Phone 8 without changing a single line of code.”

Certainly something seems to be holding up the process.  Even if it is all just grandstanding to gain “buzz” for the launch, does that even make sense when the cost involves pissing developers off and delaying a new stream of Windows Phone 8 apps?  It might be something just short of a miracle if all Windows Phone 7 apps worked flawlessly with Windows Phone 8, but yet that’s pretty much what Microsoft promised.  That they’re working hard to come close to that goal is commendable, but is it holding up getting the SDK out in public?

Posted September 26th, 2012 at 12:11 pm
Category: Mobile
Tags: Windows Phone 8
  • Jan

    I have the RTM SDK and tried WP7 Apps on the Emulator and everything works fine

  • Jan

    I have the RTM SDK and tried WP7 Apps on the Emulator and everything works fine

  • JSYOUNG571

    Truth be told, you might want to keep your Windows Phone 7.5, Androids and iPhones on stand by. Microsoft is very typical on being behind and late on just about everything.  If they do release it on time, be very skeptical in what you purchase, it just might be half baked with broken promises down the line.

    • WP7Mango

      “…it just might be half baked with broken promises down the line.”

      Are you referring to the iPhone 5 or iOS 6 (or both) ?

    • Wyn6

      Let’s see. On time with the initial launch of Windows Phone. On time with NoDo update. Early with Mango. On time with Windows 7. On time with Xbox and 360. Need I go on?

    • Hope

      The truth is that people want apps. To a degree, consumers get fascinated by terms like “quad-core processor” “2GB RAM” “x MP camera” etc.; but at the end of the day, the low-end and mid-end android phones are selling only due to the applications available.

      Personally, I’ll be going for the Lumia 920 because I know that my WinPho 7 device can do anything which I need as a student.

      However, Microsoft should not target at getting 500k+ apps. It should target popular apps and should make sure that developers working on new apps and games, also consider Windows Phone 8.

      In short, consumers are waiting for developers to target Windows Phone 8; and the developers are waiting for consumers build the Windows Phone 8 ecosystem.

  • JSYOUNG571

    Truth be told, you might want to keep your Windows Phone 7.5, Androids and iPhones on stand by. Microsoft is very typical on being behind and late on just about everything.  If they do release it on time, be very skeptical in what you purchase, it just might be half baked with broken promises down the line.

    • WP7Mango

      “…it just might be half baked with broken promises down the line.”

      Are you referring to the iPhone 5 or iOS 6 (or both) ?

    • Wyn6

      Let’s see. On time with the initial launch of Windows Phone. On time with NoDo update. Early with Mango. On time with Windows 7. On time with Xbox and 360. Need I go on?

    • Hope

      The truth is that people want apps. To a degree, consumers get fascinated by terms like “quad-core processor” “2GB RAM” “x MP camera” etc.; but at the end of the day, the low-end and mid-end android phones are selling only due to the applications available.

      Personally, I’ll be going for the Lumia 920 because I know that my WinPho 7 device can do anything which I need as a student.

      However, Microsoft should not target at getting 500k+ apps. It should target popular apps and should make sure that developers working on new apps and games, also consider Windows Phone 8.

      In short, consumers are waiting for developers to target Windows Phone 8; and the developers are waiting for consumers build the Windows Phone 8 ecosystem.

  • http://www.facebook.com/iain.simpson.127 Iain Simpson

    the public do not need to see the final sdk until the phones have been released. Joe blow who spent 99 bucks and doesn’t make any apps does not need to see the final sdk, joe blow who made 1 fart app and published it does not need to see the final sdk. the sdk that was shown of yesterday by certain sites is not the final sdk and is still locked down. Developers that microsft trust and publish many apps have been given a near final sdk to test the apps. Microsoft are not going to give a near final or final sdk to all these dumb bloggers or tech sites.

    • http://www.LiveSide.net Kip Kniskern – LiveSide.net

      If what you’re saying is true, then why bother restricting access to an SDK that’s locked down?  Why risk offending developers (who have already left in droves to Android and iOS) even more by restricting access and denying access even to those who applied?  Why not just open up a locked down SDK and allow us dumb bloggers to say good things about Windows Phone, instead of write posts about how screwed over developers feel?  Makes no sense.

      • http://www.facebook.com/iain.simpson.127 Iain Simpson

        actually developer interest has gone up for wp8 android and ios have been flat, please backup what you say before saying developers have left in droves. MS have given the SDK to developers that actually develop apps for WP. Most tech sites don’t deserve to get anything. Consumers have not really seen anything yet with whats in WP8 and is upto MS to decide when they want to talk about the features not some crappy tech site.

        • http://twitter.com/scottisafool Scott Lovegrove

          Actually, they haven’t I know a *lot* of active WP7 app developers (myself included) who simply have not been given access to the SDK.

        • Calum James

          “dumb bloggers”

          “not some crappy tech site.”

          Aren’t you a nice person Iain? Oh, wait. No you’re not.

          By the way, I actually find LiveSide to be awesome, not crappy. They’ve provided me with a lot of great news about changes to Microsoft products, including minor upcoming changes that other sites haven’t covered.

          • Jason Kohlhoff

            Liveside is Rad!

    • George

      If this would be MS reason, it would be just a very, very arrogant attitude – MS released countless alpha. CTP or beta SDK versions in the past for other products, without any worry .. Now they might have another internal reason for not releasing it, but anyway we are lucky that the folks at MS don’t think like you. :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/iain.simpson.127 Iain Simpson

    the public do not need to see the final sdk until the phones have been released. Joe blow who spent 99 bucks and doesn’t make any apps does not need to see the final sdk, joe blow who made 1 fart app and published it does not need to see the final sdk. the sdk that was shown of yesterday by certain sites is not the final sdk and is still locked down. Developers that microsft trust and publish many apps have been given a near final sdk to test the apps. Microsoft are not going to give a near final or final sdk to all these dumb bloggers or tech sites.

    • http://www.LiveSide.net Kip Kniskern – LiveSide.net

      If what you’re saying is true, then why bother restricting access to an SDK that’s locked down?  Why risk offending developers (who have already left in droves to Android and iOS) even more by restricting access and denying access even to those who applied?  Why not just open up a locked down SDK and allow us dumb bloggers to say good things about Windows Phone, instead of write posts about how screwed over developers feel?  Makes no sense.

      • http://www.facebook.com/iain.simpson.127 Iain Simpson

        actually developer interest has gone up for wp8 android and ios have been flat, please backup what you say before saying developers have left in droves. MS have given the SDK to developers that actually develop apps for WP. Most tech sites don’t deserve to get anything. Consumers have not really seen anything yet with whats in WP8 and is upto MS to decide when they want to talk about the features not some crappy tech site.

        • http://twitter.com/scottisafool Scott Lovegrove

          Actually, they haven’t I know a *lot* of active WP7 app developers (myself included) who simply have not been given access to the SDK.

        • Calum James

          “dumb bloggers”

          “not some crappy tech site.”

          Aren’t you a nice person Iain? Oh, wait. No you’re not.

          By the way, I actually find LiveSide to be awesome, not crappy. They’ve provided me with a lot of great news about changes to Microsoft products, including minor upcoming changes that other sites haven’t covered.

          • http://twitter.com/jwk6 Jason Kohlhoff

            Liveside is Rad!

    • George

      If this would be MS reason, it would be just a very, very arrogant attitude – MS released countless alpha. CTP or beta SDK versions in the past for other products, without any worry .. Now they might have another internal reason for not releasing it, but anyway we are lucky that the folks at MS don’t think like you. :)

  • Aa

    ???? why would there be problem? It is running SL. For games, maybe there is something needs to be tested. But, typical apps are just SL. There is no binary compatibility because it is not even in the form of binary. What I see the difference is, WP7 is running .Net Framework Compact while WP8 is running a full fledged .Net Framework. So, yeah, some things may not work exactly the same.

    But, I wouldn’t worry about that because if the dev is not extremely lazy. The transition is usually fixing few lines of code.

  • Aa

    ???? why would there be problem? It is running SL. For games, maybe there is something needs to be tested. But, typical apps are just SL. There is no binary compatibility because it is not even in the form of binary. What I see the difference is, WP7 is running .Net Framework Compact while WP8 is running a full fledged .Net Framework. So, yeah, some things may not work exactly the same.

    But, I wouldn’t worry about that because if the dev is not extremely lazy. The transition is usually fixing few lines of code.

  • Radu Iscu

    I’ve been working for a while with the old sdk and I can tell that a standard app won’t have any issues on WP8. That being said there are a lot of very highly optimized apps out there which might depend on something that wasn’t documented in WP7 and no longer exists in WP8. Also XNA might offer some problems since on WP8 it will only be a DX wrapper.

    • Me

      This.

  • Radu Iscu

    I’ve been working for a while with the old sdk and I can tell that a standard app won’t have any issues on WP8. That being said there are a lot of very highly optimized apps out there which might depend on something that wasn’t documented in WP7 and no longer exists in WP8. Also XNA might offer some problems since on WP8 it will only be a DX wrapper.

    • Me

      This.

  • http://twitter.com/dominicwatts Dominic Watts

    Just ordered a new battery for my HTC Mozart because it looks like I’m going to have to keep it going quite a bit longer yet.

    • Calum James

      Why? Windows Phone 8 devices will probably be out sometime in early November. That isn’t “quite a bit longer.”

  • http://twitter.com/dominicwatts Dominic Watts

    Just ordered a new battery for my HTC Mozart because it looks like I’m going to have to keep it going quite a bit longer yet.

    • Calum James

      Why? Windows Phone 8 devices will probably be out sometime in early November. That isn’t “quite a bit longer.”

  • http://www.wpdownunder.com/ Sheeds

    Cheers for covering this. Since publishing this speculative analysis, I have received some interesting feedback from Devs + other sources…It will be interesting to see what MS do/say in October when release of WP8 takes place. We will know one way or another soon.

    • Srini

      Sheeds, I read your original article on WPDownUnder last night and have been thinking about it, and it’s now all over the web! Just had one thought to go against it. Had the secretive thing been about app compatibility *only* there should have been nothing stopping MS from releasing the full SDK to all devs after it RTMed. There is absolutely no point holding on when eventually the fixes have to come back from the DEVs. And there was also no peculiar case of reaching out to certain developers to fix the code, as it happened during the 256MB Tango release where they said 5% of apps are affected. My thoughts, may be there is something breaking here and there but not major to worry about, and yes that ultra secretive thing should be about something else!

      • http://www.wpdownunder.com/ Sheeds

        Thanks for the feedback :) The article spent a lot of time explaining why I think something is going on in the area of backward app compatibilty and the MS recompiler process for WP8. However I do not think this is all of the reason for the secrecy. I certainly acknowledged the new emulator in the SDK being fully featured now and some other factors as well. It’s just shame when – for whatever the reasons – we do not get transparency from MS.

  • http://www.wpdownunder.com/ Sheeds

    Cheers for covering this. Since publishing this speculative analysis, I have received some interesting feedback from Devs + other sources…It will be interesting to see what MS do/say in October when release of WP8 takes place. We will know one way or another soon.

    • Srinivasan Rajagopalan

      Sheeds, I read your original article on WPDownUnder last night and have been thinking about it, and it’s now all over the web! Just had one thought to go against it. Had the secretive thing been about app compatibility *only* there should have been nothing stopping MS from releasing the full SDK to all devs after it RTMed. There is absolutely no point holding on when eventually the fixes have to come back from the DEVs. And there was also no peculiar case of reaching out to certain developers to fix the code, as it happened during the 256MB Tango release where they said 5% of apps are affected. My thoughts, may be there is something breaking here and there but not major to worry about, and yes that ultra secretive thing should be about something else!

      • http://www.wpdownunder.com/ Sheeds

        Thanks for the feedback :) The article spent a lot of time explaining why I think something is going on in the area of backward app compatibilty and the MS recompiler process for WP8. However I do not think this is all of the reason for the secrecy. I certainly acknowledged the new emulator in the SDK being fully featured now and some other factors as well. It’s just shame when – for whatever the reasons – we do not get transparency from MS.