Windows 8 Start Screen

If the new Metro style user interface in Windows 8 looks familiar, that’s because it borrows heavily from Windows Phone 7 — Microsoft’s latest operating system for smartphones. Instead of a standard start menu and toolbar, the start screen features a series of live tiles which show shortcuts to apps, widgets, and status updates from various applications.

Like Windows Phone 7, the Metro style UI on Windows 8 is meant to be touched with your fingertips, and apps designed with the Metro style in mind will be as well. But it turns out that the similarities aren’t just skin deep. Developers will be able to write Metro apps using the same tools used to write Windows Phone 7 apps.

Windows chief Steve Sinofsky showed this week how developers could build a Windows 8 app using Silverlight, for instance, and by changing a single line of code the app can run on Windows Phone 7 devices. Silverlight is sort of Microsoft’s answer to Adobe Flash. It’s a technology that can be used to write native apps or web apps that can be run in a browser with the Silverlight plugin.

Interestingly, Microsoft has also decided that the Metro style version of Internet Explorer 10 will no longer support plugins such as Flash or Silverlight, while the traditional desktop version of the browser will. But while some folks are proclaiming that this move heralds the death of Silverlight, it looks like the platform will live on as a development tool for writing cross-platform apps for Windows and Windows Phone devices.

Windows Phone 7 still trails iOS and Android in market share, but the fact that some of the development tools for Windows and Windows Phone will be the same could seriously help increase the number of apps available for both platforms. Windows 8 won’t officially launch until next year, but developers looking to get their feet wet may be able to start out coding apps for Windows Phone 7 and later they can port those apps to run on Windows computers once Microsoft’s new desktop (and tablet) operating system is available.

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