Tag Archives: Tablet

Join the Siege – Age of Empires: Castle Siege now available for Windows and Windows Phone!

A few weeks ago, Microsoft Studios and Smoking Gun Interactive announced a new Age of Empires game for Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 – Age of Empires: Castle Siege. Join the Siege today by downloading the game from the Windows Store and from the Windows Phone Store.

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Age of Empires: Castle Siege brings all the strategy and combat Age of Empires is renowned for along with a fast-paced experience that’s great with both touch as well as mouse and keyboard. Choose from one of several civilizations, expand your castle into a massive city, defend your walls against marauding empires, and when your newly trained army is ready, lay siege to other castles built by online opponents. You can connect with your friends on Xbox Live and battle friends across devices running Windows 8 or Windows Phone 8. Your game program will also roam across your own Windows devices and is always saved to your Gamertag. For more on Age of Empires: Castle Siege – see their blog post here.

New Dev Center lifetime registration and benefits program

This month we are releasing several new features to enhance your development experience: the lifetime Dev Center account, and the new Dev Center Benefits program. I’d like to encourage you to visit the Dev Center and take advantage of the new benefits available to you.

We also continue to invest in our advertising platform for apps, and I’d like to share several new features and capabilities, whose early results show that ad revenue in Windows Phone apps is increasing at a faster pace than before.

Lifetime Dev Center registration starts today

As we continue to execute on the vision to integrate the Windows and Windows Phone developer experiences, we have taken another step by moving to a one-time lifelong Dev Center registration fee.

Starting this week, Windows Dev Center requires only a one-time registration payment, which grants developers the ability to submit apps to both the Windows Store and Windows Phone Store, with no annual renewal fee.

This change is effective immediately. Each of our 600,000+ registered developers will no longer need to pay any additional fees to maintain their account. It’s also a very good time for developers new to the platform to get a Dev Center account and start submitting apps.

Lifetime Dev Center subscriptions

Dev Center Benefits program for registered and new developers

We have also heard your feedback to add more capabilities that help you develop and promote your apps.

We listened and are very pleased to have launched two weeks ago the Dev Center Benefits program. The Dev Center Benefits program is designed to accelerate your success on our platform by helping you develop, improve and market your apps with a variety of offers and tools and is available to all registered developers worldwide of all experience levels and platforms.

Dev Center benefits

There are three offer packages in the program, tailored by experience level:

  • Explorer, gets you started quickly with design and architecture guidance and consulting help from a Microsoft expert, Gift Cards, and Dev Center registration fee.
  • Expert, helps you reach more users faster with advertising offers, a publishing contract, and more.
  • Master, unlocks VIP access to developer marketing and support, SDK early access and more.

Developers move from Explorer to Expert, then to Master as your apps get more downloads, higher revenue, better ratings, and improved app experiences. The offers help your app in each of these areas.

The program is open to all registered Windows developers, as well as developers that want to bring their apps to Windows or Windows Phone. Take advantage of the Dev Center Benefits program today.

Improved monetization and performance for ads in apps

Advertising in apps is a key source of revenue for many developers. We are working hard to increase the revenue that developers can earn from ads in their apps, and I want to share how some of this hard work will help you with your apps:

  • Last month, pubCenter launched custom reports that developers can use to analyze their ad performance by market.
  • Earlier this month, Microsoft Advertising released several systems improvements that allow Windows Phone ads to be matched better with apps. Initial results are very encouraging, with +50% higher total ad revenue for Windows Phone apps. In fact, last week we saw the highest total weekly Windows Phone Store ad revenue so far this year.
  • Also in September, streamlined payout process, resulting in more than 50% faster payout. Any developer that has reached the payout threshold will receive payment earlier than in previous months.
  • Yesterday, announced that Windows and Windows Phone Ads-in-Apps inventory is now available on the Microsoft Advertising Exchange in 10 markets. This opens up more screens for advertisers to run campaigns globally, helping to increase the fill rate in the future.

In order to take advantage of all the additional improvements, make sure your app is using the latest version of the Microsoft Ad SDK, and take a look at the latest guidance that Microsoft Advertising created to help improve app monetization.

We understand that developers often use multiple ad providers, so I also want to share that Smaato released a new ad SDK for Windows Phone 8.1 XAML, which supports Windows Runtime XAML. This is the first third party SDK developed exclusively for Windows Phone 8.1. Smaato now offers ad SDKs for all your Windows Phone projects.

So we encourage you to register for a developer account, enroll in the Dev Center Benefits program, and update your apps to the latest Microsoft Ad SDK.

We welcome your feedback.

 

WinJS Everywhere

This post was authored by Rachel Nizhnikova, Program Manager, Windows Ecosystem & Frameworks Team

The Windows Library for JavaScript (WinJS) project is pleased to announce the general availability of its first release – WinJS 3.0 – since the open source project began at //BUILD 2014. The WinJS 3.0 release offers customers:

  • Cross-browser/cross-platform support spanning the most popular desktop and mobile browsers, as well as HTML-based app environments like Apache Cordova
  • JavaScript modularization giving developers the control to optimize their performance and load just the modules of the WinJS library they need for their web site or app
  • Improved universal control designs delivering a more seamless experience for end users across Phone, Tablet, and PC device form factors of various screen sizes and input types

The release includes a number of improvements based on issues and pull requests brought forth by members of the GitHub community. We’d like to extend a special thanks to everyone who has contributed to the project already in this way.

You can start using WinJS.3.0 today via your favorite package manager (Bower, npm, or NuGet), via CDN reference, by downloading a zip from our website, or by cloning the repository to build your own copy off GitHub.

Cross-platform capabilities and design improvements

The WinJS team focused the last five months on making WinJS 3.0 run seamlessly across platforms and browsers. This means that you can now use WinJS not only for your Universal Windows Apps, but also for your web sites, and when building HTML-based mobile apps across various platforms using technologies like Apache Cordova. See our wiki for WinJS’s full matrix of browser and operating system support.

Major items we addressed in the 3.0 release include cross-platform infrastructure improvements for layout, keyboarding, string localization, and support for right-to-left languages; a comprehensive unit test suite that runs on our components for major operating systems and browsers; and design updates to the custom WinJS controls and intrinsic HTML controls ensure a consistent user experience on many platforms and browsers.

These design updates include:

Adding a font containing symbols to the WinJS repository so that symbols used in AppBar, NavBar, FlipView, Ratings, Hub, and SearchBox now render on many operating systems and browsers. See the example below of the Ratings control.

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ListView now renders the Grid and List layouts on all platforms. The CSS Grid dependency was removed so that ListView with groups is now supported.

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AppBar now has a visual affordance to invoke and dismiss the AppBar so that it no longer relies exclusively on edge gestures

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FlipView navigation buttons are always displayed on platforms that don’t support CSS Scroll Snap Points.

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Input range, the intrinsic HTML slider control and other intrinsic controls, got a cross-platform facelift.

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NavBar has an improved layout since the dependency on CSS Grid was removed.

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Searchbox suggestions now display on many platforms since a shim was created to support the suggestions API.

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Toggle switch no longer takes a dependency on the intrinsic HTML slider and is fully functional and visually appealing on all platforms.

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Pivot now has buttons on either side of the header so it can be used with a mouse and displays nicely on all screen sizes as opposed to only smaller mobile screen sizes.

Modularization

WinJS 3.0 is now divided into several dozen modules. You can continue to use the entire library with all modules, as in the past, or you can now make a custom build of WinJS with just the modules you need. This gives you the control to optimize your performance and bandwidth usage.

It’s especially handy when using WinJS for a web site or when using it alongside other popular libraries like AngularJS or Knockout.  WinJS was designed from the ground up to have good architectural layering and interoperability with other libraries, and now it’s easy to make builds of WinJS that include just those layers you are using.

For example, if you want to use only an AppBar in your app, you can now make a custom WinJS build that contains the relevant modules for AppBar – excluding all other WinJS JavaScript – and then use it with a library like Knockout for binding.

See our GitHub wiki page for instructions on how to make a custom build of WinJS.

We made our own custom build to improve the performance of our website try.buildwinjs.com. The table below provides data on a handful of the custom builds you can make and the respective sizes of the JavaScript code associated with them:

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Improved universal control designs

In addition to cross-platform updates, we’ve begun the process of converging our library so Phone, Tablet, and PC scenarios will be universally supported by one single WinJS release.

Towards that goal, animations that were previously available only for the Phone are now available for across form factors in WinJS 3.0. The Pivot control which was previously available only on Phone, is now also supported across all form factors, too. It’s been enhanced so it can be navigated with a mouse and keyboard, and scales across all screen sizes.

Stay tuned for further improvements along this direction in the future!

Moving forward

The team members on the WinJS project by MS Open Tech want to share a sincere thanks for the warm welcome we’ve received from the GitHub community and the outpouring of interest and support.

Together, we can continue to build WinJS as a great open source JavaScript library that accommodates to the needs of web developers everywhere and helps all of us to create delightful, highly-polished user experiences that can share code across web sites and apps. We encourage you to submit pull requests and file issues through GitHub or via the “open an issue” links in our website.

Check out our Facebook page and follow us on twitter @buildwinjs where we’ll post major announcements about our progress. We look forward to connecting with you!

3D Builder App R5 Release Enhances Design and Print Features

The 3D Builder Windows Store app was created to make loading, manipulating and printing 3D models easy and fun. Today, Microsoft has released a major update of 3D Builder that brings a host of new features and enhancements, including a new cloud printing partnership with 3D Systems.

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UP Plus 2 3D Printer and Dell M3800 Touch Workstation Laptop demonstrating 3D Builder R5

In the R5 version of 3D Builder, the following new features and enhancements are introduced:

  • Cloud Print (buy a print online from 3D Systems)
  • Overhauled main control, new selection control
  • New trophy parts 3D models
  • Windows RT support
  • Save as STL

This list of updates is too exhaustive to cover in detail, but I’ll talk to some highlights below and also give you a walkthrough in the video at the end of this post.

Cloud Print

Now you can print 3D models from the 3D Builder app without having to own a 3D printer! By clicking on the “Buy Print” button on the advanced options bar, you can seamlessly order a 3D print and have it mailed to you. This new service is offered in partnership with 3D Systems, through its consumer cloud printing service Cubify.

3D Builder buy print button
The new Buy Print button in 3D Builder R5 is integrated with 3D Systems’ Cubify service

When you buy a print from 3D Systems’ cloud services, you gain access to expanded material options beyond what is offered by typical consumer 3D printers. With this service, you can select materials including opaque and frosted plastics, metallic and mixed plastics, full-color “Colorstone” and even ceramics. After ordering, 3D Systems will print your 3D model and ship it within 2 weeks. For more information about the 3D Systems cloud printing feature please visit Cubify.

Cubify ceramic 3D print
Ceramic 3D print from Cubify – Image courtesy 3D Systems

Enhanced Controls

The Main Control is the primary interaction UI that exposes the most frequently used features in 3D Builder. For the R5 release, the main control has been totally overhauled with new optimizations for touch and usability:

3D Builder Main Control (default)
Main Control collapsed view

From the selected Move control above (blue) we have the following moving in a clockwise direction: Move, Rotate, Scale, Redo, Edit Mode (expanded), Advanced/Print, Object Mode (expanded), Undo.

The expanded version of the default (Object) mode exposes an outer ring on the main control as seen here:

Main Control Object Mode Expanded
Main Control expanded Object Mode

From the double triangle (Clone) button we have the following moving in a clockwise direction: Clone, Delete, Lay Flat, Center View, Ungroup, and Group.

There’s also a new expanded Edit Mode built into the main control:

3D Builder Edit Mode Expanded
Main Control expanded Edit Mode

From the star button (Emboss) button we have the following moving in a clockwise direction: Emboss, Plane Cut, Color (new for R5), Boolean Subtract, Boolean Intersection, Boolean Union.

The new Main Control in 3D Builder R5 makes it easy to drill-down on particular tasks and to keep the interface as clean and useable as possible. This clean design is especially useful since more and more features have been added to the app during the last several releases.

There’s also a feature called the Selection Control. With this new control you can easily manage the selection state of multiple parts on the virtual build platform.

3D Builder Selection Control
New Selection Control in 3D Builder R5

The Selection Control rotates through parts that are on the virtual build platform either automatically (as you tap/click on parts) or manually (by clicking/tapping and dragging in a circular motion). In the center of this control is an expand/collapse button, and at the bottom are select all and de-select all buttons. After using R5 for a while I realized how useful this new control is!

One of my favorite new features in 3D Builder R5 is the enhanced model manipulation functions, including move, scale, and rotate. In R5 you can drag arrows that are rendered right on or next to the model to use these functions. In prior versions of 3D Builder, you would need to use the Main Control (Ex: manipulation of rotation angle) to control these parameters. This new experience offers much more precision and is much more intuitive as well.

3D Builder Rotation Tool
3D Builder R5 enhanced rotation mode

New Trophy Parts

3D Builder includes a library of built-in parts that are sorted by category. A new category of parts for 3D Builder R5 is a collection of trophy 3D models that you can use to create your very own customized trophy. I demonstrate the creation of a trophy from multiple trophy parts in the video at the end of this post. Want to make a cake topper? You can easily scale the trophy down. Want to make an 18” tall trophy with your MakerBot Z18? Just scale it up with one easy dragging motion.

Trophy 3D printed using 3D Builder R5
Trophy 3D printed on the UP Plus 2 3D Printer with custom embossed text

Video Walkthrough

If you are curious about 3D models and 3D printing, you should definitely try out 3D Builder R5. You can get more information and install by visiting the official 3D Builder app store page.

I’m off to build and print more 3D models!

You can follow me on Twitter HERE.

Great apps and games with impressive, new updates

One of the best things about apps for Windows and Windows Phone is that they’re always getting better with updates. Updates give you more features, faster action, more efficiency and more fun. Here are some favorite apps and the lowdown on their most recent updates – so you can download them today.

miCoach train & run (Free, Windows Phone)

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This handy app turns your Windows Phone into your own personal trainer, with real-time voice coaching that puts you through your paces whether you’re exercising indoors or out. Now miCoach is updated for Adidas miCoach, has a new voice package with Andrea Petkovic, SensorCore SDK integration to track your stride rate as you run, and other fixes and improvements.

Fhotoroom (Free, Windows, Windows Phone)

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Image editing and sharing come together in this clever, powerful photo app with a range of incredible tools and sharing capabilities. With this update, enjoy nine new frames, refreshed frames previews, an improved user interface and user experience, and other fixes and improvements.

Asphalt 8: Airborne (Free, Windows, Windows Phone)

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Here’s the arcade racing game that’s become a favorite of a nation of gamers, with high-speed thrills and dynamic, aerial stunts. Now, you can discover the treasures of the Middle East on exotic test tracks in the amazing new Dubai location, get behind the wheel of the Mercedes-Benz Biome concept car or Nissan GT-R NISMO (five new cars in all), and test your driving skills with 74 high-octane events!

World at Arms (Free, Windows, Windows Phone)

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The free world is at war against an evil attacker, and in this all-out, modern-combat strategy game you battle from countryside to the skies to the ocean’s depths on a deep solo campaign. This update lets you mechanize your army with the new Prometheus super robot, adds more power for the Atlas and Hyperion fleets, and includes multiple user interface and gameplay improvements.

Find all these great apps and games in their newly updated versions in the Windows Store and Windows Phone Store today!

Responding to app reviews: benefits and guidelines

Last April, we announced the possibility for developers to respond to user customer reviews, and last month we completed the rollout of this feature. Developers who see the “respond” option in Dev Center are ready to respond to customer reviews of Windows Phone apps.

We have seen very quick adoption of this feature, starting with a large increase in use after the August 12 rollout:

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Number of daily responses to user reviews

 

Impact of responding to user reviews

A question we get asked often is what is the benefit of responding to customer reviews? Today I’d like to share a few results that show how engaging with customers by responding to their reviews can drive increased satisfaction and better overall ratings.

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Updated guidelines

Responding to reviews in an inappropriate manner can result in user complaints. After multiple complaints, your ability to respond could even be revoked. To help you understand how to use this feature, we added more detail to the guidelines this week:
1) Don’t include any marketing content or ads in your response: your reviewer is already your customer.

2) Don’t promote other apps or services in your response

3) Your response should be directly related to the specific app and review. Duplicating the same response to a large number of users is not allowed if the canned response doesn’t address the same question

4) Don’t include any profane, aggressive, personal, or malicious comments in your response. Always be polite and keep in mind that happy customers will likely be your app’s biggest promoters.

As a reminder, attempts to manipulate ratings are not permitted under the Application Developer Agreement. Therefore, you should not offer any type of compensation, including digital app items, to users for changing the app rating.

Try it out

If you have not responded to any user reviews of your Windows Phone apps, try it now: go to Windows Dev Center, select the Dashboard for Windows Phone, then select one of your published apps and look at the reviews screen. If you see the “Respond” link in the lower right corner of the review, write your response in the text box and then press Send.

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Note that you might not see the Respond link for all reviews. For example, you won’t be able to respond to reviews that were created on devices outside the U.S. that aren’t running Windows Phone 8.1, or to reviews written by customers who have chosen not to receive review responses.

Please keep sending your feedback, so we can continue to enhance this capability.

 

Announcing the Windows Dev Center Partner Program

If you’ve done any app or game development in the last 10 years, you certainly recognize the criticality and power of third party components. With these components you can add all sorts of amazing functionality to your app with little to no additional coding. For example,

 
• If you’ve created any type of app that consumes data from a web service, you’ve probably heard of Json.NET, a popular framework that gives you powerful JSON serialization/deserialization functionality with high performance that is available for commercial use.

• If you are a C#/XAML developer who is a fan of architectural patterns, you’ve probably heard of the MVVM Light Toolkit, a set of components that make it easier to implement an architecturally pure separation of logic from presentation in your application, thus potentially enhancing supportability, testability, and the lifespan of your code.

• Finally, if you’ve done any game development recently, you are likely aware of Unity, a popular set of tools and runtimes that make it easier to develop outstanding games and deliver them to multiple computing platforms.

This is but a small sampling of the kinds of middleware out there. There’s middleware to help you build and deploy mobile web services of your own, to help you instrument your app so that you can get telemetry on what your users are doing, as well as middleware to let you leverage rich monetization models and payment methods. It’s not an exaggeration to state that middleware is perhaps one of the most enabling components of any app platform.

Microsoft is well aware of the criticality of offering a rich set of middleware solutions. From the very beginning, we’ve strived to encourage and incent third-party middleware providers to deliver offerings for the Windows platform. This week, we’re taking our support to the next level with the announcement of our Windows Dev Center Partner Program. This program will give middleware providers devices, software, co-marketing, event support, and more. If you are a developer of middleware offerings, apply today to qualify for these benefits.

If you are a developer looking for third party middleware available to accelerate your app or game development for Windows, check out our new partner directory, where you’ll find an extensive and growing list of some of the most compelling middleware partners targeting Windows today.

At Microsoft we’re more focused than ever on creating the most compelling, accessible, powerful, and overall enjoyable app development platform, and we recognize the critical role middleware plays in such an ecosystem. This new program is designed to promote that goal. Check it out today.

Bing Maps Preview app for Windows 8.1 updated with new public transportation experience

The Bing Maps Preview app for Windows 8.1 is receiving an update today that brings a new public transportation trial experience to help you plan your journey via bus, train or subway in just a few short clicks. This experience will be available in select cities in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. The Bing Maps Preview app will now give you route options, estimated departure and arrival times overlaid on top of the apps beautiful maps experience. If the next bus you’re needing to catch is coming up in a couple of minutes, then app will let you know you better get moving.

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For more on how this new public transportation experience works in the Bing Maps Preview app for Windows 8.1, head on over and read this post from the Bing Blog.

Don’t have the Bing Maps Preview app installed? Download it here from the Windows Store. The Bing Maps Preview app also currently supports incredible 3D views of these cities. You can read my post here for more on the Bing Maps Preview app.

Extend your App Studio app’s reach with Azure Mobile Services

Windows App Studio Beta allows you to download your complete source code package to be edited in Visual Studio, providing countless opportunities for the types of apps that can be built. Adding Azure Mobile Services to your app allows you to host your own database collections to increase size and capabilities. In this post, Josh Drew discusses the benefits of App Studio and integrating an Azure Mobile Services database into your App Studio app.

Windows App Studio Beta is a great online tool to get a Windows Phone app or Windows Store app built in no time. With social connections, RSS feeds and data collections, it is robust enough to build the app of your choice. With a simple drag-and-drop interface, along with a few configurations, an app can be created and published to the Store in very little time.

The other benefit to Windows Phone App Studio is the ability to download the source code to extend your app. Adding new styles, XAML controls or extending your app to consume Azure Mobile Services can all be done by opening the solution in Visual Studio.

Adding Azure Mobile Services to your app is the next logical progression when extending your app, especially if you are currently leveraging the Data Collection service provided by the online tool. Adding Azure to Windows Phone App Studio projects is straightforward, whether you are adding more records to the database, integrating with an existing database or just using it for the first time.

Jump into the tutorial and add Azure to your app.

Introducing Win2D: GPU accelerated 2D graphics programming in the Windows Runtime

This blog was written by Shawn Hargreaves, Principal Dev Lead at Microsoft.

Today I’d like to share some information about work we are doing to make hardware accelerated 2D graphics APIs available to C# developers.

Win2D is a Windows Runtime API we’re working on to expose the power of hardware accelerated Direct2D graphics to Universal App (Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1) developers – very much a work in progress. The Windows Runtime supports several major programming languages (including C# and C++) to allow developers to leverage their existing skills and assets, provide a thoughtful and consistent API surface and be deeply integrated into the developer tool chain. Today, building a Windows Store app using DirectX requires native C++ and DirectX APIs that have been made available to the Windows Runtime. This model is more complex than the usual Windows or Windows Phone app because it provides flexibility and access to system resources at the expense of simplicity. As a result we have received consistent requests from the developer community for access to DirectX through C#, graphics solutions similar to System.Drawing, XNA and SharpDX. These solutions have different audiences, ranging from developers of line of business apps to 2D and 3D game developers. System.Drawing provides immediate mode 2D rendering in GDI+ through .NET but is not hardware accelerated and is unable to keep up performance-wise for today’s graphics needs. Win2D is our attempt to give developers more of what they’re asking for.

Win2D’s design makes it easier for a C#/C++ developer to use the full capabilities of the Direct2D API without it feeling like a walled garden. These APIs can be used with XAML to produce beautiful graphics apps with rich UI. The API is in the early stages of development and we have a minimal set of 2D drawing functionality already implemented. By no means is the API in its current state a complete representation of Direct2D in Windows Runtime. We believe that releasing the API early, even if it does not have all the Direct2D features, is useful. As a developer and potential user of the API you get the chance to influence the API design early and ultimately help build the best C#/C++ Windows Runtime 2D immediate mode rendering API.

Get your hands on Win2D here: https://github.com/Microsoft/Win2D

It may be useful to understand some of our design principles as you explore Win2D and start to formulate your feedback:

Principle #1: Our design philosophy states anything that is possible with the Win2D should also be possible with the underlying DirectX API. This means that no new “feature work” will be added to Win2D that is not already present in the native API. This keeps us honest about the role of the Win2D work as a means to expose the existing functionality to a broader set of developers.

Principle #2: Our second design philosophy is to provide a surface area that is much easier to use without being a sandbox. This means that a C# developer can access native DirectX APIs when need be or can accommodate already existing DirectX code in a Windows Store app.

Principle #3: Our third design philosophy is to share our code and progress with the open source community. Most of the interesting choices are made in the design of the Windows Runtime Direct2D APIs and not in their implementation. For this reason, we want to engage early with the developer community and gather feedback iteratively. We will share our feature backlog with the community to provide insight into upcoming features and their order. If you would like to see a feature light up early, we want to know about it.

If you want to write your next 2D game, data visualization app, image filter or anything else under the sun that requires 2D immediate mode rendering in C#/C++, we’d love to hear what you think of Win2D. As of today you can begin to combine your rendered content using Win2D with flexible user interface framework offered by XAML. This interop is now made seamless instead of requiring native C++ (and access to smart pointers and the C++ component extensions).

You can follow the progress of the project and learn more about it on its blog: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/win2d/