Windows 8 Media Platform; PNG Support for Pinned Sites Icon; Windows 8 Dev Center; Listing Desktop App and Introduction to the Windows Store

Microsoft says it is working on designing the Windows 8 media platform to add better audio and video playback in both Windows 8 and Windows RT. "Engaging with rich media--whether watching a movie, video chatting, or playing music--is one of the most prevalent and enjoyable things we do on our PCs today. In a blog […]

Windows 8 Media Platform

Microsoft says it is working on designing the Windows 8 media platform to add better audio and video playback in both Windows 8 and Windows RT. "Engaging with rich media--whether watching a movie, video chatting, or playing music--is one of the most prevalent and enjoyable things we do on our PCs today. In a blog post, Scott Manchester, group program manager for Media Platform and Technologies team, details a bit about the work that the company has done in Windows 8 to make it rich variety of multimedia activities possible, and to extend those capabilities to third party developers through an extensible media platform."

"The Windows 8 media platform is designed to deliver a fluid and responsive media experience with great battery life," Manchester notes. "We've engineered Windows to give you a great user experience across a broad set of scenarios, including voice communication, audio and video playback, and streaming content. As media applications continue to evolve, the media platform in Windows will enable these experiences to shine across all Windows 8 PCs."

He said, they had three goals in mind when designing the Windows 8 media platform:

  1. Maximize performance. We wanted media playback to be fast and responsive, enabling the full power of the hardware while maximizing battery life on each PC.
  2. Simplify development and extensibility. We wanted to provide a platform that could be easily extended and tailored for a given application, setting the stage for innovative custom media apps on Windows.
  3. Enable a breadth of scenarios. A high performance, high efficiency, extensible platform can then enable a wide range of music, video, communications, and other multimedia apps.

During the course of the post, Manchester offers information on resource usage, codecs support, video orientation, streaming capabilities, audio transitions, stereo 3D video, support for displaying content on multiple screens, platform's capabilities to adapt, and the like.

"With Windows 8 running on a Windows 8 certified PC, video decoding for common media formats will be offloaded to a dedicated hardware subsystem for media. This allows us to significantly lower CPU usage, resulting in smoother video playback and a longer battery life, as the dedicated media hardware is much more efficient than the CPU at media decoding," he said.

This improves all scenarios that require video decoding, including playback, transcoding, encoding, and capture scenarios.

In addition to video offload, the improvements to webcam capture are made possible by the move from a DirectShow Capture API to the new, far more optimized Windows 8 Media Foundation Capture API. "We've also improved software encoders for H.264 and VC-1 content so that encoding using the CPU (when it makes sense) is both fast and power-efficient," he said.

Windows 8 will offer a consistent, high-quality, hardware-accelerated, power efficient media communication experience on PCs designed for Windows 8. "We've made significant investments in the media platform to improve pipeline latency, and with added support for H.264 cameras, users will be able to communicate with friends and family in high-fidelity HD video."

Windows 8 has excellent support for MPEG-4, most typically comprised of H.264 video and AAC audio. Several popular codecs, including Divx and Xvid, implement the MPEG-4 Part 2 standard, so many of these files play great in Metro style apps.

Windows 8 Medic Codecs

He said, we've invested heavily for Windows 8 is in allowing seamless playback of premium content. And, that the Windows 8 will support adaptive bitrate streaming for such services along with the PlayReady feature that enables content protection for both downloaded and streamed videos.

Also, in Windows 8, Play To makes it even easier and simpler to share personal media collections and HTML5 media with Play-To-enabled devices at home. "We have also focused heavily on making it easy for developers to use Play To in their apps and websites - the functionality is available to all Metro style apps via the Play To contract. The XBox 360 will support Play To in an update later this year," he said.

Windows is enabling support for new content types for consumption and increased flexibility for content creation and communication. Stereo 3D (S3D), accessibility, and DSP effects are three examples of how we are enabling great multimedia experiences on Windows 8. In Windows 8, S3D support is available on DirectX 10 or higher GPUs with compatible drivers.

PNG Support for Pinned Sites Icon in Windows 8

Microsoft's IE team today, describes how site developers can provide a site icon (favicon) for their sites' pinned site tiles on the Windows 8 Start screen. And, that they've added the ability to provide a PNG tile image and specify the tile's background color.

"Internet Explorer 10 enables Web developers to create high-quality site-centric visuals for pinned site tiles, allowing sites' brands to be better reflected on the Windows 8 Start screen and look more visually integrated with the rest of the app and content tiles. Developers need provide only one high-quality icon that Windows 8 will scale as needed for devices running at different resolutions," notes Rahul Lalmalani, Program Manager, Internet Explorer.

Sites can also share notifications and offer jump lists for quickly navigating around the site. See Pinned Sites in Windows 8 for how.

As, the final version of Windows 8 approaches, Microsoft in another blog post said that they will "increase developer access to the Windows Store."

Carla Di Franco, Program Manager on the Application and Device Compatibility team, said, "We recommend that you design your app listing to entice users to get your app, and there are many ways to do this in the Windows Store, while maintaining the details on your acquisition page. We also have a lot of great guidelines provided in the Metro style app developer center for describing apps in the Windows Store. We encourage you to use these resources as you get ready to list your app."

Windows Store

The post explains how desktop apps will appear in the Windows Store to customers, how the submission process works for developers, and how submitting a desktop app differs from submitting a Metro style app.

"In a nutshell, desktop apps are apps that run on the Windows desktop and don't follow the Metro style. Now that the Windows Store shows listings for desktop apps, customers can search for them, browse through descriptive information about them, and acquire them from the developer's website using a link provided in the product description page in the Windows Store."

"When you submit a desktop app to the Store, you don't upload the app itself. Instead, the first thing you need to do is run the Windows App Certification Kit. Next you send the results generated by the kit to us. After we've approved this results file, you can submit the app listing to the Store," he explains. This listing contains:

  • Descriptive information about your app (what we call your app listing data)
  • A URL to a site where customers can acquire the app

In general, here's what you do to get a desktop app listed in the Store:

  1. Sign up for a Hardware/Desktop Dashboard Company Account.
  2. Using this account, submit the results of the Windows App Certification Kit.
  3. After we approve the results, submit the app to the Windows Store.
  4. Sign up as a company for a Windows Store developer account, using the same account as in step 1.
  5. Approved apps that have passed the Windows App Certification Kit will show up in the desktop dashboard and are ready to submit to the Windows Store.
  6. Create listing information for the Windows Store, and submit it for Windows Store Certification.
  7. Once the app has passed Windows Store Certification, it will be listed in the Windows Store.

Microsoft also in an hour-long video, giving an introduction to Windows 8 development and the Windows Store.

Introduction to the Windows 8 Platform and the Windows Store:

"Windows 8 is Windows re-imagined! Get an understanding of the platform design tenets, the programming language choices, and the integration points with the operating system and across Metro-style apps. Microsoft also discuss enormous opportunity for developers to make crazy money with the Windows Store. And, walk you with the resources to begin writing Metro applications for Windows 8."

Finally, Microsoft also talked about the revamped Windows Dev Center. "Windows Dev Center is the one place where you can find all the info and resources you need to get going. Whether you're new to development, seeking inspiration for the next great app, or you're simply stuck and need help," wrote Marzena Makuta, Senior Editor, Windows.

The Windows Dev Center is broken into 4 sections: Metro style apps, Internet Explorer, Desktop, and Hardware. You can access them all from dev.windows.com. "All these sections are structured similarly, with a nod toward the important Metro style design principle of content over chrome," Makuta writes.

Windows Dev Center

You can find it here. And, the developers tools here.

If you need help designing appealing Metro style apps, download design assets. "These are .psd files for controls, layouts, components, and project templates to help you lay out your UI."

Also, check out the samples gallery or download the sample app pack if you want all of them at once. You can sell your apps in multiple languages in markets around the world, as explained in the Windows Store markets.

Another good source of deep technical info is White papers for Metro style apps.