Windows 8 and WinRT

At the recent //build conference Microsoft has presented Windows 8 bits, and offered its first bits, by publishing a “Developer Preview” version, available for download at the MSDN site.

The big change in Win8 is the shift to “Metro-style” apps, targeted especially to mobile and tablet devices. Steven Sinofsky explained the design goal for Windows 8 as “no compromises”, in the sense that Windows 8 will support the old desktop interface together with the new, immersive, Metro-style interface.

Desktop apps will continue to be written with the technologies used today (Win32, .NET, WPF, and so on). Metro apps are written either using HTML5/JavaScript or using an XAML-based, totally unmanaged GUI framework, codenamed Jupiter. While unmanaged, Jupiter offers an API very similar to WPF and Silverlight.

In both cases, at the foundation of Metro apps lays WinRT (the Windows runtime). This is new runtime, also totally unmanaged, based on COM and written in C++, which targets C++, .NET and JavaScript clients.

From a purely technical point of view, WinRT is the most fascinating aspect of Windows 8. Heavily inspired by .NET, it brings some of the strengths of the managed world to unmanaged C++.

Having downloaded and installed the first prerelease I feel like a kid with a new toy to break and put back together. What I hope to do in these pages is to present a few notes of my little exploration of Win8 and its new runtime.

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