Hungry Hamster
Above: "Hungry Hamster' running on the Windows Store simulator

In follow up to our test port to BlackBerry Playbook, we decided to also try out Microsoft's Windows Store. Targeting Windows Store gets you onto Windows RT, the Windows 8 Store and close to Windows 8 Phone.

The tool chain and APIs are as expected, of very high quality. Visual Studio Express is free and all you need, although the quite expensive Professional version includes valuable features such as graphics debugging (formerly PIX). Not only is C++ is supported, it has some powerful new features such as automatic reference counting, simple job management and lambdas (closures). The 3D graphics API is DirectX 11 and there is a powerful set of APIs for audios. Most of the standard C runtime is available, including standard file IO (with some limitations). Documentation, white papers, tutorials, etc. are all excellent.

For the test port, we used the same code base used on Playbook. In general the port was quite straightforward, however to took more than twice the time as the port to Playbook. Converting from OpenGL to DirectX 11 was the largest effort. DirectX 11 is an very capable API that maps well onto modern graphics hardware, however for simple rendering such as we had, DX11 requires much more code and is far less forgiving. Visual Studio Professional's Graphics Debugger is highly recommended.

Overall, the experience was very good. The robustness and quality of the tool chain goes a long way towards mitigating any negatives over the effort required for graphics conversion.