Microsoft upgrades Windows Phone SDK for low-cost smartphones

Two included emulators allow developers to see how their apps perform on phones with different memory capacities

Microsoft has released Windows Phone SDK 7.1.1, which allows developers to customize their apps for cheaper Windows Phones with less memory, and also run the development kit on Windows 8 machines, the company said in a blog post.

Initially, all Windows Phone devices had 512MB of RAM. The first to ship with just 256MB will be Nokia's Lumia 610, which will cost €189 (US$252) and be available in the second quarter, Nokia said when the phone was announced at Mobile World Congress in February.

But the downgrade comes with a cost as well as a saving: Microsoft has identified that 5 percent of existing applications will not run properly on devices with 256MB of RAM, it said in February.

To see how applications perform, the new SDK has two emulators: one for phones with 512MB of memory and one for phones with 256MB of memory, according to Microsoft.

Microsoft has also blogged about what to think about when developing apps for the phones.

Developers that don't want their application made available on phones with 256MB of memory can indicate this in the manifest file describing the app's properties, Microsoft said. The company has already blocked the apps it determined wouldn't run well on low-memory phones.

The Windows Phone SDK 7.1.1 can also run on the Windows 8 Consumer Preview release. That will allow them to develop mobile apps using the Windows Phone SDK and Windows 8 apps using Visual Studio 11, with both development environments running side by side on the same PC.

Visual Studio 11 is also under development, and Microsoft released a beta version in February.

While the SDK runs on the consumer preview of Windows 8, it won't be officially supported until the final version of the operating system is released, Microsoft said. It also warned that developers are likely to see a performance degradation in the emulator if they have enabled Hyper-V.

Officially, Microsoft isn't commenting on when Windows 8 will arrive, but the operating system is expected to be released this year.

The development kit is available for download now from Microsoft's Download Center. Developers can choose between 10 languages including English, Spanish, Chinese (both traditional and simplified) and Russian.

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