Windows Phone 8.1 – Microsoft quietly sends invites for confidential SDK Dev Preview program

Windows Phone 8.1, the next milestone for Microsoft’s mobile OS, is rumored to be announced April 2 in San Francisco, California. That’s only 7 weeks away, putting Microsoft on a tight schedule to line up all of their eggs for the big reveal.

One of those milestones is to open up the Software Development Kit (SDK) to developers for some initial feedback.  Windows Phone Central has learned that Microsoft is now inviting a limited number of developers, under NDA, to begin early testing of the new 8.1 operating system and its SDK.

SDK image for illustrative purposes only

SDKs are the tools used by developers to design apps for the OS, leveraging new capabilities, including screens resolutions, APIs, or new features like the previously leaked Action Center and ‘intelligent’ notifications. Getting feedback from developers on those tools and any errors helps mitigate any initial launch bugs that may have been overlooked by ‘dogfooding’ the SDK internally at Microsoft.

Developers who agree to the NDA are of course forbidden to talk about the developer program, including even its existence or whether they are a part of it. Still, we imagine that as Windows Phone 8.1 gets into more hands, more details of Microsoft’s forthcoming OS will inevitably make its way on to the web, similar to this weekend’s leak of the Action Center.

In addition to the confidential SDK Preview Program, Windows Phone Central can now report that the public Developer Preview Program is slated for an April 2nd announcement at Build. That program, an extension of the current Update 3 preview, will allow regular users to download the early bits of Windows Phone 8.1 on that day (or that week) to their current Windows Phone, bypassing the carrier approval process, which could delay the 8.1 rollout by a few months. While users would get the latest OS, they will however be missing any optimized firmware, which would be updated at a later time.

In response to a media inquiry, Microsoft had the following to say regarding the SDK invites:

“We regularly involve our developer community in a variety of private programs. We have nothing to share broadly about our recent developer outreach.”

Finally, Microsoft seems to be ramping up plans for Windows Phone 8.1 in general, including holding an NDA meeting with partners at the end of February for those who can't attend Mobile World Congress. That meeting will feature a roadmap session and technical briefing on Windows Phone, prepping partners before the expected public announcement in April.


Reader comments

Windows Phone 8.1 – Microsoft quietly sends invites for confidential SDK Dev Preview program



They already did this with the Preview For Developers (which anyone is eligible since dev unlocking a device is free). Software updates straight from MS, no carrier testing required.

Firmware updates require testing because sometimes the firmware can cause issues with the Carriers technology (phone no longer gets 4G, phone drops calls, etc...)

However, MS needs to bake the preview program into the OS.

Yeah, OS updates can do the same thing, your point?

Fun fact: Apple's iOS updates are also more than capable of making things not work, but the carriers let them go ahead.

This whole carriers needing to tests thing properly is bull, Nokia is more than capable of doing it (any company is, really). And if a company does a bad job of bug testing, the market will reflect it, as people will seek out competitors who offer better big testing (you know, capitalism).

This is simply carriers exercising their control over other OEMs (except for one particular precious fruit named company: to defy its will is suicide). Did AT&T really need three months to test GDR2 for the Lumia 920? If they did, then clearly the carriers aren't doing a good job of "testing updates" anyways.

So I reiterate: testing updates is just bull put out by carriers. Nokia (and other OEMs) have more than enough resources to do it. So rather, it's just carriers flaunting the power they posses, by suppressing all OEMs (except for Apple, of course).

Reason why updates go through the carriers is because of warranty . If MS can guarantee that they'll take care of any warranty issue if a phone breaks during the update , the carriers will hand it over to them. Apple is able to circumvent that because the have very few different devices ( Nokia has over 13 different Lumia ) and since their devices sell very good they have a lot of leverage over the carries.

Yes... because we know every piece of firmware made by Nokia is an absolute mess that Nokia has no idea how to fix, but AT&T comes along a makes everything better. Of course.

And I'm sure companies like Samnsung don't sell nearly enough units and aren't at all capable of doing updates on their own. Oh wait...

Apple only gets away with it because AT&T was desperate to be the only carrier to have the iPhone (in the US), and so they let Apple slide with a lot of stuff (such as Apple doing their own updates). Well, the iPhone became a hit, and other carriers became desperate for it. As such, they were willing to bend to Apple's will and give in

I'm sure other OEMs would kill for the power Apple has (Nokia is known for good customer service: do you think they're happy that half of their handset owners can't even get software updates in a reasonable timeframe?). It's just another thing carriers love holding over OEMs heads, especially weaker ones like Nokia.

So I'm sure Nokia would have no problem replacing devices that go a little screwy. Hell, need we forget that, when the Lumia 900 launched, it had this very issue (not connecting to LTE)? So what did Nokia do? They patched things up in a matter of days, and gave all inconvienenced customers $100 credit towards their wireless bills (for up to a month AFTER the bug was fixed).

So don't buy into the bull the carriers try and feed you. They just love exploiting their power The weaker the OEM, they more they love to make them suffer.

Actually, kinpin2131 is closer on target. If an Apple iPhone stops working, people blame apple. Their devices are the same, independant of carriers. But if a Nokia Luma stops getting cell signal, i bet a lot of less tech-savvy people call the carrier. It's complicated. Furthermore, some updates completely ruin phones. The vaporware 4GLTE update for the doomed Lumia 810 for example. Now, this was a while back, but i remember an article somewhere else stating that update never came because carrier testing showed the update broke the cellular radio and Nokia was unable to remedy it at that time.


Now, if Nokia released the exact same device on every carrier, they could probably get away with it. But with carrier variants (521, 810, Icon, 822, etc...), and carrier modifications (additional bands for T-mobile, such as the 925), each phone belongs to the carrier, and is different than another carrier's.


Now carrier's do take their godforsaken time, i'll admit. Testing shouldn't take 4+ months. But testing is still necessary.

Um, 99% of Apple users that have signal problems blame the carrier.

When they were only on ATT, it was ATT jokes from Leno to the Daily Show and 99% of users complaining about ATT.  As they moved to Verizon and others, the carriers still get the brunt of the complaints.


The only time Apple got complaints when it was a hardware issue that could be demonstrated by grabbing the freaking sides of the phone.


Apple stand behind their software. If you have a problem with your iPhone you can take it to an Apple store and get help from the Genius Bar, no matter where you bought it. You can also contact Apple online.


Windows Phone OEMs such as Nokia and Microsoft do not stand behind their products regardless of where purchased. They pass responsibility down the chain, expecting the next layer to pick up the support. This means the carriers have to be prepared to support new versions of the OS and firmware.


Microsoft do this for OEM versions of Windows and Office - if you have a support question, and you purchased the software with a new PC, you're expected to contact your OEM (this is one reason why OEM editions are so much cheaper). You can only call Microsoft for support if you bought a packaged retail product or under a volume licence. Since Windows Phone is only available as an OEM product - you can't buy the Windows Phone software as a retail product - Microsoft will not take end-users calls at all.


In addition, Microsoft and the OEMs have bent to the carriers' demands for customised devices. Different carriers have different versions of firmware (and sometimes the OS) to match their custom devices, even if the device is marketed under the same name by the different carriers. This is less obvious in the US, as most of the devices are available only on specific carriers, and there are no open-market devices. In Europe, Nokia typically have a different variant for each carrier plus an open market 'country variant'. For example, in the UK, there are four variants of the Lumia 820: the country variant, one for O2, one for Vodafone, and one for Everything Everywhere [EE]. The CV, O2 and EE variants each have a different version number of Lumia Black firmware, and I'd expect Vodafone will be different again (they have not yet approved Lumia Black on their variant of the 820).


Apple don't do this. They have seven variants of iPhone 5S around the entire world and only those because of differing network bands and standards (CDMA vs GSM-family 2G and 3G, and different LTE bands). They presumably don't feel the need to create carrier variants to get promotional support.


From a technical perspective, to enable upgrades, it would be more sensible if Microsoft would stop making device variants once they take over Nokia's device business. However, they're in third place, and Android OEMs are perfectly willing to create carrier variants of their devices. It's hard enough to get the carriers to promote Windows Phone anyway, telling them they can't have their own variants is likely to reduce the carriers' promotion budget and activity.

It is one reason I don't jump on to the developer bandwagon. Saw a number of people mention that their developer Black update did not go as planned. Fingers crossed EE are not too many months behind the rest of the pack. In fact, can someone with Twitter or Facebook post the EE accounts a link to this. Might give them a heads up that there is an update coming.

(-625 +625) We need non country + carrier updates, because USA got gdr3 2 months ago but our l620 doesn't have it yet. But some carriers give it months ago, think about that too.

Looking forward to it!
I couldn't have waited 6 months again for the carriers to begin the official release :D

You clearly don't have a clue about how Nokia's updates came to be. Nearly everything in Amber and Black was possible because Microsoft made OS changes to support them in GDR2 and GDR3. Ultra low power mode for glance and its notifications? OS updates in GDR2 enabled it. Same with Bluetooth updates, flip to silence, camera API work to enable Nokia's camera app changes, and on and on. You don't really think Nokia did all of that without any help from MS, do you? Yes, there's a ton of stuff still to be done in WP, but MS isn't just sitting by idly while Nokia does it all.

My guess is that the firmware will be called Lumia C---- something, since the previous updates were Lumia Amber (A) and Lumia Black (B)...and so on. They may be naming alphabetically.

Nope, didn't get it...
But haven't got any extra Sky... eeh
OneDrive storing either, so I guess it makes up...

Check your live mail inbox, I got mine there.

Or just login to Skydrive (aka Onedrive), look up in for "storage" and click "Redeem code" or "Redeem" I don't remember. Code will be genereated automatically if you have a WP (920) and you should see 7GB+20GB=27GB instantly.

Hah, no, I don't work for MS, especially after this story. Also, it's easy to get the SDK on a Surface 2...just use screenshot feature ;) You guys are too literal sometimes. 

I guess normal developers can't get in, too bad because I wanted to try new SDK and new API-s so I can maybe get some new cool idea and get it ready for release

I want 8.1 so badly, that I'm planning on freezing myself up in the mountains, to be thawed out on April 2nd.  That couldn't possibly go wrong, could it?  :p

You're setting yourself up for disappointment. This is, after all, just a .1 release. Minor upgrade. It is exciting for sure, but keep your expectations in check.

This is a major release. The numbering probably isn't well thought of, but this is essentially Windows 9. I think.

Yeah ... like OSX when they go all the way on 10.1, 10.2, 10.3, ..., 10.9 Mavericks. They all minor updates :P

This is heck of a news! WP8.1 you better be sweet, come with drum rolls and a bang! Finally this year WP should fulfil the app parity and feature parity void! Long haul indeed.

Microsoft has to send you an invite! And they make that choice independently by themselves.
Sorry bud.

I'm curious if wp8.1 will run even smoother/faster or if things get more laggy with all the new bells and whistles.

Many features and updates have been added to the OS since it came out in 2010 and each time, both new phones and old phones that received the update maintained their speed or became faster. I am not worried.

What features are you talking about? Apart from Mango ( great update btw) most of the subsequent updates barely added any features that could impact on the performance of devices. Heck WP7 devices didn't even get WP8 to begin with . 

There is a reason why Windows Phone has a ton of missing features, once they start adding more features ( to much up android and iOS) things will begin to slow down especially for devices such as a Lumia 520 . No amount of hardware optimization can make up for low hardware.

It wont because WP has had a chance to see how iOS and Android did it wrong. Also, they run on a mobile OS. WP is running on a desktop core, 77% of desktop OS in WP8.1 and in future it will be desktop OS optimised for mobile with support of cloud to conserve battery. So no, it wont lag.

One of two things will happen, either WP8.1 will end up being another crappy update like GDR1,2 3.. ( or whatever they call it ) and maintain the "smoothness" of the OS or they will match the features of iOS and android and suffer performance issues ( at least for devices like 520, and 720 ) .  If you want evidence of this , just look at the camera app of Lumia 1020. 

Once you start packing the OS with features , performance will suffer, you can always optimize but it gets to a point where diminishing return sets in. The only way to counter this is better specs..

There will of course be quad cores. But feature set will limit. You wont get Pureview on 520. You wont get 41mp with 512 ram.

Performance has very little to do with the number of features an OS offers. Almost infinitaly more important are the types of features an OS offers. Even more important are the types of features an OS deliberately chooses not to offer. How much control an OS has over the software it runs, and the types of restrictions 3rd party software must abide by is also important. 

Hmmm what ? You wrote a lot without saying anything . You mean they can add something like notification centre without affecting the memory footprint ?

My Nokia Lumia 925 lags a lot she I'm opening & getting out of an app.. Just saying, it's not as smooth as people say, there is some lag that annoys me.. It may have less lag than other OS's but it still has lag.

Hopefully MS refresh the animations. I'm kind of getting bored of them. Aril 2nd is the most eagerly anticipated day for me within the next few months, can't wait!

I just need T-Mobile to get one....please Nokia. A 32gb something with a 5" screen, 1080p display, micro SD slot, 20-41mp camera with the new processor in the 1520!!!:)

My excitement for this update has waned as it is dragged along, even now I think WP is moving too sloooow. We should have got this update last year, with a smaller one about now. They need to start taking it seriously. I think you're all too quick to forget how little features we got this year from Microsoft. This is well overdue

Last year = 2013
Year before = 2012
Wp8 was released in 2012. And its not like a 'whole new core' means anything at all to the average consumer. Last year I got rotation lock and . . . . erm, not much else, sounds pretty pathetic to me.

41mp and all the processing was only possible with new apis and further enhancement to the back end. We also got multitasking improvements, Skype back end to messaging, new Outlook, new Windows to match WP etc. These companion apps, backend changes are essential to build an ecosystem. Its not a sprint, its a marathon. Its not a t20, its test cricket.

Multitasking improvements? You mean the 'X' close button? That literally is just a shortcut to the back button. Had nothing to do with multitasking improvements. What new Outlook? And Skype which should have been working from the beginning. I'm sorry but none of what you just stated were enhancements. Sure, extremely minor enhancements to bring new hardware support, but every OS brings features AND hardware support in every update. Why are you excusing Microsoft to alternate and be twice as slow?

The point was that before Amber and GDR2 these things weren't possible.  Those two updates were critical and Black/GDR3 improved things further.

To an average consumer, updates mean hardly anything. They just want a phone with browser, angry birds and Facebook.

OS updates mean a whole lot more to EVERYONE rather than an updated kernel. I personally noticed no problems with the last kernel. What I did notice, however, was the huge feature difference between ios/android and WP. Updates fix that, kernels don't.

Mr Toes, you are thinking with your feet. Putting a whole frigging desktop in a phone isn't enough? None of the other phones has that. It takes time to make a desktop OS optimized on phones. From here on all the changes in Windows 8 and/or Windows Phone 8 are to be planned simultaneously. Because this ecosystem is building up like no other. But if you are one of those who jumps at an update with notification center and separate volume controls, you will never see why this new kernel was stroke of a genius two years back.

Once again I am talking about 2013, not 2012. But because you are so insistent I will talk about the updated kernel with a 'whole friggin desktop'. You may or may not know that the iPhone has in fact run on os x since 2007. Amazing right? No it isn't, its just what it runs at the very core of the OS. It does NOT have a desktop, and if it does then why cant I put PhotoShop on my phone.

Actually, if I remember correctly, it's not really OS X, but it's a version of it. And don't forget, OS X is NOT the same as Mac OS X.

Aside from that, I agree with your original post. These updates come way too slowly.

Looking forward to April ! Windows Phone 8.1 & Developer Preview !!!! Also , NYIAS ! Man I can't wait

Speaking of firmware, have there already been news if there will be firmware updates like Amber/Black for Windows Phone 8.1 for Lumia devices, and what are the features?

What do u mean by... "While users would get the latest OS, they will however be missing any optimized firmware, which would be updated at a later time." what optimized firmware???

I think he just means that oftentimes OS upgrades are accompanied by firmware upgrades. With the MS program you will get the OS upgrade right away, but will still need to wait for the firmware upgrade like everyone else.

AHHHH SH*TTTTTT!!!! This thing is heating up ladies and gentlemen!!!! Can't wait to get this on my 1520!

I'm pretty sure that select few devs that get access will have a very limited version of 8.1 just the bare minimal. Kinda like how they released the mango os under NDA and kept many of the features under wrap.

How much can we really expect from a .1 incremental update? Are we getting too excited? Just don't want to be let down!

The increment used doesn't determine the scale of the update (at least it doesn't in this case). This will be a major update, like Windows 8.1 was to 8.

But more than what .5 was to WP7. That WP7.5 update got us 200 new features and changes. This should bring at least 40.

Best to keep expectations low only then you will be pleasantly surprised. I can see whole lot of rage rant posts cropping up after wp 8.1 on the forum lol. Sure the the past gdr updates didn't bring much, most of the changes are probably bug fixes. Heck, the features that people take for guarantee in ios or andriod, also more or less came through incremental updates.
There are soooooooooo many little things that ms needs to address, if i listed them all I would end up typing a essay several pages long. Im not expecting much, something I've realised, expect to much and you will certainly disappointed. You can plan life with the best of intentions, but nothing ever goes to plan really - we adapt and make compromises etc - same applies to MS - no one is an exception :P.

Apparently there are several different branches within the windows phone team. When they rtmed wp8, they branched off into different teams. One working on fixing and adding minimal features within the wp8.0 branch. And the other that branched off to work on wp blue. Then I guess these past few months they have been working on merging the two branches to create wp blue 8.1. Makes sense. I believe the windows team has something similar.

From the tidbits that have been leaked in the past years, they suggest that wp8 gui and features were the bare minimal and most of the work done was on porting windows nt to arm and a bunch of back end work that wasn’t a big jump visually and feature wise from wp7.

If this is all the case, that explains why this big update has taken so long. They have the gdr releases that have added small features here in there to act as a stop gap until the actual true successor to wp7 which will be wp8.1.

It seems like they weren’t on the same wave length as the windows 8 team. So I can see how the same number designation initially could be confusing win8, wp8. But I think we will finally see what I believe will be the wp7.0 to wp7.5 mango equivalent of features with wp 8.1.

Received an initial invitation where I had to fill out a survey, I’ve now just had an email stating my invitation has been accepted and I’m currently downloading the WP SDK Preview as we speak. Looks like they’ve started rolling out the downloads..

We are pleased to inform you that we have accepted your application to participate in the Windows PhoneSDK DevPreview Program on Microsoft Connect.

To download the preview of the Windows Phone SDK and get started, sign in at the Microsoft Connect Web site (http://connect.microsoft.com [http://connect.microsoft.com/]).

We value your support and look forward to your participation.

Best Wishes,
Windows platform team

Can you at least say yes or no to this question?

Is 8.1 everything we hoped it would be?

Dont answer if you could get into trouble.

Sorry the NDA is strong with this one, I was even thinking about removing that email quote, but I figured that's not really revealing anything besides what has been announced publicly already. Best of luck to all waiting on invites....

An announcement has been made here that developers are receiving invites to the Dev Preview.. that's what I was referring to.

hmmm..... i have a feeling that "special project" he mentioned he was working on with microsoft and couldnt speak about it a few months ago has something to do with this. Dont be surprised if rudy has all his apps updated on day one with all the new features baked into his apps :).