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.

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been here covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics and ran the projectors at movie theaters, which has done absolutely nothing for his career.

  • Can't wait I need a new phone bad...
  • Я первы!!
  • LOL!
  • Не совсем. А ещё не до конца слово дописано ;D
  • ވިންޑޯސް ފޯނު ހަބޭސް
  • The #1 feature I want to see is updates without carrier interference.
  • +1020
  • And I want to make out with Emma Watson. Hey, a man can dream.
  • +928
  • +9520
  • man gotta dream big. I wanna **** Irina Shayk
  • Hey, PureView! You stay away from my wife!
  • Emma Watson is your dream make out???  Yikes!  Aim higher, bro!
  • This would be the ultimate gift
  • 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.  
  • What was with WP7.8?
  • 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.
  • +1  
  • +925 T-Mobile!!!
  • +920
  • huh?
  • (-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.
  • Let the leaks begin!!!! :)
  • Yes!!!
  • Wonder if "Cortana" will be in that early SDK release...
  • Yaay 8.1 preview on my 920, april 2nd-ish :D
    That's approximately 51-ish days :D
  • Looking forward to it!
    I couldn't have waited 6 months again for the carriers to begin the official release :D
  • I wonder what Nokia will do in addition to 8.1 ;o "Lumia Blue"
  • Probably give us new features while MS scratches it's head and wonders why no one wants a WP..
  • Thats not very nice
  • 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.
  • Hey dude, CALM DOWN!
  • 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.
  • Lumia Cyan
  • Hopefully the new Lumias will get Cyan as a color variation for their Phones again...
  • +620 for cyan being back on trend :D
  • Lumia 'Cream' (Maybe inspired from Bittersweet Shimmer?)
  • Amber and Black is color names. So, my guess is that C will be another color like Cyan.
  • Bittersweet shimmer was a color name too, and personally, I wish they would have stuck with it :P
  • Nope, didn't get it...
    But haven't got any extra Sky... eeh
    OneDrive storing either, so I guess it makes up...
  • In my e-mail, yeaa! Maybe someday I'll use it, (download games?)...songs, again yeas!
  • 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.
  • I hope Rudy gets invited :D
  • It would be a bad decision not to invite him.
  • He probably already has a version out called 6dev and it's way better than the official app.
  • He might be even doing his own 8.2 by now!
  • xD
  • Classic.
  • I cannot wait! I'm still waiting for GDR3/Black on my Rogers 920. :(
  • Ya I hope they get it out to all of use soon.
  • Yeah. Same here.
  • Hurry up Rogers! I want the new firmware!
  • Awesome! cant ducking wait! WP 8.1 will just be awesome!
  • Watch your mouth, grasshole
  • Hahaha good one!
  • Lol
  • Where's my invite?
  • lol .. Ask it to Microsoft :D
  • Printing. Size 60*40
  • Is that visual studio on surface 2? WTH?
  • It would have to be a Pro, but I see white, so I don't know...
  • Dan works for Microsoft...his "sources" are himself
  • 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. 
  • Lol I figured it was either a screenshot or they ninja released it (very doubtful)
  • Could have also been Remote Desktop; I do all my coding via a Surface RT and Remote Desktop.
  • Could be:
    A. Lighting
    B. Remote Desktop to an x86 machine via Surface 2
    C. A screenshot on a Surface 2
  • Remote desktop works
  • That too.
  • Oh man.. I really want the rt but if only it ran VS.. :/
  • Amen! open a request here and get my votes 8-)
  • 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