Those who develop on Windows will be familiar with Microsoft Visual Studio Express edition products. For the rest, the Express editions are free versions of Microsoft’s popular Visual Studio development suite. The Express editions include a basic IDE and compilers for creating Windows applications. There are express editions available for C++, C#, Basic, and web development.
These are great tools for starting developers to create apps for Windows that have been compiled using Microsoft’s own tools. These compilers are used by most popular software including open source software such as Firefox, Python etc. For the many developers working on these open source products, Visual Studio Express is often the only way.
It appears that in the next iteration of Visual Studio, the Express editions will no longer be able to compile desktop Windows applications. Visual Studio Express 2011 will essentially be only for Metro-based applications.
Metro-style applications will be available in Windows 8 for the first time, and will not work with previous versions of Windows. Additionally, the APIs allowed for Metro applications differ from those allowed for traditional desktop applications, and porting existing applications will be more than just creating a new Metro-style UI. Additionally, Metro applications will only be available from the Microsoft store.
It seems like Microsoft is trying to push Metro development every way it can, and free tools will suffer for it.
All hope is not lost though, Visual Studio Express 2010 will still be available, and for free. It will continue to be able to create Windows applications.
Of course this is still pretty bad. Unlike the Windows 7 SDK, the Windows 8 SDK will not even include a compiler. The new C++11 support and other new features of the Visual Studio 2011 compilers will only be available to those who pay.
Browser developers will be victims once again. Firefox for Metro will be developed by open source developers, however browsers fall in a special class of applications that lie between desktop and Metro apps, meaning that compiling them will likely impossible with a free version of Visual Studio 2011. This can hamper the work on the Metro version of Firefox since a number of developers wont be able to afford the tools for it.
It also seems that this might be the standard procedure going on. It seems unlikely that this is just an exception for Visual Studio 2011.
Even Microsoft hasn’t been able to port their own Office suite to run on Metro, which just further highlights that Metro is either not ready or not suitable for those kind of applications. In either case, this seems like a pretty bad move for free software developers for Windows 8.