Microsoft has instituted a big change with its free Visual Studio 11 Express suite that's leaving some current- and soon-to-be Windows 8 developers up in arms: it's pulling support for creating anything but Metro-native apps. After 11 becomes the norm, desktop developers will need to either cling to Visual Studio 2010 for dear life or fork over the $500 for Visual Studio 11 Professional. Programmers won't have the option of backdoor coding, either, with both the compiler and toolchain being pulled from Windows' framework. The situation doesn't represent the end of the world for some developers -- more established pros don't balk at a $500 price, and third-party tools will likely live on -- but it sets a much higher price of entry for desktop apps developed through the official route, especially if you want to write games using XNA. We've reached out to Microsoft for a response, but for now we'd suggest setting aside five Benjamins if Start screen tiles and app charms aren't your cups of tea.
Update: We've confirmed with a Microsoft spokesperson that it's true you'll need Professional if you want to write desktop apps using Visual Studio. It's equally correct, though, that third-party developer kits will keep building desktop apps as long as they have their own compilers and related tools. Students can get Professional for free if they're in the Dreamspark program.