This week, Microsoft issued a major update to Windows Phone App Studio Beta, its web-based app builder for Windows Phone 8. And while there are many changes in this update, the big one, perhaps, is the ability to also generate a Windows 8 version of your app.

As you may recall, App Studio is a web-based tool for creating a code-free Windows Phone 8 apps that can then be loaded into Visual Studio, if desired, and improved further. It hit the Beta stage last September and has since been updated at least a few times, including in November, though I've not posted about every update.

This update, however, is obviously pretty meaningful.

According to Microsoft, the App Studio Beta has been updated with this following changes and new features:

Redesigned web UI. The most-used actions are faster and easier to execute, and the workflow has been streamlined.

Emulator rebuild. The emulator now supports dynamic text updates, so you can see your changes on the fly.

New features: New features include the ability to convert Images from JPG to PNG, full-screen image rotation, and a more fluid integration of sections and data sources, increasing the usability of the apps you create.

Better code. The structure, readability, and performance of the source code that is generated by App Studio Beta is better and is now based on the Model View ViewModel (MVVM) design pattern that Microsoft wants developers to embrace. (This sort of reminds me of the claims about the benefits of object-oriented programming from 20 years ago.)

New business templates. Now you can quickly build apps that showcase company and product info.

And the big one...

Generate a "universal app" solution with both Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 projects. Now you can make versions of your app available for both Windows Phone and a Windows 8. This feature is currently in preview mode only, so it will change a lot in the near future.

Interesting stuff. I may need to check this tool out again. You can find App Studio on the web.