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What has changed with regards to the design patterns? Do both use the same development techniques? If I'm faced with the option of learning Windows Phone 7 vs Windows Phone 8 will learning windows phone 7 will qualify me for directly start development for windows phone 8?

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Yes, the development skills are definitely transferrable. The biggest difference is that the emulator now runs on top of Hyper-V and is as a result a lot faster. The tooling is still .NET & XAML based, however WP8 prefers the use of C# + XAML i.e. WinRT than Silverlight, with Silverlight 5 being the last planned version.

For a list of all new development changes, look at the Microsoft release notes at http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/windowsphone/develop/jj206940(v=vs.105).aspx

If you persevere with learning WP7 you will find it a lot easier to pick up WP8.

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