The update to the Windows Phone developer portal comes ahead of the release of Windows Phone 8 and puts in place much of the necessary support structure for the next version of the Windows Phone platform. For example, the reports and analytics section now include a page for in-app purchases. In-app purchases are supported by Windows Phone 8, but are not available for Windows Phone 7.5.
The most obvious aspect of the update is the visual redesign of Windows Phone Dev Center. Microsoft say that the "cleaner look and streamlined set of menu options" are aimed "at providing faster access to common tasks". However, equally important is the update to the underlying architecture, which is now more robust and scalable. This should mean that site performance and overall reliability is improved; in recent months some developers have noted slow downs when submitting app and accessing reports.
The most important of the updates is an increase in the number of supported markets for both distributing and submitting apps. Microsoft says that developers will soon be able to register in "four times as many countries, and get paid in three times as many as what's possible today". In addition Microsoft is "tripling the number of consumer store fronts" (number of countries in which an app can be distributed). Developers can now also be paid via PayPal (and pay for Dev Center membership via PayPal).
As part of the increased markets support Dev Center lets you set a unique price in each country, allowing for powerful pricing strategies (e.g. sell an app for less in UK than in the USA), and it is now possible to see ratings and reviews for each market at a single glance (previously viewable only on a market by market basis). Beta testing support has also been improved with the number of beta testers allowed for each app increased from one hundred to "thousands".
The reports and analytics tools available through Dev center have also been improved. For example, downloads can now be viewed by type (free, paid, trial, beta) and paid downloads are broken down into without trial and with trial, allowing developers to see consumer behaviour when buying their apps.
Other changes that Microsoft are highlighting include a more flexible sign up and submission process (edit account details, integration with pubCenter) and integration with other developer resources and educational materials (SDK, MSDN documentation, forum integration and more).
More details on the Windows Phone Dev Center are available in this Windows Phone Blog post.