No one told Microsoft that today was Apple’s press cycle. That in mind, while TNW was thrashing out every critical ounce from Cupertino’s event, its Redmond-based competitor knocked out a number of important announcements.

Allow us to catch you up.

Windows Phone’s Marketplace

Marketplace no more, my friends. As TNW suspected, the Windows Phone Marketplace is now the Windows Phone Store. After the Windows Store found its name, it felt like a simple matter of time. Shall we place bets on how long the Azure and Xbox Marketplaces manage to keep their names?

Along with improved search and app lists, Microsoft is rolling out a fresh online version of the Store to help people browse on any machine. To wit:

[T]he first thing you’ll discover is the official site has a cleaner design and a couple new menu options. Clicking on News, for example, provides a handy summary of what notable journalists, reviewers, and bloggers are writing about Windows Phone or the latest handsets and apps.

The changes will be rolling out gradually, so be patient. Emails asking when ($yourcountry) will receive the update will be ignored.

8272.news thumb 2C592DD6 While you were Apple ing: News from Windows Phone, Skype, and Visual Studio

Skype’s New Audio Codec

Don’t forget that Skype news is now Microsoft news. Today, Skype posted that its ‘Opus’ audio codec, submitted to the Internet Engineering Task Force (IEFT), has now been knighted as an acceptable standard.

Skype could not be more proud: “In the past, you needed a myriad of different codecs to handle all audio tasks, all with different licensing or pricing agreements. Now you just need one: Opus.” The VoIP app claims that users will enjoy the new sound quality that Opus will bring. This update is some time coming, as the standard was submitted in 2010.

Frankly, Skype audio could use the boost, making this announcement welcome.

Visual Studio

Visual Studio Express 2012 for Windows Desktop is up for download. The free software, as its name suggests, is designed to let people build Windows 8 apps. Via ZDNet, Microsoft announced a number of other Visual Studio’s informational nuggets at its event today:

  • There have been more than 600,000 downloads of Visual Studio 2012 SKUs since the RTM bits were made available in mid-August;
  • New Productivity Power Tools for Visual Studio 2012: Additional tools and command line utilities that will be available for download in October 2012.

That 600,000 number is key, as it is an indication that developer interest is high for Windows 8 tools. Windows 8′s success will lean on two factors: the strength of hardware that will deliver it to market, and the apps that will constitute its user experience.

Microsoft recently opened the Windows Store to more than 80 new countries (for submissions), and dropped developer restrictions; the store is now open. In the coming weeks, we’ll have a better handle on just how many of those hundreds of thousands of downloads are turning into real apps for the forthcoming operating system.

Windows Phone 8 SDK Preview

Finally, Microsoft today opened sign-ups for the Windows Phone 8 SDK Preview. This timing was in keeping with its prior scheduling promises.

If this is for you, head here and get started.

There, now you are up to speed. Top Image Credit: Robert Scoble