So, although you will be able to use your existing .NET skills to develop Metro apps, it turns out Microsoft are limiting Visual Studio 2011 Express to Metro-only. From the Express website:
Visual Studio 11 Express for Windows 8 provides tools for Metro style app development. To create desktop apps, you need to use Visual Studio 11 Professional, or higher.
Oh dear. To develop any sort of non-Metro application, you will need to pay for at least VS Professional.
I suspect Microsoft (or at least, certain groups within Microsoft) have a very explicit strategy in mind. By making VS Express Metro-only, developers who don’t want to pay for Professional will be forced to make their simple one-shot or open-source application in Metro. This increases the number of applications available for Windows 8 and Windows mobile devices, which in turn make those platforms more attractive for consumers.
When you use the free VS 11 Express, instead of paying Microsoft, you provide them a service by making applications for Metro, which in turn makes Microsoft’s mobile offering more attractive to consumers, increasing their market share. Of course, it remains to be seen if developers forced to jump onto the Metro bandwagon will simply jump ship to Android or iOS instead.
At least, that’s what I think is going on. With Microsoft, who really knows?
UPDATE: Thankfully, Microsoft have reversed their decision. Looks like someone finally saw sense. Thank goodness for that!