Papa's Perspective

3 Impacts from 2011, and What they Mean Moving Forward -- Part 1

Papa's Perspective on Kinect, Silverlight and Microsoft's changing relationship with developers.

Change is good (and also inevitable). We all want technology to evolve, but it's also human nature to become attached to technology and behavior that makes us comfortable. As we just wrapped up 2011, it's a good time to look back at the impression that 2011 leaves on us and what it all means moving forward. Here are three key developments in the past year from Microsoft, and their possible meanings.

Microsoft Kinect
Simply put, Microsoft changed gaming and computing forever with Kinect. In fact, Guinness World Records has officially named Kinect for Xbox 360 the fastest-selling consumer electronics device ever, after selling 8 million units in its first 60 days. It even outstripped sales of the iPhone and iPad over the same time span. The device continues to sell like crazy for the Xbox (as well as the Xbox consoles). But perhaps more importantly, with Xbox and Kinect Microsoft continues to be very relevant for the younger crowd -- something they struggle with when it comes to Windows Phone.

Kinect has changed gaming; we can only guess at what its ripple effect will be on the type of Minority Report-type games we'll see in the future. But its impact on computing, television, and other devices will likely be just as impactful. My imagination -- which can be quite "out there" -- can foresee a future where a phone or tablet has a Kinect device built in. The possibilities are astounding.

Silverlight
Many of Microsoft's developers may require therapy after 2011. Is Silverlight dead or alive? This topic has certainly been beaten to death. But my point here is not so much about the status of Silverlight, but rather the impact it had (and continues to have) on the development community. While the initial impact of the 2011 announcements around Silverlight (or lack thereof) have seemed to started to settle in for developers, for many of them the pain still lingers.

A lot remains to be seen. Developers will continue to use Silverlight for years to come, but to what degree and for what types of apps? Beyond Silverlight, has the relationship between developers and Microsoft changed? This is a book whose final chapter is yet to be written.

Microsoft changed its modus operandi with developer communications
Microsoft values developers, and treats them better than most rival companies. Their community programs, transparency in road maps, insider programs, MVP programs, events and use of social media have been brilliant strategies for building customer loyalty.

But did 2011 leave a small chink in that armor? Windows Phone and Windows 8 plans were extremely tight-lipped for Microsoft. In the past, at least some developers and partners had access to NDA information on development strategies; this started to change in 2011.

There are reasons for this, some of which I fully support. The world has changed and Microsoft must evolve, too. But make no mistake: Microsoft's communication plans with developers have changed. If they blow the world away with what they announce, this could be a big win. But it's a risk anytime a company changes a winning formula.

Looking Ahead
2011 had a major impact on developers' lives. In a future article, I'll hit on a few other impacts from 2011 and how they could leave a major imprint on us all in 2012.

About the Author

John Papa is a Microsoft Regional Director and former Microsoft technical evangelist. Author of 100-plus articles and 10 books, he specializes in professional application development with Windows, HTML5, JavaScript, CSS, Silverlight, Windows Presentation Foundation, C#, .NET and SQL Server. Check out his online training with Pluralsight; find him at johnpapa.net and on Twitter at twitter.com/john_papa.

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