Redmond Diary

By Andrew J. Brust

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Waiting for Windows 8: A Long, Hot Summer

Microsoft has revealed some things about Windows 8, and revealed a part of the developer story for new Windows 8 "tailored," "immersive" applications. In retrospect, very little was shared. The bit that was revealed to us is that those applications can be developed using a combination of HTML5 and JavaScript. Not much else was said, except that additional details would be revealed at Microsoft's //Build/ conference in Anaheim, California in September.

This has left a lot of people in suspense, and it seems that suspended state is going to last all summer. The problem, of course, is that in the absence of hard information, people fill the void with Speculation, Rumor and Gloom. That's a bit like Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt, except that it's self-imposed by the Microsoft community and not planted by Microsoft's competitors.

This is a less-than-perfect situation. Not only is it causing developers to worry about the value of their skill sets, but I am already hearing from consulting shops that customers are getting nervous too and, in extreme cases, opting for non-Microsoft tools for their projects as a result. I'm also hearing from dev tool ISVs that sales have suffered as a result. It's quite possible that the customers moving off .NET wanted to do so anyway and it's also possible that dev tool ISVs are suffering slower sales this year due a slowed rate of economic recovery.

Without hard information, people tend to interpret things negatively. Actually, that's the major point in all of this. While there is a multitude of opinions about what the Windows 8 development platform will look like once fully revealed, there is an emerging consensus around one thing: it sure would help if Microsoft revealed more of its strategy... just enough to quash absurd rumors, stabilize the .NET ecosystem and get people to stay calm.

We've had some reassurances thus far: there will be a Windows desktop mode; we'll still have Windows Explorer, we'll still run Office, we'll still have a task bar, and all the skills and tools we use now will still work there. But with reassurances like that... people still feel insecure. Because telling us that Windows 8 will have what is essentially a "classic" mode sure makes it sound like today's skill sets will soon be "classic" too. And then maybe they'll just become obsolete.

Humans find change scary; it's natural. And when left alone with their fears -- because no one is saying anything to dispel them -- people can go from frightened to paranoid, and can start to view things in a downright conspiratorial light. It would be great if Microsoft stepped into the void now and told us what is coming -- especially because whatever they tell us is bound to be at least a little better than what people think they are going to hear.

I don't know what the announcements will be, but I do have it on authority, from a number of sources, that Microsoft isn't going to talk until //Build/. That means no news until September 13th. Nothing until after Labor Day. You get zippo until after the Back-to-School sales are done.

What to do? Try not to let the dark voices of gloom and doom fill your head. Even in the absence of answers, we still have some important facts:

  1. The .NET developer community is huge.
  2. Microsoft's customers have major investments in .NET, and in .NET skills.
  3. Political infighting in Redmond might make for irrational decisions, but ultimately public companies can't just alienate their advocates and piss off their customers. Spite doesn't trump fiduciary responsibility.
  4. The computing device markets are changing, software is changing, software business models are changing and developers are changing. Microsoft has to keep up.
  5. The HTML + JavaScript community is huge too, and it includes many of the "changed" developers.
  6. Public companies can't ignore new markets nor the popular standards that can help them enter those new markets. Loyalty doesn't trump fiduciary responsibility either.
  7. If Microsoft can appeal to new developers, then it should.
  8. If Microsoft can keep catering to its existing developers and customers -- not just through legacy support, but also through empowering futures -- then it probably will.

You don't have to shove your old friends out into the rain to make room for new ones; you can bring those new constituents in under a bigger tent. I hope Microsoft will enlarge the tent, and I have trouble imagining why it would not.

Posted by Andrew J. Brust on 06/23/2011 at 1:15 PM


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Reader Comments:

Wed, Aug 10, 2011 david longstreth Florida

One thought on the MS not caring about developers. I realize that programmers who have lost tools or have not seen a situation they prefer progress think of those examples. However, there is the SharePoint scenario to consider. MS creates a simple collaboration tool that works with the office XML platform. The product was not meant as a Web solution or a developer tool. The product was designed to offer projects, etc a nice tool to be able to combine different office products and not have to rely on emails for communication. So what happened? The developer community complained that the product was not developer friendly, the web people complained the tool was not for them, etc. MS updates to tool so as to accommodate at least some of those concerns. CAML even seems to have gone to the wayside (developers did not want to learn it, did not like it, etc).
My point is, (not to start a debate about SharePoint or hate comments) that here is an example of MS modifying a product to meet the customer complaints and match their continuing XML strategy.

Win8. A second thought to share. I realize the emphasis of statements has to do with what tools will be used and continue to work etc. Should not some of the thought be focused on the XML? MS accepted the WC3 XML standards. MS modified the office products to be on an XML platform. SQL server added XML data types. Siverlight uses XAML. There is some talk of data storage strategy changing (relational?). LINQ is an XML strategy. HTML5, if I am not mistaken has incorporated more XML features, yes? So then, are there not changes in technology resolutions as is? Would not the next OS reflect and attempt to be platform ready for what the continuing strategies of that company are?
Just a thought.

Tue, Jul 19, 2011 Shane

Obviously you can't trust MS. I was a VB developer for years. Then learned vb.net. Now it looks like they're moving on. Sounds like it is best to learn Non-ms, cross platform applications, doesn't it!

Fri, Jul 8, 2011 chadyao china

I think windows 8 must be more interesting and more friendly. http://www.dootar.com

Tue, Jul 5, 2011 Phil Chicago

That ex-Microsoft guy that said that Silverlight is dead was not wrong. He just was too early in saying it. Window 8 is one of a thousand death-stabs to Silverlight.

Fri, Jul 1, 2011

Suggest you spend time at www.riagenic.com, where you find plenty of reinforcement indicative of Microsoft caring very little about - and fearing - platform portability, as that's a world in which they cannot hope to compete. Be sure to find the indication there of Bill Gates reportedly 'hating' Silverlight for that reason alone - that it respresented nothing more than an 'f*** you' to Windows. They've no interest in Windows alternatives - watch the pitiful day one keynote address from MIX11 and not how earnestly they attempt to say two things at the same time - "trust us, we lover HTML5" and "but you're only going to want to use such applications using IE on Windows because 'native implementations' are always best".

Fri, Jul 1, 2011 H.Dolder Argentina

More on ...
Can one theory explain all things MS is saying ?
I propose the following "Standard Model":
MS is ...
* Creating a NET W8 Framework in which they are ...
* Replacing DirectX with the HTML5 Rendering Engine.
* Replacing MSIL with Javascript.
* Implementing Silverlight/WPF in a layer on top of HTML5 (not side-by-side with HTML5).
* Viewing the HTML5 Browsers as "Plugins" for the different Operating Systems and adding also Out-of-Browser (OOB) functionality for each OS.
Can you imagine the impact on portability ?

H.Dolder
http://www.hdolder.com/CutBSK6fN.htm

Thu, Jun 30, 2011

Replacing DirectX with HTML5 rendering as explanation for all the madness? No, not currently possible, as DirectX is far too vast in its capabilities for there to be anything but very minor overlap between the two. So, while the HTML5 specification might at some point encompass such sophisticated concerns, it's far more likely to be revealed for what it is, yet another false messiah, long before it gets that far...

Thu, Jun 30, 2011

Well, at least those in Redmond can temporarily comfort themselves in that they're not alone in wasting time and money working on that about which no one cares: http://www.eweek.com/c/a/Cloud-Computing/Google-Health-PowerMeter-Join-Other-Failed-Web-Service-Initiatives-646357/?kc=EWKNLEDP06302011A

Wed, Jun 29, 2011 H.Dolder Argentina

Can one theory explain all things MS is saying ?
I propose the following "Standard Model":
MS is ...
* Replacing DirectX with the HTML5 Rendering Engine.
* Replacing MSIL with Javascript.
* Implementing Silverlight/WPF in a layer on top of HTML5 (not side-by-side with HTML5).

H.Dolder
http://www.hdolder.com/CutBSK6fN.htm

Tue, Jun 28, 2011 Heartbroken

An interesting term, 'fiduciary responsibility'. I may be wrong, but didn't Ken Olsen and his cronies have 'fiduciary responsibility' to DEC's shareholders? Think so, yet they threw away a vast, vast empire seemingly overnight. Isn't there a proverb stating something like, "Those who fail to learn from mistakes of the past are forver doomed to repeat them..."? Having spent so much time in Redmond, I am reminded of how there was never, ever a time in which the learning of something valuable was interrupted by the inevitable visit from the buffoons in 'Patterns and Practices', ass-clowns that would come in, do a dog-and-pony show and ask for a show of hands, "How many here would find this useful?" Time after time, only one guy present, usually the one with the VB6 tattoo on his forehead would raise his hand. No one else cared and that's the thing - they just don't seem to be able to differentiate in Redmond between that which for which we have passion and that for which there's none whatsoever. I also wonder if what we'll all better understand in years to come is that the man with the most power over Microsoft didn't even work there, that the man who destroyed Microsoft with a single proclamation, that Flash would never run on the iPhone because it's trashy and unnecessary because of HTML5. The most amazing thing, of course, is that most all of us, especially those in Redmond, dream of achieving the dominance we associated with Apple, yet they've conquered the world with just the opposite of that which those in Redmond would have us believe is so desperately needed. The man who conqured the technical world did so by mandating that developers would use a horrid, outdated language within an environment only he would control. Worked for him then and still working for him now, with no end in sight. Yet because he said no to Flash in the same sentence in which was mentioned HTML5, the lemmings in Redmond ran off, stopping only to change their underwear before setting in motion the utter destruction of all that was most worthwhile (of which Silverlight was and will remain their greatest achievement, cancelled or not), razing the Microsoft empire, all for the sake of saving it. At the height of the Ruby on Rails craze, there was fear in Redmond, so money was spent adding dynamic language support to .NET. Few cared. Still don't. Add a Smalltalk pattern from the 1960s to ASP.NET, call it ASP.NET MVC and then they'll care. We didn't. We don't. Yeah, there's silence coming from Redmond and it smells of fear - the fear that comes of a late night revelation that all would not be glorious, that the masses would not rejoice over Windows 8 and the destruction of all that was worthwhile, sacrificed on the altar of HTML5 and Javascript.

Tue, Jun 28, 2011 Bo

I second what Bryan Morris says, it would not have been very hard at all to make such a simple statement and even more MS knows this. They knew exactly what wording they were going to use and they knew what effects such wording would cause. Make no mistake about it this was planned. They didn't just get up there and wing it. A lot of thought went into what would be said and how to say it. That doesn't necessarily mean that something awful is coming in September but it does show that MS is more than willing to screw with developer and corporations emotions/pursestrings for a few months.

Tue, Jun 28, 2011 Steve Long

Items 5-8 aren't particularly reassuring if you ask me. Additionally, MS' recent trend of gutting a lot of support for MSDN subscribers, (supported news groups have dwindled drastically over the past couple of years), doesn't lead one to believe they will go to much of an extended length to keep current developers happy either. I believe Microsoft has lost it's vision and forgotten its roots. Had it not been for excellent developer tools, along with great support for those tools, Microsoft would not have achieved the significance it did. I say did because I believe it is becoming less significant.

Tue, Jun 28, 2011 Ben Dewey New York

Great article Andrew. It seems like the Apple trick of keeping the announcement cards close to their chest and hoping for some cheers of joy might not be working for them. Oh well, best of luck MSFT, can't wait to hear what they have to say (when they finally show their hand).

Sun, Jun 26, 2011

I think someone at Microsoft miscalculated, badly. It sounds childish to try a 4-month suspense campaign, imagining this will get people more excited. It looks superficial at best. At worst, this looks like downright sabotage.

Sat, Jun 25, 2011 Sash

I don't understand the point. So what if Html5 is the way forward? Asp.Net would spit out Html5, thats about it. Are you saying people will move away from asp.net and start coding in html? Thats not gonna happen and doesn't make any sense.

Fri, Jun 24, 2011 Dave Colorado

The combination of this Win8 mess, and the total zoo that is the Microsoft licensing process resulting in more and more of the upper-end .NET developers leaving the platform. To be clear, I have no doubt that .NET is not going away, and I have no problem PAYING Microsoft for their tools/os etc. But simple fact that the company appears to be led by (at best) buffoons, and the sheer hell of trying to work with Open Licensing site is enough to drive anyone to question the wisdom of Windows as a platform - especially if you're a start up. Someone in Redmond needs to get control of the messaging, and lead with some guts and vision before the wheels totally come off the wagon and Microsoft's trajectory can not be changed.

Thu, Jun 23, 2011 Bryan Morris

This whole thing could have been so easily avoided. Instead of saying "HTML5/Javascript will be THE new programming model for Windows 8", they could have instead said "Windows 8 will have a new programming model and HTML5/Javascript will be A first class citizen in it along with Silverlight/WPF/C#/VB.NET and C++". How f-ing hard would it have been for Sinofsky to choke down his hatred for the developer group for five minutes and pretend they all work for the same company?

Thu, Jun 23, 2011 rmac

A good article BUT 'it's self-imposed by the Microsoft community' is not a statement of fact. The article overlooks that MS have twice alienated devs for a bigger web/designer/print market at a time when for over two years they have failed to capture the very markets they are trying to sell out to. How long do MS expect folk to hang on? Any why spend $2K on a secretive Build technology slated for September when one can buy a MAC and develop for the iPAD right now with the same cash?

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