Monday, September 19, 2011

Windows 8 and what it means for Silverlight and the coming Slate Wars

What does Windows 8 mean to the Silverlight world?

To be honest the past year has been kind of a let down with some certain ms employee's saying this that or the other thing that really effectively killed most Silverlight work and its made me somewhat bitter about the whole thing. That being said I was trying hard to have a good attitude going into BUILD last week.

BUILD was really a lot of drinking from the firehose albeit I must say that I was right on most accounts. I knew about some improvements, I may have had access to a hacked version of windows 8 that some one might have let me play with so I knew some. Certainly new about XAML and C++ and HTML5 but really so much has changed. Last week reframed Windows in so many new ways.

First lets start with the basic's, Windows 8 cold boots in 4 seconds... I've tried it allot just so I can believe it... my Windows 7 dev box takes 30 seconds at least... unbelievable in a good way. The memory profile is something like cut in half and really Windows has been rebuilt from the ground up for all intents and purposes. That being the case on the windows front things are good architecturally speaking but everything isn't a bed of roses.

So what is wrong with Windows 8? In all fairness its only a developer preview so I'm not going to harp on things that are likely to be addressed as Windows 8 approaches public release. That being said I break my issues into 4 things and one is even not really Windows 8 but will affect Windows 8 adoption.

Starting with plug-in architecture... plug-in's work on the desktop side of windows 8, this is good however the problem is that plug-in's DONT work on the metro side. What this means is that grandma is going to click the ie icon and go to youtube or whatever and find it doesn't work for her and she is not going to understand and who is microsoft to dictate which sites we can go to. One ms employee told me that they didn't want their users to experience a non metro UI and everyone should upgrade to HTML5. HTML5 might be the direction of where things are going but users are not going to understand why they current stuff doesn't work and are just going to get frustrated. having to go into the desktop side of windows 8 is not going to work from a users stand point. its expecting a higher level of understand then should be expecting from users and its not Microsoft's place to say which web sites we can go to? really is ms going to act all self righteous like Apple?

Speaking of Apple, it seems that the manufactures got a clue about industrial design but more on that later.

Back to my issues, the second issue is XNA, ok xna doens't work. no xbox games on windows 8 and now fancy direct x... but wait that isn't exactly true. there is a whole NEW set of Direct X api's and though the old code is out certainly there is a good direction going forward and further some guy that will remain unnamed managed to get XNA running in a wrapper... still though if xBox games would run natively it opens the door to a whole new level of Windows Awesomeness that is going to be lacking.

My third issue is more of the awesomeness that could have been where Windows 8 pulls an Apple where even Apple doesn't pull one (good job Apple by the way). Case in point with Apple my iPhone apps run on iPad just fine. But Windows Phone Apps do NOT run on Windows 8. From Microsoft standpoint I know that Windows Phone 7 is not the same architecture as wp7 but really this is something consumers will expect I think. And if win8 supported wp7 apps then ms could say they have 30,000+ apps and its only a dev build. Not to mention I don't want to rewrite all 43 of my apps... maye only a few of them but not all of them...

Now my last issue isn't really Windows but actually a change to Microsoft's Gold partner program. Take our ([wire] stone) company, we are currently a Gold Partner and our work is used by Microsoft frequently to show the power of the Microsoft platform (2 of Ballmers keynotes in the past year). To be frank, Microsoft is making Gold Partnership tied directly to the sale of Microsoft sku's which means companies that just build the most awesome Windows based solutions have to pay a huge amount more in developer licensing then we did before. This gets back to the fact that we are an design/interactive agency that is primarily an adobe design shop that only delivers microsoft solutions as they help us delivery faster time to market solutions and lower dev costs, our work includes things like the Nike Touch Wall, the Microsoft Retail Software Kiosk, the Boeing 737 experience or the Jordan marketing campaign last year where people uploaded shoes and it was composed in azure into this huge Mosaic of Jordan. If Microsoft wants us to deliver stuff on the ms platform they need us to be Gold platforms or it is less cost effective to build ms solutions. After talking to many of my friends at other agencies it seems we are not the only ones that face this issue.

On the whole though it seems that the ipad finally awoke the sleeping giant, it was heart warming for MS to preach 4 hours of UX design to its core developer community. This was just awesome. Windows 8 is generations ahead of windows 7 and designed around touch. But also at BUILD we got a look at the new generation of hardware that seems to finally have taken a clue from Apple's awesome industrial design. Looking at the new hardware its no longer variations on a theme in black plastic. From brushed aluminum anodized in purple with embedded fiber optics to something vaguely like a Mac book air but the screen flips around and turns into a slate. Baring my issues above this level of hardware competition and Windows 8 will spark real competition in the market between all the devices and it all can only be good for the consumer.


  1. The main advantage of html5 is that it contains more applications that will allow the user to be able to read web pages without the need to download other languages such as Adobe and Java. The most common downloads needed for viewing a web based are included and this makes it easier for the user and certainly saves some if u learn Html5
    that can well shape up your future.

  2. Really?! first 'Adobe' is a company not a language. Second, what are you talking about 'languages' for? Its 'PLUGINS' or runtime environments not languages. you don't download raw source code for the most part when talking plugins so that statement just doesn't make sense. Third, 'MORE' application? that is statistically false. there are millions of flash and silverlight apps out there where as HTML5 is considerably less and it will be years before HTML5 is even close. Further HTML5 still has a weak tooling story for designers and developers meaning there are not that many tools and the tools that are out there are under powered compared to tools for RIA plugins such as flash or silverlight. AND do we expect everyone in the world to rewrite millions of working apps just so they can have them in HTML5? there is NO ROI (Return on investment) for doing it which means basically it is not cost effective so making arguments like that about HTML5 is just uneducated. Further the point of the article was not about everyone getting HTML5 the point was about people not understanding why their favorite web site doesn't work in IE10/metro on windows 8 and the story about clicking to open in IE on the desktop side is far to convoluted for the average consumer.