Windows 8 demos spur developer worries
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After two brief demonstrations of Microsoft's next-generation operating system, third-party Microsoft Windows developers are expressing frustration over what they consider a lack of clear direction on how to develop applications for Windows 8.
Their concern centers on a new web standards-based development platform that Microsoft may be deploying for the Windows 8 live tile touch-based interface. While promoting this platform in various demonstrations last week, the company said little about the role that its other widely used Windows development platforms, Silverlight and .Net, would play in the new operating system, which is widely expected to be released next year.
As a result, many Silverlight and .Net developers fear their skill sets may become legacy ones.
Microsoft officials "have not clarified where .Net fits in the Windows 8 world," said Al Hilwa, an analyst with IDC. "I think developers are justified in feeling that there needs to be more clear strategic guidance on this."
Last week, at the Wall Street Journal's D8 conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, California, Julie Larson-Green, Microsoft's corporate vice president of the Windows experience, demonstrated Windows 8.
While Microsoft officials have stated that the new Windows would also support applications written for older icon-driven versions of Windows, some developers have wondered if their desktop applications will still get the same support from Microsoft in the years to come.
As first pointed out by tech journalist Tim Anderson, users on Microsoft's own Silverlight forum posted a large number of entries fretting over the demonstrations. Channel 9, another Microsoft developer forum, saw a similar heated reaction.
One participant wrote that the demos were "potentially terrible news. It almost puts me in a state of shock. My biggest fear coming into Windows 8 ... was that they would shift everything to Silverlight and leave the full platform ... in the dust. To my utter shock, they did something much, much, much worse."
Microsoft said it would reveal more details at the Microsoft Build developer conference, to be held in Anaheim, California, in September. For many developers, however, that date is too far off. "It is doubtful that they can stave off developer anxiety until the Build conference in the fall," Hilwa said.
"It is too soon to draw any conclusions," said Rob Sanfilippo, an analyst with the firm Directions on Microsoft. Thanks to Microsoft's late entry into the growing tablet market, Microsoft is under a lot of pressure to get news about Windows 8 out quickly. As a result, the company may not have had the chance to fully coordinate all the messages it needs to deliver about the new operating system. Such mixed messages have led to a lot of "fear and knee-jerk responses," he said.
Sanfilippo doubts that Microsoft would abandon either .Net or Silverlight, though. The Windows development community is a "huge ecosystem," he said, made up of 600,000 developers. "They won't just orphan code with Windows 8," he said.
"As best I can tell, .Net continues to be a strategic approach to build apps, but clearly for Windows 8, they are also building on HTML5," Hilwa said.
Microsoft did not immediately respond to a request for comment. However, Pete Brown, a Microsoft community program manager for the Microsoft Silverlight forum, responded in the forum that, "We're all being quiet right now because we can't comment on this. It's not because we don't care, aren't listening, have given up, or are agreeing or disagreeing with you on something."
Whether Microsoft will gain a large market share in the smartphone and tablet space is a moot point, but my guess is that if anyone can transform these devices from toys to business tools it's Microsoft. So I'll be happy follow the Gartner predictions and stick with the most advanced software development platform.
Posted by Anonymous at 12:53:01 on June 8, 2011
Posted by Anonymous at 13:53:49 on June 7, 2011
Posted by Dave Lane at 13:26:22 on June 7, 2011
Posted by Dave Lane at 13:26:08 on June 7, 2011
The alternative, namely using open source development platforms, is much more secure - those technologies will continue to survive for as long as people (and businesses) depend on them.
Personally, I can't imagine why anyone would bet their company on .Net or Silverlight - doing so relegates you to providing solutions only for those who run pure Microsoft technology stacks.
That might've been a justifiable business decision when MS was at the top of the game around the turn of the century, but discounts the possibility that MS will lose their monopoly in computing.
Given their performance of late (or lack thereof, particularly in the growth area of mobile technologies), I'd say that's a pretty good bet their decline will continue and perhaps accelerate as their various turkeys come home to roost (Skype and Nokia, anyone?).
Posted by Dave Lane at 13:24:48 on June 7, 2011