Windows 8's FUD Factor for Developers

Windows 8's FUD Factor for Developers

An attempt to clear away the fear, uncertainty, and doubt about Windows 8 and what place Silverlight and other .NET technologies will have in it

On June 1, 2011, Microsoft uploaded its now infamousWindows 8 "first looks" video, "Building 'Windows 8'". Today, close to five million views later, I cannot remember a simple Microsoft product video that has generated so much Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt (FUD). In the video, Jensen Harris, Director of PM, Windows User Experience, talks about HTML5 as the programming interface for Windows 8. Period. No mention of Silverlight; no mention of .NET. And that sent shockwaves through the .NET ecosystem, many of whom interpreted this focus on HTML5 to mean that Windows 8 is the death of .NET.

Now, realize that I am clearly paraphrasing the FUD, but the email lists I participate on (some private and some public) were generically littered with comments like these:

Fear: "It has taken me years and tons of pain to become an expert in [fill in the .NET technology], and now I have to learn something new?! My business and my life are ruined."

Uncertainty: "Why in the world would a native programmer want to call his/her code from JavaScript in HTML5? No one is going to do that."

Doubt: "I no longer trust Microsoft to make the right choices for the developer platform. This is a huge mistake."

In reality, I kind of smiled at some of the posts, because some of these folks were the same Visual Basic 6 (VB6) programmers who absolutely panicked, vilifying Microsoft, when in 2001 Microsoft announced the .NET Framework. And these same VB6 experts who vilified Microsoft in 2001, and are now .NET experts, are the ones vilifying Microsoft now in 2011 for Windows 8 and HTML5.

At the same time as the infamous video was released, an accompanying press release was issued that made a ton of folks, including myself to a certain extent, wonder if Julie Larson-Green, corporate vice president, Windows Experience, had made a huge marketing and messaging mistake. It's one thing to make a mistake and say something that could be taken out of context in front of the camera or audience. No one is perfect, and when you're on the spot there isn't enough time to think through every little thing that comes out of your mouth. Trust me, I have been burned by this, too. But, when the message is written in a press release on an official Microsoft site, it's totally a different deal. So, I was as shocked as anyone when I read this from Ms. Larson-Green on Microsoft.com:

"Today, we also talked a bit about how developers will build apps for the new system. Windows 8 apps use the power of HTML5, tapping into the native capabilities of Windows using standard JavaScript and HTML to deliver new kinds of experiences. These new Windows 8 apps are full-screen and touch-optimized, and they easily integrate with the capabilities of the new Windows user interface."

I just cannot imagine how all the eyeballs at Microsoft and Waggener Edstrom Worldwide, Microsoft's PR firm, who read and approved this publication before it went live could not say, "Wait a minute, aren't we focusing a bit too much on HTML5 at the expense of .NET?"

But that was more than a month ago (as of this writing), and that is an eternity in Internet hysteria time. And a lot of water has passed under the bridge, as some smart people have intercepted a few of the leaks and have somewhat pacified the hysteria for now.

In these 30 days, we have learned quite a bit through the well-published leaks about Windows 8. I will do my best to paraphrase them. (You can certainly do your own interpretation through a simple Internet search (or by reading a great, in depth article by Ars Technica).

  • Windows 8's programming model is much more than just HTML5; thank God. It supports applications being built in C#/XAML/VB.NET/C++/HTML+JavaScript.
  • The new UI framework, code-named Jupiter, allows applications to be written in your language of choice (from above). There is a runtime-like framework thing called WinRT "underneath the hood" that handles it.
  • Jupiter seems to be a "next-generation" XAML-based framework, so all our investments in Silverlight and Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) are still legitimate.
  • We can expect to get really excited by all the announcements at the Build Conference in September, then immediately let down by the lack of a complete beta and hugely long product cycle to production, which is typical of Microsoft.

Still, the Microsoft folks remain silent; that's interesting. They aren't actually smarter than they look, are they? They are not driving their own hysteria machine through manipulation of information, are they? I'm going to the BUILD Conference based on my own free will, right?

It appears that Microsoft is not siccing its lawyers on any person or site that leaked details about Windows 8. Interestingly, this is the exact opposite of the typical behavior of Apple, which sues every which way when something is leaked. Are we to draw conclusions from this?

Tim Huckaby ( [email protected]) is CEO and founder of Actus Interactive Software and InterKnowlogy, experts in .NET and Microsoft platforms. He has worked on and with product teams at Microsoft for many years, has coauthored several books, and is a frequent conference speaker.
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