Fingers Crossed for a Robust Windows Runtime (WinRT) API in the Windows 8 Release Preview

Fingers Crossed for a Robust Windows Runtime (WinRT) API in the Windows 8 Release Preview

Steven Sinofsky, president of Microsoft's Windows division, proclaimed that the Windows 8 Release Preview will be available during the first week of June. Sinofsky's announcement was made in April at the Windows 8 Developer Day event in Japan. Although the Release Preview hasn't been posted yet, you'll be able to download the Release Preview through the Windows Dev Center when it becomes available.

Although the press has paid close attention to Windows 8's new user experience (UX) and features—such as the lack of a Start button, navigating between Metro and Classic modes, and stronger SkyDrive integration—like many of you developers, I have my fingers crossed for a more thorough and robust Windows Runtime (WinRT) API. Although Windows 8 is exciting and potentially powerful, the real problem with the Windows 8 Developer and Consumer Previews for developers is that the API is pretty light—in fact, it's arguably weak. It's fair to say that the API isn't even close to being complete.

Building a real and functional WinRT application currently takes a lot of work because many tools that we received for free in the .NET Framework aren't available in WinRT. So, my fingers are crossed that Windows 8 Release Preview includes a full-featured and rich WinRT API. A robust WinRT API is essential because we need to start building and re-platforming enterprise apps now. It's rumored that Windows 8 will be released in October. For developers, it will be advantageous to have apps ready when Windows 8 ships.

We were spoiled with the .NET Framework because its API is so rich. The developer productivity that we have in the .NET Framework, combined with the power of Visual Studio, isn't matched anywhere. The .NET Framework was revolutionary because it provided developers with the power of the Win32 programmer and enabled the use of high-level languages such as C# and VB.NET. In addition, the .NET Framework's API was elegant in terms of its vastness, usability, and integration with Visual Studio. We need the WinRT API to be just as powerful and rich. Development could get nasty if we don't have power and ease-of-use for building Metro apps with the WinRT API.

I'm pretty confident that we will get an even bigger and better WinRT API, but because of Microsoft's secrecy surrounding Windows 8, I don't really know for sure. And I won't know until the Windows 8 Release Preview has shipped. It's still funny to me how different Microsoft's strategy is from what it's been over the past 20 years that I've lived on the Microsoft stack. We had access to everything we could ever want and were provided with guidance eons before a product had shipped. But, it is what it is.

Also, the Visual Studio 11 Release Candidate is coming soon. I'm not worried about Visual Studio 11. Its beta releases are fast and furious, and you can be pretty sure that Visual Studio 11 will be the absolute best tool available for building WinRT applications. I'm also counting on Visual Studio 11 to be the best tool for building HTML5 applications. Recently, Microsoft announced that Visual Studio 11 is getting a pretty thorough UI makeover. Color schemes and typefaces were changed to provide a better UX and to align as closely as possibly with the rest of the Microsoft stack.

I've had the most interesting customer and colleague conversations over the past few months about WinRT and its lack of completeness in the Windows 8 Consumer Preview. I've found myself belaying the fears for many of our customers who felt that WinRT wouldn't be as robust as the .NET Framework API. And because Microsoft isn't talking about it, people keep turning to me and other non-Microsoft industry folks to speculate and discuss . . . odd. Picture me saying, "One might speculate that the WinRT API will be just as robust as the .NET Framework API, which we've come to depend on. One might speculate that you'll see that the WinRT API will be more robust in Microsoft's upcoming Windows 8 Release Preview." Fingers crossed.

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