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Windows 8: Sinofsky @ D9 Transcribed, Part 3: Q & A

In this third and concluding part of this series, I provide a transcript of the relevant parts of the Q & A portion of Steven Sinofsky's appearance at the D9 Conference earlier this month. As you may recall, Part 1 focused on Mr. Sinofsky's discussion with All Things D's Walter Mossberg, and Part 2 focused on the Windows 8 Start screen demo, which also include Microsoft's Julie Larson-Green and All Things D's Kara Swisher.

Here, Larson-Green joins Mossberg and Sinofsky for the Q & A. Let's jump right in.

Mossberg: So, it [Windows 8] is pretty radical for you guys, right?

Larson-Green: I think it's a big change, but not a big change because compatibility is still there. So people can have the familiar applications and apps...

Mossberg, interrupting: It's pretty radical. People turn that on and it doesn't look like what they think Windows looks like.

Larson-Green: Right. I would agree... yeah.

Mossberg: Like I said, if they knew enough about the phone situation they might say: "Oh, this reminds me of Windows Phone." If they really students of Microsoft UIs, they might even say: "Ah, it has some elements I can trace back in my head to Media Center and Zune and some of the other UI work that the company has done."

Larson-Green: Yup, Absolutely.

Mossberg, forging ahead and ignoring Sinofsky/Larson-Green attempts to speak: But an average person walking into Best Buy and going to look at a Windows laptop is going to be shocked when they look at that. Now, maybe you will have done a ton of advertising. I'm sure you will have by then. But ... it's jolting. I mean...

Larson-Green: It's definitely different. It really takes into account all the changes that have happened in the industry and all the technologies. And while we showed just the user interface here, all of Windows, every subsystem of Windows, has been re-imagined to be modern [makes air quotes], I think is the word Stephen used earlier. So we really kind of re-think our assumptions, and re-think what customers are trying to do today, and really try to bring that to the device front and center.

Mossberg: And will there be ... I guess Kara kind of asked this and you dodged it by saying we're not in Office anymore, but let me just broaden the question: You'll have a developer's conference, that you mentioned, you're going to have developer tools so that third party apps can look like this?

Sinofsky: Oh, sure. What we were showing was some sample apps that we've written, but underneath all of this is a whole new set of APIs, a new way for developers to write applications, built on HTML 5, on JavaScript, and on those types of tools, and that's what you saw in the new applications. But it's not just those tools and those languages, but you also have access to a whole set of new services, like the File Picker that you saw, to pick photos. That's a common operation, and so now we have a way to build, using those tools, a very easy way to build a touch-first user experience for using those facilities in Windows, and still connect you to all that is Windows, the file system, networking, devices, everything that's there. And then, connect all of those programs together. You saw, it was subtle, but it was a really important point, which is we're going to ... in September, we'll talk a lot about how applications can also connect with each other. So that it's not just little islands of applications that do one thing, but that applications have ways of sharing information, and consuming information, from all other applications on the...

Mossberg: Give me an example of...

Sinofsky: Well, the photos [app] was a good example where, here's an application over here that is all about photos and in the cloud, and then you want to post a photo, and it's easy for that application to, in a sense, publish a connection to those photos so that when you're in your fake Twitter application that we had, you can pull up photos from this other application that are really in the cloud.

Mossberg: Well, I think Apple has a media picker across some of their apps that you can use... uh... not just photos but music, video, whatever...

Sinofksy: Right. It's a finite set of data types and a finite set of applications that have access to those things. And this is a broad ... opportunity for developers.

Larson-Green: So anyone who creates an application can give access, to people, to the things that they have stored in a service, or wherever they have it...

Mossberg, interrupting and utterly missing the point that the new Windows 8 UI is "touch-first," not "touch-centric": So. Is there a philos... If I'm a developer, isn't... don't... I'm like, not confronted with a philosophical difference between an app that uses the mouse and a physical keyboard, and an app that is like an iPad app today ... or a, a Honeycomb app on Android? Aren't those different kinds of approaches I need to think about? You keep calling this touch-centric [No, they do not; they are in fact, very careful NOT to call it that.  --Paul] or touch-first, and that's the approach you've apparently taken with the OS. But in terms of the apps, if you're saying to me, hey, it's Windows, it will run on all these Windows machines, that's really attractive to me. But then I have to figure out, well, it really affects the way I design the app, whether I expect someone to be using a mouse or whether I expect someone to be using touch. So how do you get around that question?

Larson-Green, looking to Sinofsky for help: Do you want me answer?

Sinofsky, laughing: Yes! You're the design person.

Larson-Green: So, you design for touch and then in the operating system, we detect whether you have a mouse and keyboard, and we translate the touch commands to equivalent mouse and keyboard...

Mossberg, interrupting: And that won't seem clumsy?

Larson-Green: No, actually...

Mossberg, interrupting again and gesturing in the air: Wait. That beautiful swiping of all those groupings of tiles...

Larson-Green: ... and you can use the keyboard...

Mossberg, ignoring her: ...across... you're doing that with a mouse?? [Remember that they actually demoed this. To Mossberg. Just minutes earlier.] Isn't that going to be a little weird?

Larson-Green: ... You use a keyboard to "Aero" through...

Mossberg, now making swiping gestures in the air: Can you use the touchpad, or arrow [keys] or...

Larson-Green: Or arrows, or the Windows key, and the mouse, and the scroll wheel (on the mouse)...

Mossberg, interrupting: You're keeping the Windows key?

Larson-Green: Yes. That will bring you to the Start screen.

Mossberg: I see. Is that all it does?

Larson-Green: Yes.

Sinofsky: But it's also really important, in a sense, to not throw the baby out with the bath water. We all love interacting with apps on our touch phones, on small screens, we love when it gets a little bit bigger [holds hands out in air emulating the size of an iPad] and we're doing similar kinds of scenarios using a similar set of applications. But you have to keep in mind that the mouse and keyboard, they're just tools. They're not evil in and of themselves, and they're not a pain in the neck, in and of themselves. They actually help magnify and amplify the efforts of your hands. A mouse has a precision that your finger can't approach, and so there are applications for...

Mossberg, interrupting: The last guy to say that up here was Steve Jobs, actually.

Sinofsky: Yeah, and...

Mossberg, interrupting: He was making a completely different point, but...

Sinofsky, clearly not understanding what point Mossberg is trying to make (neither do I, he just likes the sound of his own voice, from what I can tell): If I could be in that company, that's awesome.

[Mossberg again goes back to the gang of four well for yet another awkward and stupid joke.]

Sinofsky, pricelessly looks skyward, makes a joke of his own and then reins it in finally: If you take a Microsoft product like Visio, it's used in tons of industries, and it's really important, your finger doesn't have the resolution to manipulate those diagrams. Or, even a lot of Photoshop uses. Yes, there are a whole bunch of scenarios that, as a consumer, you can remove red eye, or do some brightness and hue leveling, and stuff like that. But a huge amount of the scenarios require a much higher level of precision. And, as a writer, there's a certain amount of writing you can do, typing on glass, with thumbs, or with two hands, and then when you want to write the great American novel, or just one of my blog posts, it turns into needing a keyboard. And so one of the things that is intriguing and part of the reimagining that we've done is that if you have a 10.6 inch slate that's very, very thin, that is always on, always connected, that's running Windows, and you can carry it around all the time, and then you just plug a keyboard in and ... it is a Windows laptop ... It's all of Windows, and all of those pick up the benefits of plugging in that keyboard and using that mouse.

[This stuff is so obvious, it's unclear why Mossberg even requires such an explanation.]

Mossberg, moving on: Alright, so there are a million questions that flow from this, and we're going to take some from the audience, but I just have a few. What about security? Am I really going to have to install, on this lovely thing you've just invented that looks so different and fresh, from Windows, am I really going to have to install some anti-virus program that's going to pop-up and announce, you know, do I want a quarantine this, or do I want to scan that now, or do you want to scan later? Or ... renew, if it's not the free one you guys have ... Is that going to continue? Or are you going to tell me that I'm not going to have to run AV software on this? Security software.

Sinofsky: I think it's probably always going to be a good idea to be running security software and I think as we've seen just this past week, on the Mac, you know, the world is going to continue to change. [The Mac suffered from a high-profile malware attack right around this time, despite widespread claims that such a thing was impossible.] Anybody who thinks that those smart phones out there are not targets, I think they're going to find that that's just not really going to be the case for much longer. There's just too much ... too many bad guys. [He had to rush that last bit in, as Mossberg began interrupting him again.]

Mossberg: Do you run security software on your Mac?

[Yes, seriously. He asked about Sinofsky's use of security software on his Mac.]

Sinofsky: On... my Mac? Uh... I don't... I will run whatever they [Apple] push down to machine this week.

Mossberg: Oh. What about a... Do you have a personal Mac?

Sinofsky. No. Not "they"... Whatever Apple will start pushing down...

Mossberg: Right, but that's not a separate security app that sort of interrupts you all... you know what I mean?

Sinofsky: Yeah. I think, right now...

Mossberg, interrupting: You'll run whatever versions of their OSes that they think will fix this [the recent Mac malware attack]. We don't know, but...

[Why are they discussing this? This "conversation" continues to go downhill...]

Sinofsky: I think for today, let's just say, we're here to talk about the [Windows 8] user interface...

Mossberg: No, I have a serious ques...

Sinofsky: No, I'm not trying to...

Mossberg: You keep saying that this is "real Windows." And I'm just trying to ... I mean... I assume that's going to be your differentiator, right? You're coming to the party somewhat late, but you're coming to the party with full Windows. No compromise, right? I mean, I'm making this up off the top of my head...

[Larson-Green and Sinofsky are both nodding and agreeing, not able to get a word in edgewise.]

Mossberg: It seems to me, if I were to translate what you're saying [because it was so unclear?]: Gorgeous, touch-first, all that great stuff you want, but, by the way, no compromise. Here, as Kara said, the "old house" is under there also. So the old house had a bunch of stuff going... that some people didn't like, that most people didn't like, which was security problems and/or security software. [That's "one" problem, but whatever.] The only thing that's almost as bad as having a virus is running the software that prevents it. So ... are we...

Sinofsky, throwing his hands up: Keep going, I don't have to do anything.

Mossberg: No, Steven. Are we going to be done with this?

Sinofsky: I am...

Mossberg, interrupting: You're in charge of Windows. You've been doing it for six years.

Sinofsky: On all of my machines, I run Microsoft Security Essentials. And I never get prompted for anything. I just run it. And I download stuff all the time. I never get a pop-up. And ... I think it's possible to write security software that you never see until something bad happens.

Mossberg: It is possible?

Sinofsky: We... Security Essentials. I never get asked to do anything. It just runs. And I think that's a great approach. And I think as we move forward, you're going to see, not just us, but a lot of people [security vendors] adopt that kind of metaphor and I think it's important, and I think it's going to appear on all of our devices. Whether it's built-in or you have to acquire it, I just don't see a device being free of protection.

Mossberg: And what about when this [Windows 8] gets in the hands of OEMs and somebody's willing to pay them a dollar, or five dollars, to run trial software and craplets and all that other stuff? Now they can put them in those tiles. So the first screen of tiles I see, and this is already happening on Windows Phone as you know, in the case of Windows Phone, it's usually the carrier who's taking over a third, or half of your first screen, or something like that, it depends on which one...

[Sigh. Here's how it works on Windows Phone. You can see three and a half rows of tiles on the Windows Phone Start screen. The first four tiles, covering two rows, cannot be changed and must be the default first four Windows Phone tiles. The third row, consisting of two small tiles or one large tile, can be modified by the carrier for branding purposes. But the user can delete any carrier tile, completely, not just move or hide it. Walt is exaggerating how "bad" this is.]

Mossberg: ...And I'm not trying to pick on anyone in particular ... But Dell, or HP, or... Well, I guess HP's moving away from Windows, so maybe they're not a good example... Well, Dell or somebody ... Acer, um ... Are they gonna....?

Larson-Green, putting an end to this stupidity: Well, I think the most important thing for us is that the customer is in control of their environment and in control of their PC. So, adding and removing applications and tiles is super-easy with Windows 8. We are working with all of the OEMs on how we go to market, and what's there, what can be there, and what has to be chosen by the user, but we don't have any details yet to...

Mossberg: Are these all going to boot up, or startup, as fast as a MacBook Air or an iPad?

Sinofksy: Well that's something you [already] can do today. We just did a demonstration of several new machines that all suspend and resume instantaneously. And we are doing a bunch of fundamentals work that we'll talk about in September that enables both that kind of scenario and...

Mossberg, interrupting: So do think that's the actual real-world experience on Windows machines purchased at Best Buy today?

Sinofksy: Well, for standby and resume, it generally is. The last time you and I had this discussion, I use the chart with the real-world data of a bazillion machine...

Mossberg, interrupting again: I have a collection of your charts, from over the years...

[Well, at least it was important.]

Sinofsky: I think we can continue to do a lot of work with our OEM partners, and we provide lots of tools, lots of guidance. I think it's important to understand that they do view the things that they do as adding value to the PC experience, and not...

Mossberg, putting an end to that: OK. Let's take some questions [from the audience], a few questions...

Q: When Apple switched from the [Motorola] 68K [CPU family] to the PowerPC, and from PowerPC to Intel, they had a very nice transition strategy for existing applications. Do you have a strategy for existing Intel applications as they move to ARM?

Sinofsky: No, on the ARM machines... We already talked about this at our CES event. We're not going to introduce a virtualization model and a way to run, sort of, old x86 software. That turns out to be technically really challenging. And we decided that the experience we could deliver with the modern applications, all written in HTML 5, JavaScript, and delivering them that way, would probably yield a better experience over time. And of course Intel will make will make a ton of great processors and an opportunity to build PCs of all kinds of shapes and sizes with their processors, which maintain all of that investment and all of that code.

Q: I have a Windows Phone 7 app which runs on Silverlight and I have a desktop app which is also in Silverlight. And here, you've talked about HTML and JavaScript ... So what should I code for? What should I be prepared for? Do I use Silverlight, or do I trash everything and start all over again?

Sinofsky: The browser that we showed (IE 10) runs Silverlight, just like you would expect. We plan on ... and certainly all the desktop browsers are there, just like Word and Excel you saw, you can run Chrome or Firefox, or even Internet Explorer with the existing user interface. So Silverlight will have a place, and a way of running those applications there. Now, there's a broader question, which I could do the free consult... but there's a lot of, where else do you want your application to run, and what your browser-based strategy is for your mobile devices, and things like that. And I think those are all trade-offs that developers have to make. There isn't one easy answer across the universe of things that people need to do. But I think we support the most different ways of writing software. So there is the opportunity for you to reach the most different platforms by targeting the one that we have.

Q (same person, continuing): But I keep my code and I can evolve it?

Sinofsky: Certainly on the Silverlight on the PC side.

Q: What's the role of virtualization in the operating system relative to the ecosystem out there and how do you fit in with webOS, iOS, all that kind of stuff? In an enterprise environment where you're running applications?

Sinofsky: The enterprise environment right now, and the business world, are very, very focused on opportunities for using virtualization to not just enable the running of applications in an isolated way, but to isolate the entire individual's computing experience from the rest of the world. We're seeing a lot of enterprises where people carry around their virtualized environments, sort of, in a pocket, whether they're literally on removable media or they're stored in some cloud-based storage. That's an area of significant investment in Windows 8, and you'll definitely hear more about what we've done in virtualization down the road.

Q: Any discussion about Atom on Windows 8?

Larson-Green: Windows runs on Atom ... The convertible [laptop] I showed there was an Atom processor.

Q: Essentially, a question around the lack of services demo in the Windows 8 stuff shown so far. Is Microsoft making the same mistake as IBM ("it's all about the hardware"), but in this case, "it's all about the software?"

Sinofsky: We have a lot of services. We didn't show any of those here today, but, you know, Hotmail with 300 million members, and Messenger with another 300 million or so, SkyDrive with 70 million unique users. Plus they connect all over the place. Plus Skype ... We're working on integrating that as well. And, Azure as a developer platform. Actually, all of these applications that connected up to the cloud are connecting up to Azure-based services just as we're demonstrating building them. [Social networking, Exchange interjection from questioner.] And Office 365, and SharePoint...

Q, same guy: I guess the question is, to what extent are they [Microsoft's online services] informing the [Windows 8] product design? That is what makes it a modern platform, not having a touch screen.

Larson-Green. Sure. I didn't show all the details around notifications or how applications can talk to each other, and get information from each other to make the experience better, but the whole Start screen being live and connected from the get-go, without having to your desktop and then decide [air quotes] where you want to go today, it's just everything is there in front of you. When we are done, and show the full version of Windows [8], all those applications and things will be part of the experience, all of the services behind it. We work very closely with all those teams.

Sinofsky: We are the Windows and Windows Live team. So we have Hotmail and Messenger. We're all part of one team. We're just not on that here today.

Q: I agree the look and feel is really jolting. How is it different from TouchSmart, or if HP wants to run webOS as a layer on top of Windows? They have an SDK, which is HTML and JavaScript-based, how is it different than that? This feels like a layer that sits on top of what you showed running Office, which is .. Windows.

Larson-Green: It's not a layer. It's Windows. So all of these things are equal peers to each other, and it runs across 100s of millions of PCs. It's not a singular set of PCs from a particular manufacturer ... Keeping the developer platform the same across all of these devices, it's much more seamless than it sounds, because it's not "two shells," it's just very fast and fluid, and... [after being interrupted by the questioner] The platform gives you access, through HTML and JavaScript, to the power of the PC, so you could use DX [DirectX] graphics to create your HTML/JavaScript application, you can use the file system, access to network, access to devices that are connected to your computer, through HTML 5 and JavaScript.

Sinofsky: It's not an app.

Q, same guy: Can a PC maker make a table where [the old Windows desktop UI] never appears, it was just the new UI?

Larson-Green: If you don't have a desktop application, and you don't click on the Desktop [tile], you will never see it.

Sinofsky: It is Windows. Or, we should say, you're an enterprise, and you want to do a machine, a kiosk, that only lets you run three applications, just like you can do that today, we have all the facilities in there that would enable an administrator to administer that after you do your NT authenticated logon with a smart card.

Mossberg: But you can write, I mean, so for instance, the, the, uh ... Pages program that Apple had on the Mac and then rewrote [with] touch for the iPad. You could write some, or the Office team, or if some third party wanted to write, or Apple even, wanted to write that for this...

Sinofsky: Absolutely.

Mossberg, oblivious: ....they could do it, and we'd never see what we think of today as Windows?

Sinofsky: Absolutely.

Mossberg, continuing even though the question was answered: ...Never see the thing with the taskbar, and the desktop, and icons...

Larson-Green: Right, right.

Sinofsky: Yes, Absolutely.

Mossberg, like a Terminator robot, won't let go of even the simplest of questions: ...So somebody could j... I want to repeat his question because I want to be clear about it. An OEM could make a tablet in which the user would never see the normal Windows d... what I think of as "normal Windows"...

Larson-Green: No, you can't turn the desktop off. It's part of the system. So it's there all the time ... You can choose never to go there. But it's always available to you.

Sinofksy: It's underneath... The code is there...

Mossberg interrupts again: But if there were a flood of, so, so will there be a flood of apps written in HTML 5 and all these new languages that look like the new interface? [Larson-Green is now just nodding since she knows she would never be able to actually answer this question before Mossberg is done thinking out loud.] And wh... Isn't it going to discourage people from doing that because they can just continue along writing the old stuff because it's always going to be there?

Sinofsky: What we're going to show, starting at the developer conference, is that, oh, isn't this cool? It's just yet another way to write software. It's also a way to distribute the software, it will be the tools that you can use, it will be the ease with which you can write the software, and then, essentially, from a business point of view, the number of sockets which you have access to, all running this exact kind of operating system. And so when you think about planning out, you know, where should we spend our developer resources, well, in September we'll have a conference and you'll learn, hey, when this product comes out, the run rate of PCs will be able to run the programs you write. And then people will be able to discover them, acquire them, and install them...

Mossberg: And you're talking about new style applications that resemble this approach?

Sinofsky: Correct.

Mossberg, again oblivious that the question was already answered: ... and not the ones that are like when Julie clicked into Excel?

Larson-Green: Right

Sinofsky: Correct.

Mossberg: OK. Well, thank you. Thank you very much guys.

No, Mr. Mossberg. Thank you. Thank you for releasing this video in a timely manner. Thank you for accurately portraying what Steven Sinofsky and Julie Larson-Green actually communicated or, in many instances, tried to communicate, in the show's live blog. And thank you for treating them with the respect they deserve, both by listening and paying attention to what was said, and by not peppering them with irrelevant questions. This was truly an eye-opening experience for me. I hope it was for readers as well.

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