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rwandering.net

The blogged wandering of Robert W. Anderson

Thoughts on Windows 8

Here are various thoughts I have about Windows 8:

On the name:

  • I hope this “codename Windows 8″ stuff is just a joke.  Just call it Windows 8.  Every other OS that I can think of has first and foremost a number associated with it.  In fact, I think this must just be a joke, because Microsoft is more and more coming around to the “Windows” name as the brand.  Calling it Windows Flambe or Windows Azule or Windows Enchilada doesn’t help with the brand.  8.
  • Now, of course, this ignores the fact that Windows 7 is a name, not a version.  So implicit in my plea for Windows 8 is that it actually be version 8, not just named 8.  Sorry if that is confusing, but I’m not the one who decided that Windows version 6.1 would be called Windows 7.

On the new interface:

  • Looks kind of interesting, but I’m concerned about the “one interface to rule them all” approach.  Remind anyone of the original Windows Mobile?  Just a small form-factor Windows machine with Start menu.  That seemed logical, but it turned out that it was nearly unusable.  The Windows Phone 7 Metro UI is pretty cool for a phone.  It would work well for a tablet.  It seems wierd for a desktop/laptop, but maybe not.
  • The bigger problem is that I hope Microsoft gets that standard Windows applications don’t become productive tablet applications with the addition of touch.  I have a convertible laptop.  It would be interesting to have Metro on it, but that will only solve one piece of what makes it nearly unusable in tablet form.

On Silverlight:

  • So, unlike Windows Phone 7, Windows 8 won’t use Silverlight for the Metro UI.  This isn’t surprising.  Microsoft has eschewed .NET for core Windows development from day 1.  OK, from day 2, because on day 1 they said .NET would be the new Windows API.  It never happened.  And this is just another indication that it never will.
  • That said, I think it makes total sense for them to use HTML 5 and not Silverlight for Windows.
  • This begs the question: if HTML 5 and JavaScript are good for Windows 8, then how long until these replace Silverlight for Windows Phone?
  • Which begs another (future) question: what will Silverlight be good for then?

A little snarky, but I’m feeling snarky today.

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Silverlight to be announced for the iPhone soon?

Interesting announcement this morning from Apple: that non Apple dev tools can be used to create iOS apps:

In particular, we are relaxing all restrictions on the development tools used to create iOS apps, as long as the resulting apps do not download any code. This should give developers the flexibility they want, while preserving the security we need.

Nothing in the release mentions the browser.  In fact the part that says “apps do not download any code” seems to imply not allowing RIA at all.  This part is a bigger pain point for users.

But if the Silverlight runtime (full .NET?) or Flash can be used to built full applications, that is pretty cool.

904 days ago I posted Counting the days till Silverlight announced for iPhone.  That sure was more than I expected, but how many more days now?

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PDC 2009 Day #2: Silverlight 4

Lots of great new stuff in today’s beta.  A few things that stand out:

  • Hosting HTML
  • Context menus
  • WCF and REST enhancements
  • Support for RIA Services
  • Drag & Drop
  • Running out of sandbox for trusted apps
  • Sharing components between .NET 4 and SL 4

Lot of other things too.  I’m excited to start using this.  Also a shout out to Tim Heuer – he has helped me on a few things before and I got a chance to meet him today.

Those of you following NewsGang will know why I am very excited about these Silverlight developments.

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Some thoughts on Chrome

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Google releases a new browser.  The world declares “browser war” with some apprehension and  relish.  Web developers are cringing because browser compatibility is a major source of effort, cost, and frustration for software developers.

Q. Why would Google do this to us?  Just to take away Microsoft browser share? 

A. No.

Q. Are they doing this to extend the “Google OS” to the desktop in a way they control?

A. Probably, but that isn’t even their first concern.

Q. So, what is going on?

A. Well, I’m glad you asked.

Google is working to make their JavaScript-view of the Web as powerful as possible.  This makes sense given their enormous investments in JavaScript and in their own application suite.

Contrary to the approaches of Microsoft and Adobe with their Rich Internet Applications (RIA) frameworks, Google has focused on JavaScript. Where Microsoft and Adobe are building a better user experience inside of a container, Google is creating a better user experience through dynamic HTML and AJAX techniques.

Their developer model includes building out tooling to make it easier to author AJAX applications.  This includes the efforts made in the Google Web Toolkit (GWT) to enable modern IDE tooling for AJAX development. This allows developers to build maintainable object-oriented applications (in Java) that get converted and optimized to JavaScript.  Plus it promises cross-browser compatibility.

On the client side, they have Google Gears to enable local storage, improved caching support, and offline mode.

Q. So what have they been missing?  A browser? 

A. Not exactly.  They’ve been missing a JavaScript client runtime engine.

Google has made great advances in AJAX application development and tooling, but they have had to rely on others to provide reliability, responsiveness, performance, etc.

And that is what Chrome is about: taking control of the runtime engine for Google applications.  This makes the Google applications way more compelling.  More specifically, Chrome is about delivering that engine.  As Google says, they would love it if other browsers adopt the engine too.  I buy that.

Of course, by that time Chrome will be differentiated from its JavaScript engine.  By then Chrome will be about the Google OS.

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Yahoo not in Microsoft

I had to drop off the emergency Gillmor Gang last night before I had a chance to give my thoughts on the Microsoft / Yahoo deal.  Not only did Steve call an emergency Gang, but it looks like the blogosphere did as well.  Anyway, here is what I think:

All bad for Yahoo

  1. Yahoo fought the deal, lost a bunch of key employees, increased “golden parachutes” for employees, etc.  While Yahoo didn’t ask for a takeover bid, it was pretty clear Ballmer was going to go after Yahoo again.  Jerry Yang should have been ready, but wasn’t.  His response was to take measures which make it harder for the company to do business as an independent.
  2. Yahoo’s stock price is about to plummet.  My guess is well below its price before this all started.
  3. And, investor lawsuits. 

Mixed for Microsoft

  1. Ballmer spent a lot of time and money on this and came up short.  Unless he had the secondary goal of sabotaging Yahoo this was just a waste of time and money.  Clearly he thought he could get it done, but he didn’t, and he failed there.
  2. Merging the companies together would have been very difficult culturally — and I think a long hard slog for everybody involved.  Good thing this is avoided.
  3. Microsoft still needs to jumpstart their advertising revenues.  It really isn’t clear how they do this.  Live Mesh is a longer term play for building a stick and highly compelling services platform.  This will convert to ad revenue, but not very quickly.

The real issue for Microsoft is how to convert the (still strong) Office / Windows revenues into a sustainable and growing advertising platform.

What I think Microsoft needs to do now:

  1. Robert Scoble says that Live is a damaged brand.  Building cool services won’t fix this on its own.  Microsoft needs to fix this by defining Live in a way that is clear.  Live can’t be all things to all people!  Define it.
  2. Windows Vista is a damaged brand.  While this is slightly off the topic of a services platform, it is dead center on the Microsoft definition of S+S.  They need to fix this.  The whole “Vista Ready” fiasco really informs what Microsoft did wrong here.  Number one priority for Microsoft on Vista should be to make it as performant and stable as XP. 
  3. Wait.  Keep building out their very cool services and dev platform.  Get a Silverlight Office out.  Keep an eye on Yahoo.  Maybe after Yahoo gets hammered, the economics will make sense.

Microsoft clearly has had a two-pronged strategy here: build and buy.  Buy is out for now — as it isn’t clear what other acquisitions get Microsoft what they need — but build is going like crazy.  The problem with build alone is that it only works accompanied with brand.  So I think the real question is:

How will Microsoft fix their brand woes?

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On Live Mesh and Silverlight

David Treadwell was on the latest Gillmor Gang talking about the recent Live Mesh announcement.  David’s title is Corporate Vice President, Live Platform Services and has been described as Ray Ozzie’s point man on the Mesh.

It was a pleasure talking with him — and thanks to David for the LiveMesh invitations.

The synchronization capability in this preview is a big deal not in what it provides, but for what it promises. 

That is why it is a little disappointing that there is such a heavy emphasis on Windows and Windows Mobile.  I discount the coming Macintosh support because support for non-Windows mobile devices is really the issue.  If iPhones and Blackberrys are out of the equation, then the synchronization story isn’t so compelling.

Nobody should be surprised about Microsoft promoting Windows.  And I certainly am not, but Microsoft’s new openness had me hoping for a different alignment of Microsoft strategy.  One in which their S+S play would de-couple the Windows, Office, Windows Mobile, and Live businesses.  I saw this happening through the Silverlight runtime everywhere.  I hoped that the mobile Live Mesh synchronization client would be written on top of Silverlight.  I hoped that the next Office Mobile would be too.  Then Live services could serve any device running Silverlight.  And so on.  I’ve written about this previously, so I’ll leave it at that.

Instead, Microsoft is approaching Live Mesh as a set of open protocols that anyone can implement. So, an iPhone version could be written by a 3rd party using the Apple SDK.  Just implement the protocols — of which FeedSync seems to be the major part — and you are all set.  That is very good and much better than requiring the use of a Microsoft runtime to make it happen.

But, in addition to the open protocols, I would still have preferred a vision where the Silverlight runtime lies underneath the Microsoft implementations of the Live Mesh client.  That way, when the next big feature set for Live Mesh is released, the new client code could conceivably run everywhere. 

I want to make one thing clear: I’m not saying that Silverlight in its current form could support this at all.  And I know Silverlight’s (nee WPF/E) genesis emphasized presentation, but at the end of the day, it is a .NET runtime. 

As David says (from the Gillmor Gang transcript on TechCrunch):

Treadwell: I really view mesh and Silverlight as orthogonal and complementary technologies. Essentially what the mesh client does, it’s the runtime for doing synchronization and collaboration those kinds of things. I view Silverlight as a runtime that does the presentation engine. Mesh doesn’t really have anything for presentation, Silverlight doesn’t really have anything for synchronization and mobile communications. Working together I think you have a very good thought there about the combination of these and how they’ll come together. We’re working actively on that but we don’t have all the I’s dotted and t’s crossed.

Yes.  They are orthogonal if Microsoft says they are.  And Live Mesh and Silverlight will somehow come together though this appears to mean in terms of presentation.  Fair enough.

And more than a little cool.

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Counting the days till Silverlight announced for iPhone

Now that we have the Adobe CEO saying, We’re bringing Flash to the iPhone.

How many more days until we hear Microsoft publicly commit to Silverlight on the iPhone?  I bet we hear it within two weeks.

Why do I care?  It validates some of my earlier arguments.  Here and here.

Scott Guthrie?  What do you say?

Update: Adobe clarifies CEO’s iPhone Flash comments.  Maybe Apple will fight to keep their platform closed after all.

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Ballmer @ MIX08

A little late, but here are my notes on the Steve Ballmer keynote at MIX08.

The Q & A format was certainly better than having Steve Ballmer just talk for an hour, though I got a little tired of Guy Kawasaki’s cracks at Ballmer — about his wealth and method of travel, how Microsoft “should have hired” him.  It got better when he stopped that.

I thought the best questions were from the Audience:

On .NET being baked into IE

Why isn’t IE built on .NET.

This has been a common theme, that is, the lack of .NET adoption for some major Microsoft products.  Part of that is dog-fooding, but a bigger part is that the developer stories for these products are harder for lack of deep .NET support.  For example, Office and IE are not based on .NET.  Connecting between their unmanaged, COM, BHO worlds and the managed .NET world is more than a little painful.

Anyway, his response was that .NET wasn’t expected to be as proven and as far along by the time Vista shipped.  Fair enough, but I would have been happier if the delays in Vista were related to a real WinFx in the OS than the reasons given.

The iPhone

What about Silverlight for the iPhone?

Steve Ballmer responded (paraphrased) . . .

Would love to get it on everything;

Can’t say we’ve been having talks about it; and

Licensing model not so good.

Right.  The licensing model is not so good.

Maybe Microsoft can pay Apple a bunch of money so Silverlight can run on the iPhone.  Then developers can build the apps for free?

Sounds good to me.

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When iPhone + Silverlight?

Onstage during his keynote at MIX08 yesterday, Scott Guthrie said they’ll be bringing Silverlight to “everything with an SDK”.  Yesterday, I suggested this was a dig at the iPhone with its lack of an SDK. 

Of course, that was yesterday and today we expected an announcement from Apple on the new SDK.  I also surmised that the SDK wouldn’t be deep enough for Silverlight, but reports are that I was wrong.

So, my guess is that Scott was hinting at Silverlight for the iPhone.

Cool.

So, Scott, when we’ll we see it?

And Ray Ozzie, please get the Office Team onto .NET, specifically the Office Mobile Team onto Silverlight.

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ScottGu @ MIX08

This is the third of three posts on the MIX08 keynotes.  This is like live blogging without the live, since I’m writing this in Oakland.  You can follow my comments at http://twitter.com/rwandering.

Scott Guthrie et al.image

Most of the discussion was on Silverlight 2.  This is the coolest thing Microsoft is doing in the Internet space and it is (happily) pervading a lot of their strategy. 

Media

  • Silverlight 2, adaptive streaming very cool.
  • Advertising templates for Visual Studio.  Struck me as odd, but it looks good, and advertising is the corner stone of free.  I won’t be running out to try this one.
  • Double-click and Silverlight.  To keep “gold standard of reporting”, they support Silverlight for instream ad delivery.  Makes sense.

Silverlight 2

  • Silverlight 2 supports many languages (including JavaScript).  This is such a benefit to the .NET strategy that blows the doors off of Air and Java. 
  • Silverlight 2 built-in controls will truly accelerate Silverlight adoption.  New controls open-source with unit tests.  Very cool.

The Silverlight demos did not disappoint

  • Hard Rock International demo was really cool.  They showed deep zooming to incredible detail and zooming way out to see the entire collection, tiled.  Lots of Beatles stuff in there too.  Yay.
  • Aston Martin site cool too.  The number of options that a user can select.
  • Cirque de Soleil Human Resources system.  Custom built HR system.  This kind of application shows how IT can’t ever really be dead.  That is, one-size-fits-all HR systems don’t work where a company sees competitive advantage or reduced costs in custom systems. 

WPF Enhancements

  • Performance.
  • Better controls.
  • Write custom effect that can be pushed down to the GPU.

Silverlight Mobile

Windows Mobile and Non-Windows Mobile, but what does that mean?  Nokia Symbian, of course, but what else?  Scott says more and more devices.  In fact, he said,

Everything with an SDK. 

Is that a dig at the iPhone?  I wonder if the iPhone SDK when released will be deep enough to allow Silverlight.  My guess is no.

Anyway, good job Scott.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again.  The Microsoft .NET strategy really rocks.

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