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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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Microsoft postpones PDC and more

Robert Scoble had a great post on the PDC and what is going on at Microsoft.   I liked it so much I included most of it here with my comments.

The PDC stands for “Professional Developer’s Conference.” It happens only when Microsoft knows it’ll have a major new platform to announce. Usually a new version of Windows or a new Internet strategy.

So, this means a couple of things: no new Windows and no major new Internet strategy this year.

I agree there is no new strategy this year and that is disappointing; however, Silverlight is huge and this year, and if not an Internet strategy it is an Internet developer strategy. 

Cleary Mix07 was the place to be — I would have made sure I went if I had known that PDC was going to be cancelled.

Some other things I’m hearing about the next version of Windows? There still is a ban on .NET code in core parts of Windows. They aren’t getting enough performance yet from .NET to include code written in it inside major parts of Windows. This is a bummer, because .NET is a lot easier to write than C++ and letting Microsoft’s developers write .NET code for Windows would unleash a bunch of innovation.

I fully agree with you here — a definite bummer.  Yet I don’t agree about the performance of .NET.  Certainly there are parts of Windows that need to be unmanaged code; but Digipede has a slew of customers using .NET for computation and getting terrific performance from it.  Face it, this “not performant yet” argument is used by people at Microsoft from kernel / device authors (OK) to the Office team (what?).  It is hard to separate the good arguments here from just plain bias and inertia. 

The person who told me this (who works at Microsoft) told me .NET still takes too long to startup and load into memory and because Windows is now being compared to OSX they can’t afford to ship components that would slow down Windows.

What?  If this were baked into the OS, couldn’t they do a better job of sharing this startup cost (i.e., doing it once with reuse)? 

This gets right back to my posts about how the Windows .NET API is actually dead (see these: WinFx).

It also means that Ray Ozzie’s team probably doesn’t have anything dramatic to announce yet and they aren’t willing to have live within the bounds of a forcing function like the PDC (PDC forces teams to get their acts together and finish off stuff enough to at least get some good demos together).

This is the “no Internet strategy this year” part.  Yup.  Definite bummer.

Some other things I’m hearing from the Windows team? That they are still planning out the next version of Windows. So, I don’t expect to see a beta until 2008 (probably second half of the year, if we see one at all) and I don’t expect to see a major new version of Windows to ship until 2009.

Microsoft says it won’t be as long between releases of the OS now.  I think, though, we won’t see a major new version released until Windows till 2010.

Anyway, this is sad cause I was hoping to see Microsoft make an all out push for developers this year.

Well, I think they have.  Their developer story is getting better and better every quarter.  I think they should have had the PDC anyway and continued to flog the .NET 3.0 and new .NET 3.5 stuff particularly Silverlight. 

What do you think it all means? Am I reading too much in between the lines?

Maybe you are.  I think the timing for the PDC was definitely wrong for Microsoft.  The Microsoft Internet strategy we are really waiting for has to do with Office / other applications and Internet services.  When this is unveiled, I think it will have less to do with developers than warranted at a PDC.  Ironically that should have been announced at Mix, but will have to wait for the next one.

Will Microsoft unveil a new Internet strategy at Mix08?  I bet.

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2nd Microsoft ISV CTO Summit

I’m coming back from the 2nd Microsoft ISV CTO Summit up in Redmond (I blogged about the first one here).  A good trip with worthwhile content.  I’m not sure any of it was really new, but I did see some cool stuff:

Expression Blend

The tool for designers to design and build WPF projects.  Definitely cool. 

I had two questions for one of the presenters (Eric Zocher) afterwards: when will Visual Studio look as good as blend (e.g., Blend uses WPF and allows smooth scaling of its own UI).  Answer: um, maybe never. 

Since Blend is basically a developer tool (for designers) that can create and edit Visual Studio, does it integrate with TFS?  Not yet.

Of course, these answers don’t take away from Blend at all (and certainly TFS will eventually come even though outsourced designers may get little value from that). 

I’m no designer, but I’m  looking forward to playing with it.  Though they haven’t announced this part yet, I expect it will be made available through MSDN Maximal (or whatever they are calling it now) or through our Gold Certified ISV Competency.

WPF/E

This stuff is very cool.  Actually, Scott Guthrie demoed the WPF/E Vista emulator that Savas recently linked to.  The great thing here is the unification of the presentation story here.  I won’t go further into the roadmap because it is never clear to me at these NDA events what is open knowledge and what requires the secret-squirrel decoder ring.

AJAX ASP.NET

I tracked this as a really good thing (to greatly simplify AJAX for .NET devs), but I hadn’t taken the time to look at it or the demos.  It is really cool.  Aside from all it can do, the coolest thing is how easy you can enable it for existing ASP.NET applications.  I would have tried it out already (i.e., in our Digipede product), but I stayed out too late last night to get into it.

WinFx dead?

I had a chance to ask Scott Guthrie directly about whether the WinFx name change was an indication of the death of the managed Windows API (as I argued here).  His response, basically, naaah.  Just a marketing change.  I still disagree, as long as the managed API rides atop Win32, it isn’t the actual Windows API.  In this case the managed API is either dead or were waiting for Singularity.

Swag

These events always come with some swag.  This time we got a strange floppy neoprene folder (for small laptops here) and what I think is a screen cleaning cloth (though looks like a compressible handkerchief). 

Cheers, though, to Microsoft for not giving us a bunch of junk for the landfill — I include in this: lamps, USB speakers, travel clocks.  Also, I think it is great that they didn’t give us a whole bunch of resource CDs, trials, betas, etc.  Last time they did and these are mostly useless.  Not for the content, but because we all already have this content in MSDN or available through other partner programs.

They did give us one useful thing, though: a Vista Ultimate DVD/license.  Frankly, that is my kind of swag.

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More on the death of WinFx (Part 3)

Andrew Hilton recently commented on WinFx is Dead Part 2.  I am promoting it to a post so I can better comment on the comments.

Andrew says:

I’m of the opinion that it is not yet the official windows API because it simply wasn’t ready, and using .NET 2 with WinForms would have been too restrictive and no doubt would not have integrated with the subsystems of Vista (such as graphics). The .NET framework 3.0 was not released until almost the final release of Vista. The risk of developing the windows front end under the managed API and still ship on time would have been too great.

I think you are correct regarding the .NET 3.0 components of WinFx: there was an early plan that Vista and Office would take advantage of these technologies, but of course, everything was late.   Using .NET the .NET 2 WinForms really didn’t make sense either.

From what I’ve heard early versions of Vista and Office 2007 did use the managed API (or at least an early version of WPF). My feeling is that the dev teams simply couldn’t cope with a large framework like that shifting beneath their feet causing all manner of chaos. Hence the move by both Vista and Office 2007 back to COM, which also gave leeway to the WinFX teams to change stuff radically if they needed to. My assumption is that given the large technical leap of WPF, WCF etc there would have been many back steps as they were trying to go forward.

Yeah, but I’ll bet the delays of .NET 2 had a bigger impact on the likelihood of managed APIs in Vista than, let’s say, WPF or WCF.

I’ll be very suprised if the consumer version of Vista does not include some managed code WPF apps. All the indications are that WPF will do very well (for example see the recent video of the WPF version of Yahoo messenger), . . .

Yes, I think this is all true, but hold on.

My post wasn’t about .NET 3.0 (or what they were calling WinFx), but of the original idea for WinFx: a full (or fairly full) Windows API.

WPF and WCF have little to do with that, certainly WF has nothing to do with it, and Info Cards, not really either.  Of course, this last one is a part of Vista though as kind of an add on. 

All of this stuff is very cool, but WinFx was supposed to push managed APIs deeper down into the OS, not to be extra layers on top of it.  The internalization of these APIs were to supply a more robust and secure OS. 

And it is that WinFx that appears to be dead.

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WinFx is Dead Part 2

After I posted WinFx is Dead, I’ve gotten two kinds of comments:

Didn’t you hear that WinFx has been renamed .NET 3.0? What rock have you been hiding under?

Well, yes, I have heard that — my point wasn’t that the name WinFx is dead, it is that the concept of WinFx is dead.

Really, Microsoft has killed the managed Windows API?

What, am I psychic?

I have no idea if Microsoft has killed the managed Windows API. It appears to me that they have. The stated reason for the name change was to clear up confusion in the marketplace. The common belief seems to be that this confusion was that developers didn’t understand how WinFx related to .NET. I believe that the actual confusion was that developers didn’t understand how WinFx (as composed of WCF, WPF, WF, etc.) had anything to do with a managed Windows API.

I am guessing that this name change away from WinFx is indicates that the managed Windows API is dead. John goes further in comment on this post (full comment here):

. . . Microsoft continues to vacilate on this issue. I hear Microsoft execs stand up and proclaim that everything is .NET. Then I see product teams create products without the slightest nod to .NET, using a patchwork of unmanaged code and interfaces dating back to the (early) COM days.

So, Microsoft: you may think that the name change cleared up some confusion. Maybe it did. But as a Microsoft ISV, Gold certified partner, developer, I’ll tell you that I’m confused about how .NET actually fits into the overall product plans.

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WinFx is dead

From mdavey: Longhorn “Server Core” doesn’t have .NET? No managed code.

From the referenced article, Server Core Program Manager

(Andrew) Mason says his development team wants to add the .NET Framework to Server Core, but they first need the Framework team to modularize the code so they can add just the essentials.

Another example of the left-hand not being coordinated with the right. I know I’m mixing metaphors, but it has continued to baffle me that it is taking Microsoft so long to adopt managed code.

Now I think I understand why. And the WinFx to .NET 3.0 name change illustrates the point well:

  • WinFx was purported to be the new Windows API. This claim, while supported by various parts of Microsoft was never internalized by the product teams.
  • This is actually the message that was confusing people. Customers / developers were not asking “what is WinFx?”, as much as they were asking, “where is the new managed Windows API, WinFx?”.
  • But there is no managed Windows API. Managed code is not a core part of the OS (and may never be).
  • So, to avoid the topic, WinFx gets killed. Not just the name, but the entire idea of a managed Windows API. Sure, the components of WinFx get shifted to .NET 3.0.

I have posted before that I am OK with the name change. I am, but I am not OK with the death of the managed Windows API.

Now (of course) this blog is all my own opinion, but I want to point out that this is purely an outsiders view of what is going on at Microsoft. As far as I know I am completely mistaken and next week Microsoft will announce some new effort to provide a fully managed API. Or not.

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IE7 release date decoupled from Vista

It appears that IE7 has been decoupled from Vista. According to the IEBlog, the final release will be in “a few weeks”.

On a couple of occasions, I have requested that IE7 and .NET 3.0 be released when ready (post here) — presumably before Vista. I guess I have gotten part of my wish, though it is really the RTM of .NET 3.0 that I would like to see released.

On a side note: the last I checked IE7 is not dependent on .NET. Unfortunate to say the least. I would like to see managed Browser Helper Objects (BHOs) being easy without requiring COM — that could have gotten IE7 much closer to the Firefox extension model. What will ever drive .NET installs onto XP so that it is, in fact, ubiquitous?

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A Vista plea to Microsoft

So, Vista is delayed. One must assume that Microsoft has made the best choice with the information at its disposal — certainly better info than the second-guessers who have pounced on Robert Scoble.

I am left with a couple of questions, though:

  1. What does this mean about Vista Server? That was already delayed beyond Vista Client. Can we hope for that in 2007? 2008?
  2. What about WinFx? I can understand why Workflow Foundation may need to track the Office 2007 release, but do Communications Foundation (WCF) and Presentation Foundation (WPF) have to wait for Vista? Do these parts really need 6+ months more work? And what about Atlas?
  3. And, of course, what about IE7? Is IE7 really that far from ready?

On my 2nd and 3rd questions, it is hard to imagine that Microsoft will release final parts early — it would take some of the wind out of the Vista sails — but as a software developer, I hope they do.

It is very difficult for ISVs to incorporate these new technologies into products while the dates keep slipping.
My point here isn’t to jump on the dogpile, but to make a plea to Microsoft:

Please, while retaining focus on quality, release WinFx and IE7 as soon as possible. Please do not wait for Vista’s release to make these components ready in final form.

Can anyone from Microsoft comment?

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