Posts Tagged ‘Windows 8’

Thoughts from Build Windows Conference

September 15, 2011

This past week I attended the Microsoft Build Windows conference in Anaheim, California.  The conference was focused on developing applications for the next version of Windows – known as Windows 8.

The keynote was presented by Steven Sinofsky (President of Windows and Windows Live Divisions) where he provided an overview and demonstration of Windows 8. Windows 8 introduces a new user interface called Metro (similar in appearance to Windows Phone and XBox) which is possibly the biggest change to the Windows user interface since Windows 95. Metro is designed for touch first and keyboard/mouse second, thereby changing how users interact with the operating system. In Metro there are no overlapping windows, nor are there any icons on the desktop – rather it has ‘living tiles’.  The operating system recedes into the background, whilst applications and content take front stage.

Windows 8 Start Screen

Microsoft claims that any application that runs on Windows 7 will run on Windows 8. To achieve this, Windows 8 provides both the Metro user interface and the traditional Desktop user interface, whilst allowing instant switching between both.  However, applications must be either Metro applications or Desktop applications.  Windows 8 effectively packages 2 different user interface paradigms and allows the single operating system to run effectively on both tablets and desktops.  This is a different approach to Apple which has separate operating systems with iOS for tablets and OS X for desktops.

The conference sessions focused on developing applications for the Metro user interface.  From the sessions, Metro appears great for developing content consumption applications targeted for consumers, but does seem lacking for content creation/productivity applications targeted for businesses.  I am interested in knowing what Microsoft plans to do with their productivity software, such as Word and Excel which are feature rich applications, whether they remain as Desktop applications or whether they can be reimagined into Metro applications.  I particularly like the Share Contract for Metro applications, but it is short-sighted in not allowing the Share Contracts to be used with Desktop applications.

The Windows Store is a good addition to Windows.  Metro applications can only be distributed via the Windows Store and must pass a certification process to ensure quality.  The revenue sharing model has not been released, but all Metro applications use a Microsoft licensing model which licenses software to an account which may be used across multiple devices.  The ability to specify a trial period for a Metro application is a good inclusion, and improves upon the separate Lite/Full version apps in the Apple App Store.  Desktop applications can be listed in the Windows Store if certified and continue to use traditional licensing and distribution methods.

LiveID plays an important role in Windows 8 by leveraging the Cloud to sync user profiles, preferences, applications and their associated data across devices.  Other nice aspects of Windows 8 is the fast boot, AppV support, chrome-less Internet Explorer, revamped Task Manager and the innovative picture passwords.

Metro applications reuse developer language skills in C, C++, C#, VB, HTML, and Javascript.  Developers will need to learn the Windows Runtime which is in a flavor similar to the .Net framework.  Desktop applications developed using the .Net Framework and Silverlight are part of the Windows 8 journey, but they are now relegated to the back seat, with Windows Runtime in the drivers seat and HTML5 calling shotgun.

Windows 8 Apps

Besides sessions on Windows 8, I was interested in Anders Hejlsberg’s session titled Future directions for C# and Visual Basic which demonstrated Project Rosyln – the compiler as a service.  I was also interested in Roger Doherty’s session titled Building mission critical database apps with SQL Server code name “Denali” which overviews the many great improvements in SQL Server for developers and needed a day of sessions to do it justice.

These are my thoughts after attending Build Windows over the past 4 days and look forward to seeing how Windows 8 evolves through the Developer Preview and Beta.  In summary, Windows 8 is a bold refresh of the Windows operating system, positioning to be the best user experience for a diverse range of device formats.