Windows Build/Windows 8: My Impressions – Change is a good thing | John V. Petersen


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I was reading all of the tweets about the DevExpress party with SmashMouth and was wishing I was there. In fact, I was really sad that I could not be out there as the venue appeard not to require a separate energy source! That’s a big credit to Microsoft of the way they have kept the rest of us informed. The video streams were superb. That’s a big deal when one is trying to quickly grok what’s being presented.

By the way, you can find links to everything on the official Build Windows site.

I have to admit that I am somewhat amused by all of the “WPF is dead, Silverlight is dead” banter that is burning up the Twitter and Blog o Sphere. I’ve been writing software for over 20 years and the one constant has always been and will continue to be change. As some of you know, I’m an former Fox developer. As early as 1993, MS was talking about the “Unified Language Strategy”. Roger Heinen gave that talk and it got more than a few of us at the Orlando FoxPro Devcon thinking. Fast forward to 1997 and the ISV/Book Author summit at MS (the pre-cursor to the MVP Summit) – that unified language strategy was beginning to take more and more form. By 2000, it was clear what was happening and by 2001, we had .NET 1.0 betas in our hands. I still have an un-opened CD pack with that beta software. Hmm… wonder if it will run on Windows 8????

Up to those days at the beginning of the last decade, the bell was tolling for Fox, VB 6, etc. My best friend Rod Paddock and I had many a conversation about it and we took a rather cavalier attitude of “So What.” To others, Rome was burning down. To us, we saw it as nothing more than more of the same…that is to say – more change..more evolution. By then, we were far away from the days of Windows for Workgroups and having to still satisfy the need to support 16 bit OS’s via the Win32s. We had already come a long way and that what we were seeing was just an extension of the evolutionary process that is front and center in the profession we have chosen.

In the famous words of Hyman Roth in Godfather 2 (Played by Lee Steinberg, the father of method acting): “This is the business we’ve chosen… I didn’t ask who gave the order.”

In other words,  change is ever present, we’ve seen it and for all the buzz that is there today about Windows 8. the WinRT, etc – that too will eventually be on the wrong side of the evolutionary chasm.

Look…most of us are borderline or full blown ADD anyway… Change is our thing…it’s one of the thing I really like about this business. That is to say, change that helps, not hinders. Change for change sake does not itself yield a value proposition. And that is the myth, that for all the change, you cannot seize on first, basic principles that will last forever.

Back to the conversations Rod Paddock and I have had over the years, I’ve lost count of how many times we’ve said that adherence to basic principles will allow us to weather any storm. In today’s context, in the web, it’s about adherence to open standards: html, js, open source, etc. It’s about understanding how the web works, not just one vendor’s abstraction over the web.

I tweeted a few days ago that developers who embraced js, html, css are being rewarded with Windows 8. Those that have embraced ASP.NET MVC and Rails (to name two) have been rewarded, are being rewarded and will continue to be rewarded. Now, those of us that have embraced js, we are going to be able to leverage that skill set in a different way that targets the Windows Platform. If you are a WPF/SL developer, I truly believe that things, in the long run, will be easier for you.

That is not to say that WPF/SilverLight Developers are out in the cold. Let’s review: just as ASP != Web Forms,  WPF != XAML. WPF is but one implementation of XAML – and the underpinnings of XAML are being changed. That does not mean that WPF is “dead”. You can choose to look at it that way. I’d rather view it as XAML is progressing along an evoltutionary path. Developers need to focus more and the forest and less on the trees, more on what we do to deliver value and less on the particular tools we use.

I for one am glad to see that the context shift is going way on the Windows platform as to the differences between desktop and mobile/tablet devices. I can’t tell you how many times I got frustrated when I tried to do something in SilverLight, only to find that  while WPF supported it, SilverLight did not, at least not without some hack. Anybody who has tried to implement MVVM equally on WPF and SilverLight knows what I’m talking about!

If you have embraced XAML, there is something for you in Windows 8. If you have embraced js/css/html/jquery etc – there is something for you in Windows  8.  The deal is this, if you are going to tie what you do to the specific implementation of a specific version of a closed source/vendor controlled product (which Windows is) – you are not allowed to bitch about it. There, I said it. It’s like the folks that complain about how a given piece of OSS works. Submit a patch if you don’t like it. If you don’t submit a patch, you don’t get to bitch. When you hitch your horse up to a particular post, you shouldn’t bitch because that vendor is looking to evolve its product. And quite frankly, there really isn’t anything to bitch about. Windows 8 looks pretty cool to me and it appears that MS is embracing more and more of what is open.

In my opinion, Windows 8 is itself a web client that can directly interface with js and that interface can be optimized with Windows specific extensions.  We can concentrate more on writing apps and less on the mechanical differences that introduces friction when we have to consider making data available on mobile devices like Windows Phones, iPhones, Android, etc.

In my opinion, Windows Development is getting easier!

A few other specific tidbits: glad to see the Win32API go away. I wonder if IE 6 will ever totally go away!!

Big kudos to the VS team for giving the ability to open a VS 2010 project in VS2011 – WITHOUT CONVERSION!!

Bootable from a thumb drive! Awesome. The smaller footprint! Awesome.

And yes…Metro Style Apps. Ok..let’s not get too exited.. we can write those today with the appropriate css. That said, the primary UI to Windows looks a lot simpler.

Hey, is it all unicorns and rainbows? Of course not. The graphic’s password? Marginally useful IMO. I can see somebody strategically positioning a smart phone video camera to capture how somebody logs onto their machine! At least with a passcode hack, you have to go to the trouble to install some software. Then, there is the adoption period for businesses. I fear that will be a lengthy one. So with that, some of the exuberance needs to tempered as it will be quite some time before we see Windows 8 in the mainstram of business development. Let’s remember – IE 6 is still out there as there is still lots of XP and Vista too!!

And while I can write mobile device software with html/css – if the client is all about Windows, why wouldn’t I want an easier experience that targets the platform? IN that regard, it’s clear that Windows 8 will make it easier

Tools come and tools go. It’s like a MLB manager, they get hired knowing that at some point, they will get fired (very few retire on their own terms). With all the cool stuff that is coming down the pike in VS 2011, Windows 8, MVC 4, I can’t help but thing what is in store with Windows, VS, and MVC .vNext!

There’s never been a better time to be a software developer! It’s actually fun – and I remember the times when it was not so fun!!

Finally, if you are a technologist who does not like change, perhaps you should contemplate a career change to digging holes. That process has remained largely unchanged for 100’s, if not 1000’s of years!!

< JVP >