Last week I attended Build Windows conference and have been spending a considerable amount of time thinking how things have changed for developers.
The initial reaction from most people was “Oh My God” with all the focus on WinRT and Metro UI and little mention of .Net, Silverlight, WPF, etc. You could almost feel the equal parts panic and excitement racing through the crowd.
I was fortunate enough to have brought along my “Keep Calm and Carry On” T-Shirt to Anaheim. I wore it on Wednesday as it seemed to sum up my feelings on the topic.
1. .Net didn’t die. Nor did Silverlight, WPF, etc. In fact, there were some great new features introduced.
2. Desktop Applications didn’t die. Even during one of the general sessions, they stressed that an application like PhotoShop probably will continue to exist as a desktop application.
3. WinRT/Metro are new, but familiar for developers. I like the fact that my existing C# and XAML skills (as limited as they might be) are still relevant on the new touch-centric platform. I completely understand why WinRT has been implemented as native code. This stuff needs to run effectively and efficiently on a low power device.
4. THIS IS A DEVELOPER PREVIEW. I suspect we will see a lot of improvement in both the stability and the experience moving forward.
So, what is my message to my developers upon return from Build?
1. Check out the developer preview, but don’t assume that Windows 8 will end up exactly like this.
2. Investigate and experiment with Metro UI applications. Heck, let’s get some queued up for when that app store opens up!! There are many applications that will be great candidates to take advantage of the Metro / touch centric UI. And, hey, it’s still using the languages we know and love (as opposed to the other touch platforms).
3. Don’t change what you are doing, or the advice you are giving on Line of Business applications. The majority of the type of development we do won’t change in Windows 8. We primarily develop complex line of business applications with functionally rich user interfaces. This type of application likely doesn’t directly translate to Metro UI. DO, however, consider Metro UI as an alternate, mobile/touch-friendly user experience for you applications. This is no different than what we might do today with an iPad or Android user experience.
I see Windows 8 as ‘virtually’ two operating systems that share a kernel. The Metro experience which will be dominant on slate type devices, and the desktop mode which will be dominant within most workplaces. I think we will see some improvements to help us stay in one context or the other and not have the awkward switching where I find myself in a Metro UI application with my mouse and keyboard (and no touch screen) or on the desktop when I’m on a slate with my fat fingers. If Microsoft can provide some profile configuration so that I can control which is my preferred style per device or in different contexts (slate docked or not) then I think I’ll quite enjoy this new Windows.
In short, my take on Windows 8 is “Stay Calm and Carry On”. Don’t get paralyzed by the new things and continue to deliver the best value you can with the tools at your disposal. Continue to move your software architectures forward and envision MANY usage scenarios for you applications on different devices and form factors including, but not limited to MetroUI.