D'Arcy from Winnipeg
Solution Architecture, Business & Entrepreneurship, Microsoft, and Adoption

The //Build Report–Thoughts on the Event

Sunday, September 25, 2011 2:22 PM

So its been a few weeks since Microsoft’s Build conference, where they unveiled Windows 8 and shared what the developer story will be. I had blogged about Day 1 of the conference here, but I wanted to share some video I took with my colleagues Winson Woo and Jim Russell as my thoughts now that a bit of time has lapsed. So first, a video captured right after we got our hands on the Samsung tablet given to all attendees.

Yes the tablet is nice, but this conference is all about the OS. Windows 8 as a desktop operating system needs to justify itself with the consumer market, as most of the touch screen enhancements are geared towards competing with iPad and Android tablets. While there’s obvious benefits for touch screens in the business world, its the consumers that will ultimately determine the success of Windows 8. All the Metro-based apps that were featured and the development story around them point more to consumers love of “apps” than complex line-of-business solutions.

A common comment was that most users won’t even use the Metro interface given that the more comfortable and familiar desktop view was still available, and I can see that being true. That doesn’t discount Windows 8 though, it just means we need to see more of the business value side – especially when at the recent Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference there was a huge push to encourage partners to sell Windows 7. Organizations that invest in Win 7 will be hard pressed to quickly jump to Win 8 unless there’s a *very* attractive value proposition.

Interestingly, on the Windows 8 Server side there are some great new enhancements and features, and IT Pros will definitely be interested in how Win 8 will benefit them.

The developer story in my mind is at one time simple and at the same time convoluted. We have more ways to develop applications for Windows 8, including HTML 5/Javascript. C++ was an interesting focus at the conference, but since this is a Windows-based conference and most development on Windows itself (kernel, drivers, etc.) is done in C++ this really shouldn’t be a surprise. Terms like Silverlight, WPF, and XNA weren’t mentioned at all, but XAML is still alive and well in the Windows ecosystem, a good sign that those skills built over the last few years will continue to have value.

The biggest concern around the developer story involved rumour and hearsay about the relationship between the Developer Division within Microsoft and the Windows Group. The story as I understand it from various conversations I had at the conference goes like this:

Windows Team doesn’t like .NET, but it was forced on them early on. Trying to integrate .NET into Longhorn years ago was one of the reasons that platform failed, and there are still embittered feelings from that experience. Now in 2011, .NET is over 10 years old and there’s a question of whether it should continue on or whether its time for another evolutionary step in a different direction. The latest C++ spec actually has many features of the .NET framework built in (such as “garbage collection”, but not really in the way we know it in .NET – its actually more optimized). But how many business application developers want to switch back to C++? At the same time, what about Object Oriented programming – with changes in computing power and resources, is OO development starting to show its age in the face of functional languages and alternate architectures? And then there’s cloud computing, and the nuances of developing a solution that takes advantage of IAAS (Infrastructure As A Service). These are all questions that Microsoft will need to provide some answers and guidance on, but it needs to be a unified message from two groups (dev div and Windows) that don’t seem to be on the same page. Again, mainly rumour, hearsay, and conjecture, but we’re entering an interesting time and the outcomes of these discussions in many ways overshadow the Windows 8 announcement.

Ok, but I’m getting long winded. To close this post, I finish with another video. On the Thursday night of the conference, the three of us gathered in the Hilton lobby to reflect on what we heard and saw.


# re: The //Build Report–Thoughts on the Event

I applaud metro and rethinking the desktop - but I don't think this chocolate/peanut butter combo makes much sense together. It feels like they took two strong concepts and shoved them together in order to manufacture a unified message for Windows 8.

Do you still feel Windows 8 is a year away - that they'll miss back-to-school? Unless there's a game-changer we haven't seen yet, this may be way too late. 9/26/2011 8:31 AM | Scott Blackula

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