Windows 8: My initial reaction

At the Build conference today, Steven Sinofosky unveiled a “developer preview” of Windows 8.  The GUI, dubbed “Metro”, reminds a lot of Windows Phone 7.  Lots of “tiles” that are just like Apple’s “apps”, but with information on the icons.  A nice twist and a real marketing edge to say “We are not copying Apple, again!” :).

Now, since it is a “developer preview”, here are my thoughts as a developer.  Apparently, they’ve taken the Win32 API’s, .Net CLR, and other OS API’s and unified them into one layer called the “Windows Runtime API’s” or WinRT for short.  The real change is allowing JavaScript to call into this Win RT.  This effectively means that JavaScript is now on a level playing field with C#, C++, and other major languages for producing Windows apps (in terms of features).  I suspect C and C++ will always have a performance edge (given that is what the Win kernel is written in).  But still, this is a MAJOR development.

Exalting JavaScript to this position I think is good overall, but not without possible negatives.  These are:

  • JavaScript-only developers tend to be hobbyists turned developers and have not learned all the intricacies of real software engineering (should get a few comments on that one)
  • JavaScript is not strongly typed (but neither are some dynamic .net languages)

The positives far outweigh the negatives though:

  • Microsoft is finally following standards!!!!  And W3C standards to boot!! (You can also use CSS and HTML 5)
  • Web apps will have a level playing field with native apps!
  • So many developers know JavaScript, so the market for getting developers just got a lot bigger!

Soooo, in all a very good audition.  And as this article points out, this is the way Microsoft has always operated.  They steal, copy, and conquer!


About Leonard Woody
Software Engineer

3 Responses to Windows 8: My initial reaction

  1. Irwin says:

    The optimist in me thinks, wow what a great way to improve JavaScript(the most popular language in the world) and what is not to love about finally supporting W3C standards so that my JavaScript runs on all HTML5 browsers. Way to go Microsoft.

    The realist in me keeps having flashbacks to the same old embrace and extend strategy of Jscript and IE6. I have gone down Microsoft’s web strategy path before, I remember ActiveX containers running in IE and duck taping everything together with VBScript because hey why not. So many of us fell for that in the early days but I would like to think that developers are smarter now, so fool us once then shame on you Microsoft, fool us twice then shame on all of us.

    I think I will wait to see if this is the new and more open Microsoft that we have seen recently or if it is the same old Balmer strategy of tying everyone to Windows only.

  2. Great summary Woody. The second day’s keynote was good to see because it gave us a glimpse of how VS is going to embrace these new features. The fact that js can directly access the Windows Runtime (WInRT) is awesome. Also nice to see that VS 10 apps can be opened in VS 11 apps WITHOUT MIGRATION and that we can then re-open in VS 10.

    It’s all good stuff. I had more to say about it here:

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