Tuesday, September 13, 2011

BUILD Day 1: What wasn't said?

Silence speaks volumes. While there is coverage ad nauseum about what Microsoft did say at today's opening keynote and following sessions, there is much less attention on what's not being said. True, there is another keynote scheduled for tomorrow, and presumably many additional topics will be covered (like tooling and ALM), but certain important topics are conspicuously absent from the Day 1 conversations.

The Missing Topics

  1. Silverlight and WPF?
    It's clear after today that Metro style XAML apps are Microsoft's vision of the future, but what does that mean for the future of Silverlight and WPF? Of course, SL and WPF as we know them now will continue to run in Windows 8, but will they continue to evolve? Microsoft is risking another WinForms-like messaging challenge by choosing to mostly ignore Silverlight/WPF rather than address them head-on.
  2. Xbox & Phone
    One of the more extreme things rumored to make an appearance at BUILD was Xbox integration with with the new Windows Runtime. Or more broadly, a story that tied Windows desktop, tablet, phone, and Xbox together with one model. Unfortunately, both Phone and Xbox are no-shows so far, so it's all PC and tablets with Win8 right now.
  3. Shipping Timeline
    While not entirely unaddressed, the "there is no target date" for shipping Windows 8 message is a bit unsettling, too. Heading-in to BUILD, there was a lingering rumor that Windows 8 would be near or at beta now, with a possible goal of shipping Windows 8 tablets for this holiday season (or very shortly there after). Instead, with a pre-beta Developer Preview delivered, we're left to assume Windows 8 many not be fully ready for RTM until mid- to late-2012. So while everything being talked about this week is cool, it's almost a year away from GA. Which is a bummer, especially as other tablets march on.
  4. Expression Web
    One of the more interesting tooling demos in the keynote was a new version of Expression Blend that targets HTML and CSS design. What wasn't mentioned is how this expanded Blend focus impacts the existing "web product" in the Expression suite (Expression Web). Is Expression Web replaced by the new Blend? Pushed in to a smaller corner for the remaining Front Page-like dev fans? Mums the word for now.
  5. Office Apps for WinRT
    Given how important Office is to Windows (it's the 2nd major financial pillar at Microsoft), its absence, even as a simple preview, is also noticeably missing at BUILD. I guess the Win8 "cone of silence" extended fully to the Office team and they haven't had a chance to build Office versions for Win8 yet. Office will most definitely find its way to WinRT (Sinofsky is an Office alum, after tall), but its absence this week only signals a longer road to RTM ahead. Can you really ship Win8 without Metro Office apps?
  6. Plug-ins in Immersive IE
    We know HTML5 is a first class citizen in Win8, but how does Silverlight carryover to the new Metro version of Internet Explorer? Early demos of immersive suggests it doesn't. In fact, no plug-ins work in the immersive IE. Plug-ins do work in the "classic" view IE9/10, but if you thought you could run a Silverlight app in Metro-mode via the browser, think again. No Flash. No Silverlight.
  7. Older Versions of Windows
    What older versions of Windows? If you are at BUILD, apparently there are no older versions of Windows. Everything related to WinRT and Metro are Windows 8 only. There will be no backport of the new runtime for Windows 7. It makes sense, but does that signal a future of multiple app implementations if you want to support Windows 8 + Windows 7 (and older) + other platforms?
  8. Steve Ballmer
    Quick: Your company is about to introduce a "bold" new "reimagination" of the your flagship product. Who do you send to introduce this product to the world? Of course you send the directly responsible VP, but don't you also send your CEO to make an appearance? Under any other circumstance perhaps Balmer's absence at BUILD is a non-issue. But given the long running rumor of Sinofsky as CEO-in-waiting, no Balmer makes this feel even more like the Sinofsky Show.
Don't get me wrong. There were some great and exciting announcements today. I covered some in my original keynote blog post, and the press and thoroughly covered the rest. It's easy to look at what was said and report it.

But it's just as important to step back and reflect on what we were not "supposed" to think about in the face of the flashy demos and free tablets. What do you think? Are all of these non issues? Are there other important topics missing in the BUILD conversation so far?


Harry said...

And where does ASP.NET fit in all of this?

Colin Bowern said...

Expression Web was a dud to begin with - happy to see it go.

Ben Hayat said...

I'll approach Win8 in a way that making a living *Today* is more important to me than making Win8 app for next year.

Vic Klien said...

Speaking of who was/wasn't there. No ScottGu on stage is pretty different. Seems like quite a knock down for him compared to the recent past.

As someone who mostly gets paid for "business" apps I, like Ben, am wondering about the relevance of Win8. Most clients will probably want something that can run well on XP/Vista/Win7, not just Win8. Doesn't that mean good old ("legacy") SL/WPF?

Bob Baker said...

For me, the biggest item is no plugins in immersive IE. Lots of enterprise LOB Silverlight apps built over the last 3 years.

Mark Hazleton said...

Thanks for another good post on BUILD. I am very curious about office and sharepoint. As I write this on my new slate, I wonder how long it will take for business applications to embrace win8 &Metro. Since win XP has just recently been pasted by win7,. I think we are a ways off. Please keep up the great posts.

mlitters said...

A lot of good questions you mentioned. BUT - it is day one. Let's wait and see what comes next. After the Event is finished we will see what happens to everything else.
For me Windows 8 and the new concepts are things that were really important and I waited for them since Windows Vista. Microsoft has to do something to stay at the top.
Think at Novell when they were no. 1 in the network operating arena. In those days everyone said that Windows NT will NEVER have a chance against Novell. What do they do now... Novell waited to long to make innovative changes to their os. When you look on the mobile market you can get feelings that Windows Phone 7 (and Windows 8) got the last ticket for this train and we all know that the computerworld is changing right now and desktops as we know them will play not that important role in the future...
When I see that XAML is native and I know that c# and the .net classes will be supported I can also live with some(a lot) new things.
On the other hand we have Telerik which helps us use the new possibilities quick and easy :-)
Ups... I didn't want to write such a lot but it flows right out of my head... I wish you another good BUILD day!

andrewonedegree said...

Please watch and pay attention to the videos on building windows 8. It is very clear that METRO apps are actually built with the same .NET libraries that WPF and Silverlight use, they are just now part of the Windows Runtime and not something seperate you need to install on Windows!

Metro is a design style, not an actual technology! You can run your old SL / WPF code on windows 8, but if you want to embrace the metro look, you just need to conform to some design principles. Watch how an old SL app was "metroed" by simply changing one include file...

Todd Anglin said...

@All- So clearly, some of the gaps came today on Day 2 (ScottGu, ASP.NET, etc.). I'll post more on today's news later today.

@Andrew- Actually, not quite true. Metro is a new runtime (WinRT). While you can use XAML and C#/VB, there is a solid "wall" between WP/SL you know today and the new Metro approach. If you want to be on the "Metro side" of Windows 8, it's more than styling changes.