Where Windows Is Going

I’ve been stewing for about a day.

I did not go to Build Conference.

Once I figured out that WinRT is for Metro style apps and ONLY Metro style apps, and I tried to make a call from a .NET 4.5 app into a very simple “GetUserInfo” WinRT API and it threw an Access Denied Exception, I was upset.

Then I realized something.

This is not just a new way to program on Windows.

It is also not THE new way to program on Windows.

Microsoft is segregating their application types on purpose. Metro style apps and WinRT is not about “the next windows”. What was shown with the hybrid classic desktop and the new Metro UI is NOT the future vision that MSFT has for Windows. It is a transition.

Microsoft is posing Metro style and ONLY metro style to be the next development platform of a version of Windows that will not have the classic desktop. Some future version of Windows that won’t have Win32 and won’t have .NET. It will be WinRT on top of a Windows kernel and THAT IS ALL.

This is why that line between WinRT and .NET/Win32 has to stay thick and hard. There will be no hybrid apps. That ruins the vision.

win8-platform-and-tools Imagine a thick wall between the light blue and green.

Microsoft knows that it has to participate in a segregated market. They won’t be selling $100 Windows Professional licenses to OEMs of $300 tablet devices. The $10 license of Windows Started Edition is more like it. (I’m guessing at OEM costs.)

The operating system has to run fast on low power hardware. Any applications which run on it have to run on all the better and faster hardware, right on up to $5000 laptops. The Metro style along side classic desktop fits this mold.

I’m a little bit sad that they wouldn’t just come right out and say this. Come right out and say: “Hey! Our phones are going to run Windows 8! There will be 7”, 8”, 9”, 10”, 11”, 12” tablets all running Windows! But its not like any Windows that you’ve ever known!”


Talk about shaking things up! What if that were the first 3 sentences of the Build keynote?

I’m less angry about not being able to call WinRT from my .NET apps. But I’m a .NET developer. I’m not a Windows developer. I’m not a Silverlight developer. I’m not a WinRT developer.

I think in what I’m most disappointed is all that awesome stuff that WinRT makes easy, and out in .NET land, talking to a webcam for photos and video is still painful. Transcoding video is still painful. (Did you see how easy it is to transcode with WinRT? That is SWEET!)

Build Windows Day 2 From Afar: WTF is WinRT

Watching the developer reaction to Metro style and WinRT has been both depressing and comical. I suppose its like watching anyone else learn something from nothing. We can get it very wrong at first. It is part of our learning process.

I know I’ve not figured what the existence of WinRT means for .NET or what I can and cannot do between WinRT and.NET4.5. I’m also not sure what the difference is between Metro style and WinRT. It sure seems like there are some cool non-UI APIs in WinRT that I might want to use from .NET. I sure hope that I can.

At first glance it feels like Metro style apps aren’t .NET. At least not really. It feels like Metro style apps run in a different CLR. They feel like Silverlight on the desktop since they have no direct access to file system and the types available for use are limited.

I’ve read that it is not a different CLR. I’ve read that it is .NET but that the verifier and other tools in the chain of building a Metro style app enforce the restrictions. I’ll have to wait and see how the pieces fit together.

Missing the APIs can be a challenge: http://winmd.tumblr.com/post/10211942442/missing-net-apis

Looks like I can do the above when I say use some WinRT from .NET4.5. Cool, because those file pickers sure are pretty. http://ermau.com/using-winrt-from-net/

Doug Seven has an excellent post detailing what is being released and how it fits: http://dougseven.com/2011/09/14/i-know-what-youre-thinking-and-youre-wrong/

Take a look at this slide from the keynote:


I’d like to speculate about a couple things related to this picture.

  1. This is not in the scale of overall importance to all developers. It is in the scale of what is new.
  2. All of the things in blue are still there and still supported.

Consider an alternative pitch for Metro style apps. Metro style apps, like all apps, are all launched from the new “Start Screen”. The start screen replaces the start menu. Metro style apps keep the look and feel of the start screen. It is as if you are never leaving the start screen. Metro style apps are apps that you program into the start screen. Imagine being able to program apps into the start menu. It sounds crazy. Now that your start menu is full screen and interactive, those metro tiles (they have a different name) are programmable by you. I can think of another little square in windows that is programmable: Sidebar Widgets. When was the last time you wrote a sidebar widget? (Mike Ward, you are the only one I know.)

Considered from the point of view, very few of us Line of Business app developers will be writing Metro style apps. They are not meant to replace all desktop apps. You will not see Office apps like Word, Excel or Powerpoint built as Metro style apps. They will likely get some theming that is Metro influenced, but they will still run on the traditional Windows desktop and not in the Start Screen. That said, there might be augmentations in the Metro style apps. After all, Windows on a tablet is far more usable with Office. So I think you will see stripped down, touch optimized, Metro versions of Word, Excel and Powerpoint. The use case for these will be “when you aren’t at your desktop or laptop".

Believe it or not, there was actually announcements around Azure and ASP.NET yesterday. You’d never know it given all the focus on WinRT. I’m super excited about the new async support for controller actions in MVC4. I also think Azure’s replication story around tables and blobs is pretty sweet now.

So much more to come. Its an exciting time be a developer. Just try to remember that ships often look like they are sinking when you see them far off the horizon Smile

Thoughts after the Build Windows keynote: This changes nothing

Nothing has changed, and this is a good thing.

Here is what I took away from yesterdays keynote:

  • Everything I’m doing today with Windows desktop apps will work on Windows 8. No surprise there.
  • If I want to write these new WinRT apps I’ll have to leave Winforms or WPF behind and use what looks like some kind of desktop Silverlight UI control library which has been enhanced with some more controls. (The GridView was shown in the keynote.)
  • There is nothing else to say about the developer story. Everything else shown in the keynote was about consumer experience.

Watching my own twitter feed was rather comical. Everyone seemed to be hearing exactly what they wanted to hear. Sometimes it was the opposite of what I thought I just heard.

There are still lots of unanswered questions, but I’m sure that in the next few days these will all be answered via sessions and blog posts containing the content of the sessions. I’m surprised people aren’t more patient. I’m actually seeing a bit of FUD email and tweets asking questions that should be answered by the end of the week. Be patient.