Check out these images of Windows 8 – but where is Silverlight?

Microsoft’s Windows President Steven Sinofsky has shown off an early build of Windows 8 at the D9 conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, California. It turns out that the not-so subliminal messaging at the PDC conference late in 2010 was spot on. HTML 5 and JavaScript are at the centre of the new Windows, for apps as well as in the browser:

Windows 8 apps use the power of HTML5, tapping into the native capabilities of Windows using standard JavaScript and HTML to deliver new kinds of experiences.

says program manager Jensen Harris in his introductory video.

So what is the new Windows like? Here is tour with some screen grabs from the above video. I have deliberately included fingers in several of the shots, because the new Windows is touch-centric.

First, Windows 8 borrows from Windows Phone and has a Start screen built with Live tiles:


Live tiles, as on Windows Phone, are more than just icons; they can include notifications, video and animations. They are more like app previews.

Apps run essentially full-screen, as on Apple’s iPad:


You switch apps by swiping. Here is a screen caught mid-swipe:


However, you can also have two apps on screen. One is the main app, the other is docked to the side:


A menu on the right shows Search, Share. Start. Connect and Settings. I am not sure what Connect does.


Believe it or not, this is Internet Explorer 10, with tabs along the top that preview each page (nice idea):


The on-screen keyboard looks like a big phone keyboard:


Dual Personality

So where is the rest of Windows that we know and love/hate? It is still there; run an “old” Windows app like Excel and presto, it is Windows 7, complete with task bar. This image looks blurry, which actually is a clue to how big and bold the UI shown for the “new” apps really is:


You can run old and new-style apps side by side, using the main/side app model:


Windows 8 will run on both Intel x86/x64 processors, and on ARM. Legacy app compatibility on Intel will be great, but on ARM applications will need to be recompiled. There is no x86 emulation layer; Sinofsky said that was too difficult to do. Windows 8 will not require any more hardware than Windows 7.

It looks like Microsoft has created an excellent tablet/slate UI which has the same relation to the iPad that Windows Phone 7 has to the iPhone. It borrows many of the ideas but adds some distinctive features.

The big difference: whereas Apple has chosen to continue a dual line, with desktop/laptop Mac in one stream and iOS for iPhone and iPad in another, Microsoft is combining the two.

At least, it is in Windows 8. What about the current Windows Phone OS, which is built on the Windows CE OS? Will it be replaced by a variant of Windows 8, possibly with “full Windows” option disabled? That is my guess, but there is a lot which Microsoft has not yet explained about its future product plans.

Another question: where is Silverlight and .NET? Clearly these technologies are still supported, at least on x86, since all of Windows is still there. In a report from D9, Sinofsky says:

The browser that we showed runs Silverlight and it will still run on the desktop

That does not answer the question: can developers build apps for the new Windows user interface (and Windows store) using Silverlight, or is it HTML/JavaScript only? What about native code?

I will be surprised if all these options are not available, but it was not explicitly stated at D9. The emphasis is firmly on HTML.

We are promised more details at the BUILD conference in September.

OpenOffice moving to Apache; next step reunification with LibreOffice

Oracle has announced that it is contributing the code, the source for the free productivity suite that competes with Microsoft Office, to the Apache Software Foundation’s Incubator:

Incubation is the first step for a project to be considered among the diverse Open Source initiatives overseen by the ASF. A submitted project and its community will join the more than 50 projects in the Apache Incubator, and will benefit from the Foundation’s widely-emulated meritocratic process, stewardship, outreach, support, community events, and guiding principles that are affectionately known as "The Apache Way".

Everybody love the Apache Foundation so this is good news for the future of the project, though the Document Foundation, formed by renegade contributors fed up with Oracle’s stewardship, says the event is neutral from their perspective. The Document Foundation welcomes the ability to reuse code that will now but under the Apache License, but adds:

The Document Foundation would welcome the reuniting of the and LibreOffice projects into a single community of equals in the wake of the departure of Oracle. The step Oracle has taken today was no doubt taken in good faith, but does not appear to directly achieve this goal. The Apache community, which we respect enormously, has very different expectations and norms – licensing, membership and more – to the existing and LibreOffice projects. We regret the missed opportunity but are committed to working with all active community members to devise the best possible future for LibreOffice and

It seems inevitable that the two projects will be reunited, and it seems that dialogue has already begun:

TDF is therefore willing to start talking with Apache Software Foundation, following the email from ASF President Jim Jagielski, who is anticipating frequent contacts between the Apache Software Foundation and The Document Foundation over the next few months.

A curious story, but one that seems likely to end in a good way. IBM, which is a big supporter of the ODF XML document formats used in OpenOffice, is welcoming the move:

Over the long-term, we plan to work with other Apache contributors to extend the vision of productivity beyond documents. We are learning much more about the semantic web through our additional work on LotusLive Symphony, and the vision in the research and lab teams has to extend productivity into new realms. Meanwhile, the Apache community can be expected to accelerate adoption of ODF as a primary set of document formats, and to drive ODF compatibility in other products and solutions in the future.

says Ed Brill. It is good to read about new approaches to productivity, because this has been a weakness in OpenOffice which is sometimes perceived a a kind of inferior-but-free equivalent to Microsoft Office. In the meantime, Microsoft has worked to make its own suite more distinctive, to defend a territory that accounts for a significant share of its profits. The ribbon user interface is part of that strategy, but more significant is its integration with SharePoint, and the emergence of Office Open XML as a unifying format for editing documents in desktop Office and within the browser using Office Web Apps.

Unifying the open source teams behind OpenOffice and getting it away from Oracle are both important steps towards making the project more compelling.

Perforce is developing a content management system called Chronicle, says we should version everything

I spoke to Christopher Seiwald, founder and CEO of Perforce Software, on the eve of the company’s 2011 user conference which starts today.


The Perforce product manages source code, dealing with version history, check-in and check-out, branching, merging and so on. It is excellent software, lightweight, fast and reliable, and there are Perforce clients for a wide range of development tools across multiple platforms. The company has been able to compete successfully against the likes of IBM and Microsoft by offering a tightly focused and vendor-neutral approach, with few dependencies, low management overhead, and fast performance.

Now Perforce is doing a web content management system, but why? “We thought the web content world was a very easy step for us, in terms of what we knew and what our customers are already using the product for.” says Seiwald. “We’re building a web content management system to sit on top of Perforce. It’s going to be open source, so our customers can extend it, and it’s built using PHP, Zend and Perforce. Our APIs are also open.”

If you look under the covers of a CMS system like WordPress, every post and comment is an entry in a database. In Perforce Chronicle, the database is abstracted by Perforce, and of course everything is versioned. “It is all hosted by Perforce, using more of a document model,” says Seiwald. “A database underlies everything, we have a database underneath our system. But the world shifted a long time ago, for certain things, from regularly indexed relational databases to things more like documents where you index everything, you index every word, because you can.”

Although the CMS system will be open source, the Perforce back end “remains our proprietary company jewels,” Seiwald told me. “I’m a big fan of open source. If we could figure out a way of funding our operation in an effective way with open source then we would, but we’re not that clever. The business model just seems to support having a proprietary back end.”

Nevertheless, there will be a free CMS server for small sites. The approach will be similar to that used for the version control system, where up to 2 users can use it for free. Sites with few authors and/or small amounts of content will likely be free. “My attitude has always been, get from people who are willing to pay their money, and if they’re not willing to pay, make sure they can use it anyhow.”

The features of the CMS are not yet available in detail, and Seiwald says the first release will be “as simple as possible. My goal is to get it out of the door so that you can manage a simple web site in Perforce. The guys who are working on the CMS are pushing to put more in; I keep pushing to get it out earlier.” However, since it is open source it should be possible to plug-in additional features.

Perforce Chronicle is part of a wider strategy, to embrace the cloud and to encourage users to version more of their content, perhaps all of it. “People are putting just about everything online somewhere, not just source code, because they think online is better than offline. Data sitting on your local desktop, that just makes people scared. Online, whether corporate online or out in the cloud online, is becoming more appealing.”

I am reminded of Microsoft SharePoint. In January 2009 I wrote a post SharePoint – the good, the bad and the ugly. Since that time SharePoint use has grown, but it still has that mix of great features, over-complex setup and maintenance, and parts that rarely seem to work as they should. I use SharePoint myself, and sometimes SharePoint decides that the document I have open is read-only, for no apparent reason. I have to save my changes locally, and then copy it back to SharePoint overwriting the original.

SharePoint may be awkward, but the problem it solves is huge: reasonably secure access to your content from anywhere, without VPN, and with versioning, programmability, and a bunch of other features. SharePoint is a way of storing content in the corporate cloud. Yesterday Apple released its iWork apps for iPhone, including Pages and Numbers. Using SharePoint web storage, I can open, edit and save documents and spreadsheets in Pages on the iPhone, for example.

Perforce source code management succeeded against ClearCase and PVCS by being simpler, faster and easier. What if Perforce web content management could do the same thing versus SharePoint? Although the Chronicle CMS has a narrower focus, listening to Seiwald it seems that his vision does extend beyond web sites and source code to embrace all corporate content. “You are all going down the road of versioning everything,” says Seiwald. Note that Perforce is getting a new web services API and a Javascript API. Seiwald describes a project his team is working on called “The Commons”:

It will provide the simplest of access to Perforce for the simplest of uses. Need to work on a document? Drag it to your desktop. Need to check it in? Drag it back to Perforce. Done. It not only is an example app for our new web services, but also takes advantages of the trend for simple, online document management – backed by the power of versioning in Perforce.

That is actually not quite enough. Users need to be able to double-click a document to open it, and save it directly from Office, before it is really seamless; and yes, SharePoint has that. Nevertheless, I think this is an interesting direction for Perforce, and done right could find a ready market.

There is a little more on Perforce Chronicle on the company blog, which is where I grabbed the screenshot, but expect more details soon as the conference proceeds.