A glimpse into the internal battles that set the future of Windows and .NET

A couple of posts from Hal Berenson give insight into the internal battles at Microsoft as the company worked out its strategy to rescue Windows from irrelevance in the world of mobile and tablets. Berenson is now President of True Mountain Group LLC but was formerly at Microsoft where his roles included SQL Server development and architecture, Mobile Development Tools strategy, and General Manager of Forefront identity and security products.


Berenson left Microsoft in October 2010, but by that time the strategy behind Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 would have been in place.

According to Berenson, there were two core options for evolving Windows. There may have been others, but the heart of it is this: what to do with .NET. One option was to make .NET the app model for Windows, which is what was planned for the original Longhorn, before it was reset and became the less radical update that was Windows Vista. The other was to create a new app model based on native code. Steven Sinofsky, the Windows President, chose the latter, which is why .NET is only one of three options for programming the new tablet personality in Windows 8. This meant going down the opposite path from that of Windows Phone 7, which has an entirely .NET-based programming model.

You may recall from other sources that Steven Sinofsky has never been known to be a .NET fan.  While others within Microsoft, and even senior people in the (pre-Windows 8) Windows organization, wanted to move to an entirely .NET app model for Windows Steven did not.  He (and others fyi) wanted to re-engage the native code C++ developers that Microsoft had been neglecting.  And they wanted to co-opt the huge base of web developers to create apps for the Windows platform.  Well, what had the Windows Phone guys done?  They’d implemented a .NET only app platform.  Could the Windows Phone app platform evolve to address the native and web developers?  Sure.  But with no existing library of apps and a desire not to have .NET-centric platform at the core of Windows Sinofsky apparently felt pretty comfortable ignoring the Windows Phone team’s work.

This goes a long way to explain the puzzlement many of us experienced when it transpired that having created in Windows Phone 7 the basis for a touch-friendly operating system that could easily be extended to larger form factors such as tablets, Microsoft chose instead to do a new thing entirely for its tablet strategy.

One take on this is that Berenson’s account illustrates the chaos at Microsoft. Windows Phone was created in a mad hurry in reaction to the iPhone and the ascendance of touch UIs, reusing pieces of .NET, Silverlight and Zune to bring something to market quickly. Then the company’s next move was not to build on that, but to throw it away, even in the context of a mobile and device revolution that was and is a huge threat to its core business. And where was CEO Steve Ballmer in all of this?

The other take though is how this shows the determination and strategic focus of Windows boss Steven Sinofsky. He did not believe that rebuilding the Windows user interface on .NET would save it, with the Longhorn experiment no doubt a factor in that conviction, so he refused to go down that path again, despite the cost in terms of time and, perhaps more seriously, the impact on the developer ecosystem. Microsoft platform developers were asked first to bet on .NET and Silverlight, and now to bet on this new thing the Windows Runtime, and many are disillusioned or even angry. A hard decision; but putting long term strategy ahead of the immediate demands of your customers may be the right thing, in fact the only right thing.

Berenson also confirms what many of us have always assumed: that the removal of the Start menu on the Windows 8 desktop is all about making the new personality in Windows hard to avoid:

The Start menu, and indeed the entire desktop, are legacies that will have to be removed from Windows over time.  While the desktop itself is probably with us for a couple of additional major Windows releases (though there may be truly desktop-free editions sooner than that) the start menu was something that Steven has bet he could get away with not bringing forward into Windows 8.  By doing so he forces users to start living in the new usage paradigm rather than totally avoiding it.  Yes you can still set up a system to avoid leaving the desktop most of the time.  But you can’t avoid the new world completely.  In doing so he sets people up to eventually accept systems without the desktop at all (or at least Windows RT systems for personal use even if they need the desktop at work, for example).

Personally I no longer miss the Start menu; but its absence is certainly a barrier to adoption for Windows 8, as new users struggle to navigate the operating system.

Note: Berenson has kindly commented below. Note his point that merely working at Microsoft does not give you detailed knowledge of all decisions made there.

Google: a search engine, or affiliate site?

According to my current web stats, 95.6% of those using a search engine to find a post did so using Google. That represents market dominance, and power to make or break a business which depends on web traffic.

Google’s search engine is the best in my experience, but I am increasingly concerned about the quality of the results, which are noticeably worse today than they were in the early days.

Ideally (from the user’s perspective) its search results should be objective as far as possible; for example, it should not favour sites which spend more money advertising with Google, nor should it favour Google’s own web properties above rivals.

I noticed an article in the Guardian stating that this is not the case:

A Google search for credit cards returns with an advert at the top of the screen, far bigger than the rest and bigger than any other website link. Adverts of this size and prominence will attract a high click-through rate. This will prevent searchers going via other affiliate sites or applying directly for a credit card.

I tried it. Here is what I got:


The most prominent results is the one with the images, admittedly marked “sponsored” but in a grey, small font that you could easily miss. This is actually an ad for Google’s own affiliate site for credit cards, just click Apply:


I do not get the same issue with Bing, although I do think the designation of which results are ads is too small:


Still, at Bing has not awarded itself a large ad with images that links to its own affiliate scheme.

Of course I can choose not to use Google. Unfortunately though, businesses cannot choose what search engine their customers or potential customers use to find their sites.

I am one of those who believes regulation should be as light as possible, but considering the power Google currently exerts and the lack of fairness in examples like this, it seems to be that some kind of regulation is needed.

Disclosure: this site uses Adsense, a web advertising scheme operated by Google

AT&T partners with Twilio to offer cloud communication apps

Telecommunications giant AT&T has partnered with Twilio to offer cloud communication apps through a web portal:

Powered by Twilio’s cloud communications services and API platform, ACS offers a Web portal for AT&T business customers to browse from a collection of voice and SMS-enabled apps — such as appointment reminder services, polling & surveying data collection tools, ad-hoc workgroup calling & messaging, business continuity, and geo-smart messaging.

When I read the announcement I was reminded of this talk by Laura Merling at the Redmonk Monki Gras conference last year:

Her final prediction? “Jeff Lawson becomes the CEO of AT&T. Why? Because the model has to change.”

Adobe using Google Chromium Embedded Framework for Edge tools

Adobe has published a mission statement which is worth a read if only to demonstrate how far the company has moved away from Flash, once positioned at the heart of its ecosystem – remember the Flash Platform?

The mission statement essentially declares the web as the new heart of Adobe’s platform and it is working to bring HTML, CSS and JavaScript up to the level of richness and interactivity that is possible in Flash.

This even extends to apps and applications, and I was interested in this statement:

The web platform also lives outside of browsers. It’s used by apps, particularly on mobile devices, where the richness of the web platform makes it possible to deliver great user experiences. Adobe will continue to invest in the Apache Cordova project, and Adobe’s distribution of it, Adobe PhoneGap™. When appropriate, Adobe is using the web platform to build tools and services. For example, Brackets, Edge Code and Edge Reflow are built using HTML, CSS and JavaScript using the CEF open source project, to which Adobe is contributing.

CEF is the Chromium Embedded Framework, which is a web browser control based on the open source version of Google’s Chrome browser. It is a C/C++ project but third parties have created wrappers for .NET, Delphi, Java and Python.

It is not long ago that Adobe would be looked to AIR, based on Flash, for a project like this. Incidentally, AIR is also able to host a WebKit-based browser control so would have been viable. Using CEF means getting to use Google’s V8 JavaScript engine rather than ActionScript.

Review: Logitech UE Smart Radio – the last Squeezebox?


The Logitech UE (it stands for Ultimate Ears) Smart Radio has some history behind it. The Squeezebox music system originated with a company called Slim Devices and consisted of open source music streaming server software and hardware players which you connected over wired Ethernet or later Wi-Fi. Squeezebox build up an enthusiastic following, and in 2006 the company was acquired by Logitech which set about bringing the system to a wider market.

Logitech was only partially successful. Products like the Squeezebox Touch, reviewed here, won acclaim for their high sound quality and the flexibility of the system, but the weak point has always been that setup is too complex and quirky to win over the mass market.

Now Logitech seems to have abandoned efforts to beat Apple in home entertainment, and the UE Smart Radio is the only current product which still uses Squeezebox technology. Other products in the new UE range – headphones, wireless speakers – have nothing to do with Squeezebox.

Even the UE Smart Radio does not use Squeezebox branding at all. The blurb on the box says this:

Turn it on, connect to your Wi-Fi network and instantly have access to thousands of free internet radio stations from around the world, online music services, as well as the music stored on your computer.

It is intended to offer a simple out-of-the-box experience without any setup issues, whereas the physically similar Squeezebox Radio which preceded it was unashamedly part of the Squeezebox system.

Out of the box

Enough preamble, how is it out of the box? What you get is the UE Radio, a power supply, a standard 3.5mm mini-jack cable, and a brief introductory booklet in eleven languages.


The unit has a beautiful though easily marked shiny black finish and surprisingly weighty, probably a sign of quality. A recess in the back forms a grip for easy carrying in one hand. There is an internal rechargeable battery which (says the manual) takes 6 hours to charge and then plays for 6 hours; of course you can use it while charging.

On the front is a 2.4 inch colour screen, 6 numbered presets, a large rotary controller, a smaller rotary volume control, a power button, and 8 further buttons: Home, Alarms, Add, Back, Rewind, Pause, Forward and Play.

There is also a stereo headphone jack (although the Radio itself has only a single speaker), and on the back, a wired Ethernet port and a 3.5mm jack input. The input jack means you can use the Smart Radio as a powered speaker for most MP3 players, iPods and smartphones.


Finally there is a secret feature: an infrared receptor on the front. No remote is supplied, but if you have a Squeezebox remote it works. Since this is unadvertised I guess there is no guarantee the feature will remain.

What you do then is to plug in the power, switch on, and connect to your home network, usually via Wi-Fi. Next, wait a moment while the unit updates its firmware if necessary, and the unit is ready to play. A menu displays on the screen, and you use the rotary controller to navigate, pressing it in to select an option. Select Live Radio, pick a station, and play.


Disclosure: in my case this is not what happened. I pressed play but no sound came forth. There was some kind of fault which later fixed itself. I am inclined to put this down to bad luck and possibly early firmware which will soon be updated. Incidentally, support was easy to contact and most helpful, which is not the case with every product.

When a station is playing you can easily assign a preset, simply with press and hold. You can also set alarms. When the unit is on standby it displays a clock, making this an excellent if pricey clock radio.

Radio is supplied through a link with tunein, which claims 50,000 stations. That means something for you, whatever your musical taste or location.

Sound quality

The sound quality is very good. Yes it is mono, but considering the size of the unit it is deep and rich, and lacks the annoying squawk of some small music players. The mono speaker has separate tweeter and woofer for extended frequency response.

I compared it to a Squeezebox Boom, a now obsolete stereo player which is considerably larger. The Boom was better in every way, deeper and sharper. That said, the Smart Radio sounded like a smaller version of the Boom, which I mean as a compliment. The Squeezebox team has always cared about sound quality, and it shows.

With internet radio, of course, the sound quality is limited by the source. I will say though that the Smart Radio is kind to poor sources and tends always to be listenable.

Remote app

If you have an iPhone or iPod touch, or an Android phone or tablet, you can download the Smart Radio app. This lets you control your Smart Radio remotely. No iPad support currently.


If you have a local music streamer (see below) you can search and play from your own music library.

It also links to the Logitech UE Smart Radio cloud service, where you can add further music services such as Last.fm, Napster, Spotify, and the Live Music Archive to your Smart Radio. Adding a service like Spotify extends your music library to more music than you will be able to hear in your lifetime, though it does require a paid subscription.

Once you have created an account with Logitech, you can add services via the web site, and also set alarms on your Smart Radio.


The UE Music Server

What if you want to play music from your own network? In this case you download and install the UE Music Library for Windows or Mac.


Once installed, the Smart Radio automatically picks up the library and activates a My Music option in its menu. You can then play any music from the library either by navigating with the rotary controller, or by using the remote app.


Album artwork displays on the Smart Radio screen.

Music is picked up from the standard music folders on your PC or Mac, and the Music Library will link to iTunes where available. Supported formats are MP3, Flac, WAV, AIFF, WMA, Ogg Vorbis, AAC (MP4) and Apple Lossless (ALAC). You can add additional library locations from the Music Library control panel.

Smart Radio and Squeezebox

What then is the relationship of UE Smart Radio and the old Squeezebox? This is where it gets a little confusing. The UE Music Server is none other than the old Squeezebox Server (or Logitech Media Server), but cut down to remove many of the features. You can log onto the server with a web browser. The default port is 9000.


So what has been removed? Most notably, plug-in support and the ability to control the player from the server.

If you have an existing Squeezebox server, the annoyance is that the Smart Radio will not connect to it. In mitigation, you can install the new UE Music Server alongside the existing server and it will automatically choose different ports and run without conflict. This mean there is no need to mess with your existing collection of music files.

It is a shame to lose remote control and plug-in support; but the essence of the Squeezebox system, the ability to play your music anywhere in the house, remains. If you have more than one Smart Radio, you can play different music on each unit. Potentially, Logitech could bring out further UE products that use the same server, for example a new version of the Touch designed to link to a hi-fi system, though whether it will is unknown. It may depend on whether the UE Smart Radio is a success.

You could use the headphone output as a line out for a hi-fi, but it is shame there is no true line out setting for this purpose.

Final words

Taken on its own merits, the Smart Radio is an excellent device, with good sound quality, portability around the house or anywhere it can connect to the Internet (note it will not play your local music library unless it is on your own network), and some handy extra features such as alarms, Spotify support and so on.

There are two main reservations. The first is whether the relatively high price will deter much of the potential market. You do get a lot for your money, especially once you hear the sound quality and grasp the full capabilities of the system, but it will seem expensive when presented as just an Internet radio player.

Second, to what extent has Logitech succeeded in making the Smart Radio “just work” in the manner for which Apple is famous? I am not fully convinced. The control system is still a little quirky. What does the Plus button do, for example? The manual describes the button as More, and it brings up a number of options. Squeezebox users will know why it is plus, which is because it means Add to playlist. The Smart Radio playlist is mostly hidden though, making this a confusing feature.

Installing the UE Music Server is not really difficult, unless you run into firewall issues, but it is surprising Logitech does not give more prominence to this part of the system. It is mentioned almost as an afterthought, even though it adds greatly to the value of the Smart Radio. The thinking I guess is that most users would now rather subscribe to Spotify or the like, than build up a library of their own music files. This will likely be the future, but I would guess that many potential customers still have music collections on computer that they would like to play. This is still the way Apple’s iTunes works, for example.

If you do not require battery power, you might be better off buying a Squeezebox Radio while stock lasts, since it is cheaper and physically similar.

While there are some excellent music services supported, it is a shame there is no support for Google Play or Amazon cloud player.

This may be the last of the Squeezebox line, but it remains a great system for music at home.


Adobe Creating the Web, offers Edge animation tool for free

It is less than a year ago that Adobe pivoted wholeheartedly from Flash to HTML, a moment that to mind was marked by the acquisition of Nitobi, the PhoneGap company, announced at MAX in October 2011.

Yesterday Adobe clarified its plans for its new wave of web design tools branded Edge. These are as follows:

Edge Animate

A motion and interactive design tool for animating web content with HTML, JavaScript and CSS.


Edge Inspect

Preview HTML content on mobile devices for test and debug.


Edge Code

This is a commercial product based on the open source Brackets project – a similar relationship to the one that exists between Adobe PhoneGap and the open source Cordova project.

Edge Code adds Adobe integrations such as with Edge web fonts and Typekit, and with PhoneGap Build.


Edge Reflow


Design tools for CSS, preview expected by end of 2012.

Edge Web Fonts

Free web font service for open source fonts.


Commercial font library service.

PhoneGap Build

Package web apps as native apps for mobile platforms, without needing to install SDKs on your own machine.

PhoneGap Build is free for open source apps, or costs $9.99 per month for up to 25 private app builds.

The Edge tools are only available through Creative Cloud, Adobe’s subscription service, cementing the company’s move to a subscription model for its products. As a tempter, Edge Animate is currently available even to those with the base, free subscription – though you have to agree to be on a marketing list for email, mail and telephone.


Will the Edge tools replace Dreamweaver, the web design tool in Creative Suite? I was told not, and that an update for Dreamweaver is in preparation. Dreamweaver is the “one production tool” as opposed to the Edge tools each of which focus on one narrow area of features. Adobe describes this as task-focused tools.

More information in yesterday’s San Francisco keynote here.

Microsoft’s Azure Mobile Services: node.js and more in beginnings of easy cloud to device development

Microsoft announced Azure Mobile Services last month and it was mentioned by Microsoft Server and Tools boss Satya Nadella at the launch of Visual Studio 2012, as an example of where Microsoft is going with its “Modern app” vision, continuous services and connected devices (but with a Windows 8 or Windows Phone 8 flavour).

Azure Mobile Services is in some ways a reworking of the WCF RIA Services developed to support Silverlight applications, and in fact I swear I saw a reference to RIA Services flash past when I was opening my first Azure Mobile Services project in Visual Studio. It consists of a service type in Microsoft’s Azure cloud combined with a client SDK which is currently for Windows Runtime apps in Windows 8, though the REST protocol used could be called from any client platform.


Looking at the dashboard for a Mobile Services project in the Azure portal, you can see what Microsoft is going for here. Mobile Services handles authenticated access to data stored in SQL Server Azure. It is designed to be simple and cost-effective to get started, but can be scaled out by moving from a service on a shared host, to a dedicated VM with multiple instances.


It is easy to think of cases where the cloud component of a cloud plus device app need do little more than authenticate users, and retrieve and update data. Azure Mobile Services also provides for server-side scripts which you can modify to handle validation and other tasks.

I was interested to see that the server-side scripts are written in JavaScript and executed by node.js. Node.js is fantastic, and one of the benefits is that if you have an HTML and JavaScript client, you can use JavaScript both on the client and on the server. On the other hand, I wonder if Microsoft’s community would rather work with C# on the server, which is more mature and more familiar. Scott Guthrie’s introductory tutorial does not mention node.js.

I had a quick go at creating my own Azure Mobile Service. I have only been partially successful so far.

Things started well enough. I created a mobile service and the Quick Start opened.


Both Guthrie’s blog and the Quick Start wizard in the Azure portal are based on a todo list app. I went slightly off-piste here, deciding instead to create an app to track my articles on the web. I wanted to see how Azure Mobile Services copes with related tables, as opposed to a single table.

I had a frustrating time trying to create the database tables. I had to add my IP address to a firewall rule, enable popups, and deal with connection failures caused by unknown network issues.

Finally I was able to get into the database designers. I created an Articles table joined to a Publications table, with a very few fields.

Next I downloaded an automatically generated Windows 8 app from the portal. I had hoped this would magically work with my data. Unfortunately though, it seems to be hard-coded for the todo list app. If you do not want a todo list, you have to write your own code; and so far I have not had time to figure out from the reference what to do next. I looked at the Get started with data article, and guess what, it is the todo list again.

When you create a database, you can specify simple permissions. The todo list example depends on an application key stored in your app and sent over SSL, to grant permission to read and modify data. I selected authenticated user access instead.


There is an article explaining how to add authentication, though note that it presumes use of a Microsoft Live ID (the service formerly known as passport). This is perfect in the context of Windows 8 and Windows Store apps, but businesses will want to use Active Directory instead, whether hosted in Azure or Office 365 or on premise. I presume Microsoft will add this at some point though it is not mentioned currently.

My initial conclusion is that Azure Mobile Services shows lots of promise, but that the introductory documentation could be usefully improved, for example not to assume that you want to make a single table todo list app.

In this context the partnership with Xamarin, which is extending the SDK to Apple iOS and Google Android, is excellent news. This makes Azure Mobile Services useful more broadly, and I have a hunch that Xamarin’s support will soon improve the documentation and tutorials. The client SDK is open source and on github.

Note that according to Microsoft’s Kirill Gavrylyuk, in answer to a question from Roger Jennings, Microsoft plans to “roll out full support for iOS and Android including native SDKs soon”, rather than leaving the non-windows support entirely to Xamarin and C#.

Microsoft Project Austin: superb C++ code sample for Windows 8

No time to blog in detail about this; but developers with any interest in Windows 8 should check out Project Austin, a sample project for Windows 8 whose quality exceeds most of what is currently available in the Windows Store.

This is a simple note-taking app but beautifully rendered and with support for adding photos, sharing via Charms, and more:

It’s amazing how useful just a pen and a paper are by themselves. But when you take that concept to the computer realm and expand it to do things like add photos and annotate them right on the spot, and digitally share what you create, then the possibilities are endless.

say the project’s creators. More to the point:

Austin aims to demonstrate with real code the kind of device-optimized, fluid and responsive user experience that can be built with our newest native tools on the Windows8 platform.

Most of the code has been put on CodePlex under the Apache 2.0 license. It demonstrates C++ AMP, the new parallel library for GPU computing, as well as C++ coding for the Windows Runtime.

I downloaded and built the project with few issues, following the helpful guidance here. I did have to add the boost libraries manually to the include path.


It is not completely stable but is already very pretty.


Immersive UI of course. The tools disappear while you are working. I am still not sure how well I like this, but it is good to see examples of how Microsoft thinks this should work.

Apple looks mortal

This has been a bad week for technical journalism. Everything was going according to script; new iPhone announced on 12th September; not really much new but oh, the design, oh, the performance, oh, the small touches. Then those with early access to devices poured forth their reviews: “probably the most beautiful smartphone anyone has ever made,” said The Telegraph, while Walt Mossberg on the Wall Street Journal said that “Apple has taken an already great product and made it better.”

Mossberg did say that the new Maps app in the iPhone5 was “the biggest drawback” though the faults he found were, in retrospect, minor. He observes the lack of public transport information, and add that “while I found Apple’s maps accurate, they tend to default to a more zoomed-in view than Google’s, making them look emptier until you zoom out.”

When iOS 6 was rolled out generally this week though, the public had a different take on the subject. One factor was that they looked at the maps in their own location, whereas early reviewers tend to be located in major cities. The big issue is not the lack of public transport routing, though that is an issue, but the poor quality of the data. It is simply not of release quality. One small example. Birmingham Airport is a significant destination in the UK, but if I search for it here, I get mysteriously directed to Aldridge Airport, 20 miles north.


Note: “Aldridge Airport” closed in the sixties and is “Now an open space used for football, dogwalking and the buzz of radio controlled aircraft.”

Birmingham airport itself seems missing.


This search is no challenge for Google Maps.


Maps are important on a mobile device, and this was an instance where the technical press, labouring as usual under short deadlines and the unrealistic challenge of perfectly encapsulating the qualities of a complex product with a few days of skimpy research and a few hundred words, let the public down.

More significantly, it is the biggest PR disaster for Apple that I can think of in recent years, certainly since the launch of the iPod in 2001, which was in a sense the beginning of Apple’s mobile adventure. When a tube station puts out a notice mocking Apple’s maps you know that this is a problem that everyone is talking about, not just the Twitterati.

Why has Apple done this? It is paying the price for escaping Google dependence, a real problem, but one that you would have thought could have been better addressed by licensing maps from Microsoft or Nokia, both of which have better maps; or by sticking with Google a little longer while putting its own effort out as an alpha preview while it fixes the data.

Apple will no doubt fix its maps and the decision to break with Google may eventually look good, but it is hard to see how it can fix them quickly.

The big reveal here is how Apple is prioritising its long-term industry strategy ahead of the interests of its users. Apple has done this before; but never with such obvious harm to usability.

It is still, no doubt, a beautiful phone, and the maps issue will be solved, if only by using Google’s web maps instead.

Apple looks mortal though, and the script is not playing back as planned. People who once would only have considered Apple will now be more aware that alternatives are in some respects better. The longer the maps issue continues, the more significant will be the effect.

Apple should withdraw its broken maps, go back to Google at least temporarily and reinstate the old maps app.

Platform churn? If it is in Windows 8, we are committed to it says Microsoft

I interviewed Corporate VP of Microsoft’s developer division Soma Somasegar at the Visual Studio 2012 launch last week; see the article on the Register here. I asked about the inconsistency of the Microsoft platform, and the way the platform story has changed over the years (Win32, .NET, WPF, Silverlight and now Windows Runtime). Can developers trust in the longevity of today’s platform, especially on the client?

Here is what I thought was interesting about his reply:

Any technology you see shipping as part of Windows 8, we are very committed to that.

So what ships in Windows 8? Well, for reasons which are hard to discern for those of us outside Microsoft, Silverlight is not shipped in Windows 8. It is an optional download. In fact, the only plug-in installed by default is Adobe Flash:


No, that does not imply that Microsoft is committed to Flash; but it does suggest lack of commitment to Silverlight, which we knew.

What you do get though is .NET Framework 4.5. This is baked in and cannot be removed as far as I can tell, though you can add and remove some advanced features.

This means you also have Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF); and in fact Somasegar specifically refers to this alongside Win32 and the new Windows Runtime.

The inclusion of technology in a current Microsoft product has implications for its support lifecycle. The ancient Visual Basic runtime, for example, is still assured of a long life since it is part of Office 2013.


My guess is that Microsoft’s thinking goes something like this. Right now, as the October launch date of Windows 8 approaches, what Microsoft needs most urgently is a viable ecosystem for its new Windows Runtime environment. This, you will notice, is the focus of the forthcoming BUILD conference as so far announced.


What, though, of the Windows desktop, has Microsoft abandoned it as legacy? My guess is that we will get deliberately mixed messaging on the subject. On the one hand, Microsoft has relegated the desktop to a single tile in the new Start screen. On the other hand, most of us will spend most of our time in the desktop, not least developers who need it to run Visual Studio. If Microsoft succeeds in establishing the new Windows Runtime platform, it would not surprise me to see a little more love given to the desktop in, say, Windows 9.

Microsoft’s platform story is messy, without question, and especially so in mobile. We have seen Windows Mobile replaced by the incompatible Windows Phone 7, and now those loyal developers who invested in the Silverlight/XNA Windows Phone 7 technologies are finding that it is all change again in Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 (though the exact details await the release of the Windows Phone SDK).

It seems clear though that the company’s current intent is that Windows Runtime evolves as the primary client platform for both phone and tablet, while desktop remains for legacy support and for applications that do not fit the new model, such as Visual Studio and (for the time being) Office.

What if Microsoft fails to establish the Windows Runtime as a popular app platform? All I can add is that I know of no Plan B.