03 October 2011

Rampant Speculation. Part 8 of 9. Microsoft Build 2011 - Windows 8

Written by Chris Bardon, Posted in Microsoft, Windows 8

Now that the build conference is situated firmly in the past, there are things that we now know, things that we know we don’t know, and things that we don’t know we don’t know. For example, we don’t know the release date of the OS. In the keynote, they committed to a beta and a release candidate, but no hints on timing for either. We can, however, guess when it might be based on what we already know. After spending some time hands on with the OS, I can say that it’s definitely not finished. The claim that “everything that works in 7 works in 8” is not true yet, as I’ve found some of our applications that use features that don’t work in this build. I’ve also had to go into the task manager to kill errant metro apps a few times, and run into UI strangeness like apps disappearing from the back stack when they are killed (which is sure to confuse users). Add to this the fact that everyone is going to need a lot of time to get the hang of developing metro apps, and I’d guess that RTM by next fall is possible, but even optimistic. A year from now we’ll definitely have a new build, and likely even the RC, but having an OS that’s ready to hit the shelves in October 2012 is probably not going to happen. Honestly, that’s fine with me-I’d rather the OS be complete than rushed, and should they be able to prove me wrong with a complete product before then, I’d be happy to take it.

02 October 2011

Selected build sessions. Part 7 of 9. Microsoft Build 2011 - Windows 8

Written by Chris Bardon, Posted in Microsoft, Windows 8

There were a lot of sessions at build, and many more sessions than there were timeslots. Once the schedule was finally made available (after Tuesday’s keynote), my first step was to start figuring out what to see, and what conflicts there were. I think the fewest number of simultaneous sessions that I wanted to see was four, and it went as high as eight for one block. Needless to say, the fact that all the sessions are posted online is quite handy, since it means being able to catch up post-conference on what I wasn’t able to see in Anaheim. If you’re looking for something to watch over lunch, here are some suggestions (note, some of these are only interesting if you’re a developer):

01 October 2011

Contracts, Charms, and the “Web of Apps”. Part 6 of 9. Microsoft Build 2011 - Windows 8

Written by Chris Bardon, Posted in Microsoft, Windows 8

In Windows, applications have always been able to communicate with each other, but it hasn’t always been easy. First, there’s the question of protocol-applications could choose from setting up sockets, named pipes, http interfaces, COM, .net remoting, command lines, or any number of other choices that both sides of a transaction would need to agree on. Then there was the matter of the messages that would flow on that channel, which were usually published by one side or the other, and required custom development from the opposite side to implement. There were places where things were better, such as registering for a protocol handler or a file association. Double clicking a .docx file in explorer opens word, and clicking a sip: or tel: URI in a browser (or anywhere else that renders hyperlinks) will open a softphone (iceBAR, Lync, eyebeam etc). For the most part though, inter-application communications were a largely proprietary effort that required work on the part of someone to get working. One of the visions Microsoft has for Windows 8 though, is a “Web of Apps” (their words), and they’ve exposed a series of contracts to enable this.

30 September 2011

Development model. Part 5 of 9. Microsoft Build 2011 - Windows 8

Written by Chris Bardon, Posted in Microsoft, Windows 8

Developing for Windows 8 is going to fall into two camps: the Metro apps and the desktop apps. The chart below breaks things down quite nicely.

29 September 2011

Stores and Microsoft’s cut. Part 4 of 9. Microsoft Build 2011 - Windows 8

Written by Chris Bardon, Posted in Microsoft, Windows 8

Looking at any of the screenshots of the Metro UI, one thing stands out on the main page:

28 September 2011

Hardware and touch as an input. Part 3 of 9. Microsoft Build 2011 - Windows 8

Written by Chris Bardon, Posted in Microsoft, Windows 8

In the Build keynote, one of the key takeaways was that the next version of windows was a touch first interface. They even made the claim that in a few years, screens without touch would seem antiquated, which shows that touch is really a big deal for the next version of Windows. Now, that’s not to say that things don’t work great with a mouse and keyboard, but looking at the Metro UI, there’s no denying that the large buttons and tiles are built with touch in mind.

With that being said though, what makes a great touch system? One mantra that kept being repeated at Build was “Fast and Fluid’. In testing, users tended to be much less tolerant of unresponsive touch interfaces-touching something required a much faster response than clicking something. There are also new challenges in interacting with the system, especially in cases where you no longer have the luxury of starting from scratch (i.e. desktop applications). A right click, which is perfectly natural on a mouse, turns into a click and hold, which is much slower, and even a double click often fails because of a lack of precision. Thankfully, Metro doesn’t suffer from many of these issues, largely because of conscious design decisions by the team. There are no right clicks, no click and hold, and a standard set of gestures that perform system tasks.