Thursday, June 02, 2011

First thoughts on Windows 8

I love it.. It’s different, vibrant and looks like it may be a massive winner on touch/portable devices. This is the exact area that Microsoft have been struggling in.. That would make this a Win++

Unfortunately, I have some massive issues that come to mind straight away.. I’ll do my best to explain, but while I do, please remember that I’m a desktop jockey, I’ve working in WinForms, WPF and Silverlight since .Net was first released.

Desktop Machines and Monitors

I work on PCs, I play serious PC games. Both my work machine and home machines have multiple/large monitors, and I always have a bucket load of apps running at any given time. Visual Studio can easily consume 2 screens, while a third hosts a browser, email, whatever. That’s three screens of content that’s needed at a given time.

From the initial view of Windows 8 (and yes, it’s still very early days), it seems to focus around a single application running in full screen mode. Multitasking is done via hiding the other programs, or even snapping 2 programs into onto a single screen. I’d like to see how this strategy works across multiple monitors, for what I consider “power” users.

The other thing I’d like to add to this is “Large” screens. I use where possible, the largest screens I can get my hands on at a decent price. 24” monitors are now cheap and plentiful. 24” touch screens are virtually non-existent.. The new UI, while it can be navigated with a mouse, looks to be way more fun and focused on touch. I’m really hoping MS know something about the future of touch screens and availability that isn’t currently available.

I’m not going to bother with the whole ergonomics of touch screens on desktops..

HTML5 and Javascript

The strategy is good.. Lets let all the little script kiddies to write apps for Windows… The more people we have the better.. Right??

It’s an interesting strategy, but one that I’m really hoping the guys in the windows team have thought long and hard about. As I noted about, I’m a desktop jockey. I write and support some apps that are just not suitable for the web.

I understand that “Windows” still exists under all the pretty tiles etc, but will this new interface be accessible to some of the existing desktop tools? It’s been no secret that WPF isn’t getting any love, and Silverlight’s life is being heavily evaluated. Am I about to be put into a position where I choose between becoming a HTML5/Javascript kiddie or going back to the dark ages and working with C++… I really hope now.

Windows Phone

This somewhat goes back to the whole HTML5/Javascript thing above. Right now, I have a nice, shiny HTC Mozart. It’s powered by Windows Phone 7. Apps on my phone are written in managed code, using Silverlight or XNA. Basically, apps are powerful, can do lots of things, and are very easy to write. What my phone can’t do is run apps written in HTML5 natively. Personally, I don’t have a problem with that, but why then, does my powerful desktop machine now have to run apps written by script kiddies, while it can’t run the same thing my phone can?

The rest.

Clearly, some of what I’ve written is quite possibly over the top. I hope that some managed languages continue to be supported as first class citizens in Windows 8, and that MS have their schiznitz together in the desktop department. I hope that Windows 8 isn’t so focused on winning ground in the tablet market that it completely abandons heavy desktop users.

As with most things like this, it’s still very early days. These are my first reactions (and appear to be the same as thousands of others based on my twitter feeds), and I can only hope that MS have a lot more information to announce over the coming months.

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