My thoughts so far on Windows 8 RP

Anyone who knows me, knows that I purposely pursue Microsoft technologies. I don’t just work on this technology because it fell in front of me, I have specifically created my career around this company and it’s technologies. This is not because I’m a fanboy, but it’s because I specifically agree with their technological outlook. Specifically, I continue to agree… If at one point I disagree, I will likely start to change my career path.

With that said, I approach Microsoft technology just as skeptically as I do any other vendor. I’ve been quietly watching the Windows 8 coverage and the Visual Studio 2012 stuff too. I also had a Kindle Fire – and am now using an iPad 3 on a daily-basis for the last couple of months.

After having played around with Windows 8 Release Preview, I think I’ve come to some solid conclusions so far, that I wanted to write down.

First, it is clear that this isn’t some half-baked attempt by MS. Windows 8 seems to me to be a well thought out initiative that seems like a solid foundation. They have clearly put a LOT of effort into Windows 8 and are “betting the company on it”. In general, that tends to lead to the most successful products. Apple “bet the company” on iPhone and then iPad, for example.

Next, if I look at this through consumer-eyes, here is how I use the iPad – and I do use it a lot. I compare this with what I’ve found on Windows 8:

  • Checking e-mail
  • Checking Twitter
  • Checking weather
  • Reading Blogs (RSS feeds)
  • Reading tech sites (TechCrunch, Engadget, Gizmodo, etc)
  • Entertainment (Netflix, HBOGO, Hulu, etc)
  • Games

As of right now (pre-RTM while only Release Preview is out), there are very comparable equivalents on Windows 8 and in the Windows App Store to almost all those iPad apps. I feel pretty confident that the missing ones (like, no NetFlix yet) – will have apps coming.

Based on what I’ve seen, I’ve already definitely decided I will get a Microsoft Surface when they come out and my iPad is going up on Ebay. The user experience is so compelling even right now, that this is an easy decision!

I continue to be amazed how horrible technologies get so much traction. For example, IMHO Flash/Flex and iOS/Objective-C development. Those are both VERY painful development experiences filled with all sort of little gotchas, undocumented conventions, and a non-intuitive learning curve. No one programs against these technologies because “it’s fun”, they only program against these technologies because they think they can make money, or they are making money by someone paying them. Ask a developer if a they’ve ever tried to write an Android app – you will hear the grumble. Worse, ask a developer who has written something for Windows Phone, how it is compared to iOS and Android – it’s not even in the same ballpark.

As a rule, I tend not to believe in technologies that have a horrible “developer story” like this. Even if they are successful at the moment, they are not positioned-well for long-term success, IMHO. How far can/should a technology go, when this is what the developer experience is like?

I contrast that to the Microsoft development experience (all platforms). Windows Phone, the .NET Microframework, and now the newer “metro” development have such a low barrier-to-entry and have a “fun” developer experience. It’s very easy and fast to create very nice, professional-looking, power applications. THAT is what inspires people – even more than money does!

Here’s an example: I have read virtually nothing on “how” to create apps for the new Windows 8. I downloaded Visual Studio 2012 (the “express” editions continue to be FREE, by the way) – and created a working, sample project in about 10 seconds. Just by inquisitively snooping around, I learn “ohh, I see, that makes this button show up!”. They have a specific start page too around these templates that I think is pretty helpful:

So the “developer story” on Windows continues to be the same. Most everything is well-documented, everything is consistent, the learning curve is reasonable, and there is a massive community of helpful developers in the various message boards and in the community. THIS is what creates and incubates a “hobbyist” movement around a technology. When hobbyist have fun, and get excited about development – that is when you start seeing great apps.

So, even if that platform isn’t “cool” at the moment or isn’t successful at the moment, they are very-well posed to be successful over the long-term.

Bottom Line:
After watching, observing, and now playing with Windows 8 and VS2012, I will say that I am more than sold on the whole thing. They’ve made some really great, really smart technology choices, IMHO.

I have upgraded my laptop to run Windows 8 Consumer Preview, and on my main workstation I have it running in a VM, via Virtual Box. From there, I installed the Release Candidate of VIsual Studio 2012 on both. These setups have been working almost perfectly. I’ve only had issues with the App Store timing out from time to time. Aside from that, the user-experience and the developer-experience has been very, very impressive.

As I said, my intention is to dump my iPad on ebay and get a Microsoft Surface. My laptop (Dell 15z) isn’t a touchscreen, so I would likely dump that on ebay, and replace it with a laptop that has a touchscreen, which would make development easier (I wouldn’t have to install my custom apps on the tablet to test the touch features).

If you haven’t checked out Windows 8 yet – go get Virtual Box, then grab the ISO for Windows 8 Consumer Preview, and then install Visual Studio 2012 over it.

Tagged with: ,
Posted in Multi-Touch, New Technology, Professional Development, Uncategorized, Visual Studio, Windows

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