Windows 8 is promising, but will developers embrace it?

Last week saw the death knoll ring for yet another Microsoft technology as they introduced us all to Windows 8 at its BUILD developer conference. The list of Microsoft technologies which have been cast aside now reads like a who’s who of has-been technologies; Foxpro, VB6, VB.Net, .Net, Silverlight to name just a few.

Let’s look at new features that Windows 8, with a new development paradigm based on HTML5 and JavaScript, will reportedly bring while touching on the implications of last week’s announcements for the development community. Don’t forget we won’t actually see anything in the stores for at least a year so, as with everything from Microsoft, there is still time for major changes.

Firstly lets’ acknowledge the fact that this really is a new operating system and not just a GUI happy rehash of Windows 7. Hailed by TechRadar as “a combined desktop, laptop and tablet operating system, designed to go from 10-inch touch-only tablets to big screens in your living room, from ultra-portable notebooks to massive gaming systems and business desktops”.

It features gestures to put two apps on screen side by side, and the traditional Windows desktop for when you need richer apps. Microsoft have very openly built the new system around the concept of ‘touch’, but have still made it possible to connect to a mouse and keyboard USB or Bluetooth interface. Other announcements included the fact that software for x86 Windows 8 systems will not run on ARM architecture.

Recognising Windows 8 as a truly new operating system makes me think I could have named this blog another one bites the dust, yet again Microsoft have launched a totally new technology which developers within the Microsoft community will have to come to terms with.

Is this the demise of .Net, all I will say is that the web today is ablaze with rumours that Microsoft are abandoning .Net in favour of HTML 5 and Javascript. Whatever happens the .Net community is yet again faced with a big learning curve and the proposition of once again re writing their applications.

For me Windows 8 and its many innovations also highlight the fact that this OS will be the first time we see Microsoft really go for the jugular with Apple and Google to claim for themselves a share of the mobile market they have long been striving to achieve.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer himself was quick to point out “I think with a little bit more effort, a little bit more energy, the level of enthusiasm from the customer base is high enough we’ve just got to kick this thing to the next level,” he said. “And I think we’re in absolute good shape in order to be a very strong third ecosystem in the smartphone world.”

What holds Microsoft back right now is the absence of apps and this is why 5000 tablets were distributed with the system to the attending developers. The hope is of course to increase the amount of applications. The application store was not presented at the conference but according to the company is to be launched just before the launch of the system.

Whether developers will embrace Windows 8 remains to be seen and will of course play a crucial role in the success or failure of Microsoft’s big push. One last thing to note is that these tablets were of course the child of a very close collaboration between Samsung and Microsoft and thus were extremely optimised. What remains to be seen is how the OS will fare when released to the masses for use on tablets which may be a little less honed.

Last week the battle lines in the war of the giants once again shifted and it seems like every week something new happens which again shifts the sands. Some days it seems like IT managers require a crystal ball when selecting which operating system they should use for their mobile or desktop applications but as always my argument remains why choose, when you can be greedy and create something which will run any application, whether mobile or desktop, on any device at any time!

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David Akka is Managing Director at Magic Software Enterprises UK. David is a successful executive manager with a proven track record as a general manager with a strong background in sales, marketing, business development and operations. Past experience in technology and service delivery include both UK and European responsibilities.