Microsoft Jumps On HTML5 Bandwagon, Leaves Developers Behind

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News Posted: Mon, Jun 13 2011 8:22 PM
Most of the fuss regarding Windows 8 to-date has focused on its support for ARM processors and the new GUI that's supposed to offer a finger-friendly alternative to the nearly unusable Windows 7 Touch Edition. The company's latest statements, however, have developers seeing red. According to Microsoft Vice President Julie Larson-Green, the company's future development plans are "based on HTML5 and JavaScript."

No more .NET. So long, Silverlight. WPF is SOL. VisualStudio, long Microsoft's flagship developer product, will presumedly continue to exist in some form, though the tools for JavaScript and HTML5 development aren't nearly as polished or capable as what's available for the now-unfavored platforms.

According to Ars Technica's Peter Bright: "Such a switch means discarding two decades of knowledge and expertise of Windows development—and countless hours spent learning Microsoft's latest-and-greatest technology—and perhaps just as importantly, it means discarding rich, capable frameworks and the powerful, enormously popular Visual Studio development environment, in favor of a far more primitive, rudimentary system with substantially inferior tools."

The shift is partially due to the success of the 'mobile web' (where MS has a very limited footprint) and the advent of IE9. With the arrival of IE9, MS has a new cross-platform framework for development. As it happens, it's a very fast framework--HTML5 is optimized for speed in ways previous platforms weren't.

On the other hand, HTML5 is everyone's ace card. It's a potential replacement for Flash video, it allows for additional functionality (think Google Voice) and it's the buzzword everyone tosses around these days. As i-programmer's Mike James has written, "The problem is that Microsoft for some reason seems to think that the future is the HTML5/JavaScript app....the app not based on HTML5/JavaScript. Apple's iOS is based on Objective C and a class library.  Android is based on Java and a class library. Windows Phone 7 is based on C# and a class library. HTML5/JavaScript apps account for a very small proportion of apps running on anything.

If Windows 8 adopts an HTML5/JavaScript app infrastructure there wont be a lot of apps ready for it to run."

Microsoft's response to mounting developer questions has been to council everyone to wait for the BUILD conference in September. It's said nothing further about its plans for .NET, Silverlight, or WPF and hasn't offered any reassurance that devs working in these frameworks will have a development path going forward.

It seems logical to assume that Microsoft is taking this route because it wants to be able to develop true cross-platform products that scale from smartphones to large-scale deployments. While this may simplify software ports and app development, it does so by tossing out decades of work that came before.

Bold, sweeping changes almost always have significant unforseen consequences. Microsoft isn't going to sabotage backwards compatibility--we expect backwards compatibility for Windows 8 will at least be on par with Windows 7. Similarly, new apps written using 'old' methods will undoubtedly be the norm for several years in the future.

The migration will undoubtedly be gradual, but that doesn't mean it's going to be easy. At least some developers are going to be stuck with the disagreeable task of porting current apps to Windows 8 (and WP7) using 'old' methods while simultaneously working on HTML5/JavaScript implementations that won't be half so easy to program. Simplicity is a fine thing, but MS may well be throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
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AKwyn replied on Tue, Jun 14 2011 8:03 AM

He has a point, there are many apps which are developed using .NET and Silverlight. (thought I don't know of any which are developed using WPF)

Though the primary development of apps seems to be (insert programming language here) and a class library. It's interesting to see where Microsoft will take this using a combination of HTML 5 and JavaScript, if they manage to announce it of course.


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3vi1 replied on Tue, Jun 14 2011 1:20 PM

I think in two days we'll be seeing MS break their silence and say that the people who started this fuss have it all wrong and that there's no fundemental shift away from SilverLight. It's understandable for the devs to get tense though - MS has done this sort of thing before (I'm thinking of MFC, ATL, and the long lineage of things they deprecated for the next development flavor of the month.)

I doubt we'll see any real change in their direction because It's simply not in MS's best interest to push developers toward HTML5 and JavaScript - since those run so well on non-Windows platform. It would be like a jailer giving hacksaws to all the inmates.

What part of "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn" don't you understand?


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HTML5 is awesome and the apps can do just about anything that you would want in an application for a phone/tablet. The question is more that the Windows 8 platform is supposed to run on phones,tablets, desktop computers. What about the desktop computers they can do more than run Angry Birds and you need a more mature platform for that.

I have to agree I doubt they are going to stop supporting .NET and Silverlight.

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Inspector replied on Tue, Jun 14 2011 6:39 PM

Companies are getting more and more in to tablets and smartphones, sad to see the desktop world getting less attention from them. But like all you have said, it most likely won't be a full transaction to HTML5.

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Potentially big news. Not all good though I think that Microsoft isn't so stupid that they won't include some compatibility with the old ways, so I don't think it'll be as bad as they're sounding. I also think Microsoft has a big enough footprint in the programming world to determine what languages are popular, as long as those languages are strong and dependable. I can see it throwing some developers off, but I think this kind of thing has happened before, though maybe not quite this big.

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