Microsoft needs to tell Windows 8 developers now about 'Jupiter' and Silverlight

Microsoft needs to tell Windows 8 developers now about 'Jupiter' and Silverlight

Summary: Telling only part of a story can be worse than keeping completely mum, as Microsoft officials seem to be discovering with Windows 8.


Telling only part of a story can be worse than keeping completely mum, as Microsoft officials seem to be discovering with Windows 8.

Last week during the first public preview of the Windows 8 user interface, Microsoft officials said that new Windows 8 apps will be created in HTML5 and JavaScript. By deciding not to mention anything about .Net and Silverlight -- telling developers they'd have to wait until the September Build conference to hear more -- company officials ended up setting off new speculation that the company is poised to dump its current frameworks and programming interfaces.

(If you don't think Microsoft's developers are worried, I'd point you to this post about the future of Silverlight on the Silverlight Forums site, which had lots of vitriolic comments and more than seven million page views before the thread was locked and new threads complaining about Microsoft's lack of information were started.)

I've blogged before about the XAML layer that Microsoft is building for Windows 8 as part of its "Jupiter" initiative. Yes, it still exists, I hear from my contacts. And yes, this will enable support of native Silverlight applications. (Does this mean Windows Phone apps written using Silverlight will be able to run on Windows 8 with no/few tweaks? I don't know.)

Jupiter is a user interface library for Windows and will allow developers to build immersive applications using a XAML-based approach with coming tools from Microsoft. Jupiter will allow users a choice of programming languages, namely, C#, Visual Basic and C++. (Hey, maybe this is why Microsoft is calling the next version of Visual C++ "WinC++"?)

All Microsoft officials said last week was that developers targetting Windows 8 would be using HTML5 and JavaScript and some kind of new software development kit to build immersive apps. By leaving out any mention of Silverlight, Microsoft execs led many to believe that HTML5 and JavaScript would be the only way to write immersive apps for Windows 8 that will be available via the coming Windows App Store.

Microsoft is still going to support Silverlight with Windows 8, and not only as a browser plug-in, my sources say.

At the 50,000-foot level, Microsoft wants to find a way to reinvigorate the Windows-development ecosystem. (I believe that's one reason the Internet Explorer team has been talking all that "native HTML" nonsense. They really mean they're trying to get developers to write HTML/JavaScript apps that use IE's hardware acceleration for the "best" HTML experience.)

Microsoft's longer-term goal is to align its various developer stacks, giving it a story that's comparable to Apple's. Because Apple supporting iOS on tablets and phones, Apple developers can write once and have their apps run in both places with relatively little modification.

Windows Phones are running the Windows Phone OS, which is currently based on the Windows Embedded Compact kernel (with a whole lot of customization), and Windows 7 on tablets. Microsoft's ultimate goal -- now that Windows 8 will be able to run on ARM -- is to get its phones running on Windows, too. It's uncertain whether Microsoft will be able to pull this off by late 2012, when Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 are both expected to ship.

At the more granular and immediate level, Jupiter is the way that Microsoft is planning to get developers to write new "immersive" applications for Windows 8 that will use the IE 10 rendering engine while using the .Net and Silverlight technologies they already know. Jupiter is aiming to provide these developers with a managed code XAML library, so that developers can access the sensors, networking and other Windows 8 elements in a way to which they're accustomed.

Applications built using Jupiter won't be targeting the "classic" mode/shell that Microsoft showed off last week during its Windows 8 preview, I hear. They'll be the same class of immersive apps targeting the new Modern Shell (MoSH) that Microsoft will be writing itself and/or trying to convince others to write using HTML5 and JavaScript.

It definitely seems Microsoft's ultimate goal is to wean developers off Silverlight and to convince them to use HTML5 and JavaScript to write new apps for Windows, going forward. But until there's better tooling for HTML5 (beyond what Microsoft provides via the F12 HTML tools in Internet Explorer), it seems the Softies are going to support .Net and Silverlight via new versions of Visual Studio, the .Net Framework and Expression.

I believe Jupiter is key to enabling Microsoft to continue to insist that Silverlight's not dead (as far as a development platform) -- at least for now. But anything that's not a new Windows 8 "immersive," modern application, going forward, is now going to be considered "legacy," from what I can tell.

All of what I've said here is from sources who have asked not to be identified, not from Microsoft officials associated with Microsoft's Windows or Developer Division. Like many devs I've heard from, I don't believe Microsoft can't afford to wait three more months to let its developer base know what its intentions are. So far, however, ill-advised silence seems to be the Softies' plan....

Update: There've been some Jupiter sightings in a leaked Windows 8 build, as well as a number of Silverlight mentions, for what it's worth. (Thanks to @MossyBlog for the pointer.)

Topics: Microsoft, Open Source, Operating Systems, Software, Software Development, Windows


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • More here:
    • RE: Microsoft needs to tell Windows 8 developers now about 'Jupiter' and Silverlight

      Interesting article. Thanks for the link.
    • The whole fiasco was to lure Html5/JS developers to Win8

      There's not a chance in heck HTML5/JS APPs could be as fancy and powerful as the native ones or MSFT would give .Net/SL up, but they have to pretend it's the case in order to lure those H5/JS fools on board of Win8 so they tuned the .Net/SL pitch down for now.<br><br>I think it's a bad strategy b/c let's face it Javascript is by the fools and for the fools. It's a horrible choice for medium to large scale software development. You code anything more than 5,000 lines in it the wheels start to come off. I don't think they can lure enough JS fools to Windows to compensate for the .Net developers they are pissing off now.
      • RE: Microsoft needs to tell Windows 8 developers now about 'Jupiter' and Silverlight


        agreed. JS is crap crap crap. But that may be irrelevant. If anybody can fix it it is microsoft. They did after all fix vb6. The biggest hindrace of JS is that is an open standard. yup, open means nobody agrees on anything, everything takes forever and improvements are slow to come and even slower to be supported by all. MS should lead the way. fix JS, show them how it is done and force it down the throats of the w3c
      • Missing the point

        @LBiege There's a difference between developing and rendering - you can already develop based apps using .Net without writing loads of HTML and Javascript - the HTML and JS are generated by the web controls - control developers have to deal with HTML/JS in their rendering logic

        There's certainly no reason MS can't do the same with HTML5/JS - even to the point of eventually automatically compiling Silverlight packages into HTML5/JS compatible renderings.

        Do you care whether your .Net developed app is cross-compiled into and runs in HTML5/JS??
      • Development vs. Rendering

        @LBiege based web apps can already be built with little HTML/JS - most/all of the HTML/JS is automatically rendered by the IDE and/or web controls.

        If adapting the .Net compilers to target HTML5/JS rendering is transparent to you - do you care whether your .Net developed app runs in a Silverlight plug-in or is automatically rendered for and runs in HTML5/JS?
  • Here's a logical breakdown

    The .Net framework is still the primary platform in Windows 8. You're able to create simple applications with HTML and Javascript as you're able to do so in Windows 7 in the form of Gadgets! Windows applications will be developed using WPF (not silverlight - a subset of WPF). I expect that Jupiter will just be the Windowing system that manages application side-by-side snap ins, multitouch, ui task management, etc. Microsoft has left the door open for speculation and many people aren't being logical about it.
    General C#
    • RE: Microsoft needs to tell Windows 8 developers now about 'Jupiter' and Silverlight

      @General C#
      I agree that .Net is still king on Windows but at the same time Microsoft is trying to woo all of these new college kids that have not bought into the Microsoft platform. Most of these kids are looking at iOS, Android, and HTML5. They will continue to lob bones at their large legacy developer community but they know if they can't get the new generation exicited about their technology they will continue to have their butts handed to them by Apple and Google. For right now though there is a huge gap between the promise of HTML 5 and what it actually delivers. Good luck trying to do something cool in HTML 5 and have it work across platform. Notice that Google Chrome based version of Angry Birds requires Adobe Flash in addition to WebGL.
      • I don't know, we're in the process of moving to html5

        And safari / chrome / firefox and opera provide what we require for our analytics product. Still a few inconsistencies.

        I don't know how many statements are required to get the message across about the future of windows development before they start to get it. Silverlight is dead people, thanks for wasting your time. Would be nice if MS could produce a version of IE with working HTML5, or do they expect their developers to use an alternate browser;-)
        Richard Flude
    • RE: Microsoft needs to tell Windows 8 developers now about 'Jupiter' and Silverlight

      @General C# Silverlight was intended to replace Flash, but it will never do that. When Microsoft initiatives fail MS makes them slowly disappear. While Windows 8 might support it to keep developers happy. It will be like the old office assistant stuff they made to work with web. It still works, I can have Melvin or that parrot talking on my desktop. Is it widely used or supported no.
      • LOL

        @Socratesfoot Yeah right Silverlight is such a horrible failure that's what Netflix uses for their streaming interface! Netflix!
      • RE: Microsoft needs to tell Windows 8 developers now about 'Jupiter' and Silverlight


        Comparing .NET 4, Silverlight 4 (and 5) with the office assistance shows your total lack of knowledge. I wouldn't be so presumptuous about Silverlight and Microsoft's decisions.
    • What is HTML?

      Here's what many people don't understand. What is HTML? Everybody keeps on going on about applications in HTML as though it's some awesome new platform. HTML is just used for creating User Interfaces and nothing more. JavaScript is used to make those interfaces more responsive on the client side - a hack to overcome the limitations of the stateless web. At the end of the day you need a real programming language to develop a real application, a language like C#.

      Slightly off topic... Silverlight is not dead and Microsoft is not killing it off. Like HTML, Silverlight is simply used for UI and is based on XML. Back in the day, Rich Internet Applications were difficult to build, so there was Flash and eventually Silverlight to help ease the troubles. However, HTML5 now has all of the functionality without requiring an additional browser plugin, thereby nullifying the need for Silverlight.
      General C#
      • RE: Microsoft needs to tell Windows 8 developers now about 'Jupiter' and Silverlight

        @General C# <br><br>Confidently stated, but your assurance that Silverlight is "simply used for UI" is blatantly false. When installed on the client, Silverlight includes the .Net framework which contains a robust library of methods handing everything from business logic to advanced mathematics to globalization. An HTML page containing equivalent logic in Javascript would take a century to load whilst bringing your quad core desktop to a complete standstill. That, my well-spoken friend, is precisely why Silverlight developers are absolutely horrified.
    • The real problem's the following...

      @General C#, if you check out the <a href="">BUILD</a> conference main page, it would appear that HTML5 and JS are the only way in. Everything else, at least today, is open speculation. Microsoft should've have been wiser to avoid this kind of problem.

      I agree with you that W8 tiles are just another form of Gadgets, and Microsoft is just extending the Gadget API to support dual action applications, using a concept similar to Flyouts.

      Since Gadgets can be "natively" developed with Silverlight, they're nothing to stop it from being used on "Immersive" application.

      The real problem I see is that by opening the door on tiles for HTML, you're supposed to allow HTML4 (not just HTML5) and that opens the door to UI fragmentation. With Silverlight, you have a tight XML which follows your interface guidelines with ease. Witness WP7, where most apps follow the metro UI. With HTML and JavaScript you'll see badly ported Gadgets used as tiles, which would then reveal the whole content using regular HTML which will destroy the whole immersive idea. Also, as other's have pointed out, neither Silverlight, nor HTML5 allow you to create "real" apps, like WordLens or Office, just cutesy "gadgets". That was one of the main reasons Palm's webOS suffered against iOS, although it offered a far better UI experience. Adobe AIR is another example, even though it uses the Flash framework to overcome some of the problems.

      Time will tell if this initial mishap was enough to derail Windows 8. It start looking as "Windows 8" is more akin to Longhorn, while the ultimate OS might well be another Vista.
      • Where did you get the agenda?

        @cosuna I'm looking at the website for the //build/ 2011 conference and there's no actual agenda listed other than the times for the conference. The link in your comment doesn't actually go anywhere.
  • Just my two cents worth

    I can't honestly believe how many people there are out there that have joined the "doom and gloom" brigade all because of a short demo video of an incomplete product.

    Ok, HTML 5 could be used to create a rich UI that would previously have needed Silverlight or Flash development. But at the same time from what little I've seen of HTML 5 I can't see it being used to create the kind of business applications that you would use Silverlight for.

    Also with the release of windows phone 7 in which all applications are created using Silverlight it would be completely nuts to think that Microsoft is going to drop it. They'd have to re-architect their whole phone OS again! And after the fact that they have partnered with Nokia would suggest to me that Silverlight is going to be around for a long time.

    I think people just need to see the HTML 5 and javascript as an alternative way of creating a Rich UI and until any more information is released don't think that the world is going to end.
    • Fear the pen

      You don't understand the impact journalism has on programming interfaces. Using journalism, it has been possible for months to completely replace Flash using HTML5. It was only a matter of time before journalism would enable HTML5 to replace Silverlight as well, although even I am surprised that, using journalism, one can replace .NET with HTML5 and JavaScript.

      Soon an iPad running an app written in HTML5 and powered by journalism will become our new Jeopardy champion. Because with journalism, HTML5 can do anything.
      Robert Hahn
      • Nice reply...

        @Robert Hahn <br><br>Where do I download journalism so I can replace my station wagon with a hovercraft?

        Anyway, Silverlight developers should remember that if they're scared, Windows Forms developers should be feeling suicidal. For the record, that being me, I'm cool.
      • RE: Microsoft needs to tell Windows 8 developers now about 'Jupiter' and Silverlight

        @Robert Hahn