Microsoft to developers: Metro is your future

Microsoft to developers: Metro is your future

Summary: Silverlight and .Net are not dead (yet). But Metro is really the future for Windows 8, Microsoft is telling developers on the opening day of Build.

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Here's the good news for Microsoft developers attending Build: Silverlight and .Net are not dead. Here's the not-so-good news: They are mainly a means to write classic/Desktop apps, and not the new, "Metro-style" apps that Microsoft will be playing up in Windows 8.

Some of us press and analysts who agreed to a day-long non-disclosure agreement on September 12 -- the day before the Build conference started -- received some background on Microsoft's planned messaging for the confab. To me, there was one slide we saw that said it all, from a presentation by Ales Holecek, a Distinguished Engineer working on Windows. It's the Windows 8 architectural slide:

(image courtesy of @longzheng)

According to here are two classes of applications that can be built and run on Windows 8 PCs and tablets. One is "Metro Style" applications. These are the modern, immersive applications that are going to get front-and-center billing. ("Metro" is the name of the design language that Microsoft pioneered with Windows Phone 7.) Developers writing Metro Style apps can code them in C, C++, C#, Visual Basic, HTML5/JavaScript and/or using XAML. The inclusion of XAML here implies "Jupiter," I'd say, even though Microsoft officials never used that codename during our prebrief yesterday. Jupiter is the XAML/UI layer on top of Windows 8 that enables Silverlight and Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) apps to work on the platform.

The second class of applications that can be built and run on Windows 8 PCs and tablets is called "Desktop" applications. These are applications that users can access by clicking on the Desktop tile in Windows 8. They don't have to be immersive; they can look and feel like classic Windows applications that don't assume that users will want/need to rely on touch as the primary way that they interact with them. Examples of existing Desktop apps that will work on Windows 8 are things like Photoshop or Intuit.

Microsoft's execs are emphasizing that Windows 8 is a no-compromise platform. They are positioning it as an operating system that can be all things to all people. But make no mistake: Microsoft sees Metro Style apps as the future. If you don't believe me, browse through the just-released list of sessions for Build.

At Build, there are lots and lots of sessions aimed at educating developers about the new app model for Windows 8, and how developers can use HTML5 and JavaScript to write the new, immersive, "Metro style" applications for the platform. There are very few about .Net, Visual Basic and C#. And there are none that I noticed on how/when/if developers can use non-Microsoft tools and frameworks (PHP, Ruby, etc.) to write Windows 8 apps. And there are none on Silverlight.

Another interesting tidbit from the diagram above has to do with the "system services" layer -- the new app model plus the three boxes known as WinRT (Windows runtime). Readers of my blog will recall that some of the folks who dissected leaked Windows 8 builds already discovered the existence of WinRT. It does, indeed, look as seem to me that  WinRT is the core set of services -- communications, graphics and devices/printing -- that replaces the Windows Communication Foundation (WCF), Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF), etc. layer in Windows today. (Note: the replacement of WCF/WPF is just a guess on my part, and something I'll try to flesh out this week.)

Developers: What else do you want to know about Windows 8?

Topics: Operating Systems, Apps, Microsoft, Software, Software Development, Windows

About

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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  • RE: Microsoft to developers: Metro is your future

    The great news for Silverlight/WPF developers is that the skills we acquired in the past few years are going to be fully valuable in the future. This is all I need to know to go home from Build very happy! XAML rules :)
    lbugnion
    • RE: Microsoft to developers: Metro is your future

      @lbugnion Exactly. The left slide says XAML + C# (VB, C, C++), SL is XAML and C#, so is WPF. I don't think there is much to worry about at all... MS marketing may change the name to "Jupiter" but is just some new APIs and markup in the end...
      peterbjorkmarker
      • RE: Microsoft to developers: Metro is your future

        @peterbjorkmarker i'm not so sure that is correct. Yes you will write apps using the syntax you're familiar with (XAML / C#) but it seems to me that in order to write metro style apps, you will be targeting the WinRT framework and not the .NET Framework (the same would apply to silverlight). I wouldn't call these metro style apps as WPF or Silverlight apps either.
        djcarter2326
      • RE: Microsoft to developers: Metro is your future

        @peterbjorkmarker

        who cares if you need to change your namespace to use winRT instead of winFX. a button in xaml is a button as long as it behaves like a button. xaml was the best idea msft has had evah, accidentally or not.
        neonspark
      • RE: Microsoft to developers: Metro is your future

        @peterbjorkmarker, XAML is not Silverlight nor is it WPF, XAML is a declarative language with slightly different XAML flavors used by Silverlight and WPF. Crazy enough, but there's suttle differences between the flavors - it looks like the whole thing is being unified, and no-doubt this will be an improvement.<br><br>XAML may be in, but there's more than just XAML, including the code behind and all the stuff that makes an application interact with its component parts - the whole that makes it Silverlight, and not just XAML. HOWEVER, given it's the XAML team thats involved with this, the spirit (and good parts) of SL and WPF will probably remain. I'm looking forward to the full details over the next few days.
        P Newton
      • All good then;-)

        I see C continues to be supported. Unix developers from the 70s will be able to use the new frameworks with ease;-)

        The language is the easiest part; Development tools, APIs & Frameworks are what counts. WIN32, .NET, SL now Metro (in a decade). Each offering a different, but not obviously superior direction. Four targets being actively supported in Win8 (WIN32, .NET, HTML & WinRT), 5 if we split out HTML5.

        The promise of each at introduction was to unify future developments. To think we thought WIN32 APIs were inconsistent:-)
        Richard Flude
    • RE: Microsoft to developers: Metro is your future

      @lbugnion I hope Microsoft sees it your way. They have an army of people who know the .NET and WPF classes and namespaces, and the rich Windows API. What experienced Windows developer is going to regularly scale down to the non-typed, messy, and chaotic Javascript language? Only those porting apps from phones, far as I can tell.<br><br>I hope Microsoft understands that.
      Mac_PC_FenceSitter
      • RE: Microsoft to developers: Metro is your future

        @rbethell

        Exactly.
        Charlie_G
      • RE: Microsoft to developers: Metro is your future

        @rbethell
        The problem is how these apps will support other platforms: iOS and Android.
        People forget that until Windows 8 will be officially out, iPad and maybe also Android tablets will be impossible to ignore.

        Nope. My intuition is telling me Html5 is the way to go forward in order to simplify the cross platform work later on.
        http://mobilefever.clicksoftware.com/mobilefever/bid/65053/The-Truth-About-HTML5-Part-2
        MobileSpoon
    • Not really, I have seen this movie before.

      @lbugnion When Microsoft switched to 32 bit from 16 bit they promised not too many changes. In fact what they did is created a set of library headers that were supposed to be able to compile both to 16 bit and 32 bit.

      In the betas, etc it worked out pretty well. But then in release mode all of it collapsed. You had to create two different apps.

      Did you already see the idea of using conditional compilation definitions to compile your code? They showed that and said, "oh only a few lines..." RIGHT....
      serpentmage
    • RE: Microsoft to developers: Metro is your future

      @lbugnion
      I actually think WPF is already dead, and Silverlight will be soon...

      HTML5 is the future, and Microsoft's demos were all about HTML5 apps / Metro style.

      Bold move by Microsoft... I just hope they know what they are doing...
      http://www.mobilespoon.net/2011/09/windows-8-metro-ui-bold-move-by.html
      MobileSpoon
  • contradiction in the article

    MJ,
    In the first paragraph, you write "Here???s the not-so-good news: They are mainly a means to write classic/Desktop apps, and not the new, ???Metro-style??? apps that Microsoft will be playing up in Windows 8."
    In the second para, you write "Developers writing Metro Style apps can code them in C, C++, C#, Visual Basic, HTML5/JavaScript and/or using XAML.".
    Isn't that contradictory?
    teeboy75
    • contradictory

      This is what happens trying to make everyone happy, I think. The reason I said "mainly a means" was to cover this seeming discrepancy. Metro is definitely the focus... and SL is definitely being deemphasized, imho. We'll know more though as we go to sessions this week. MJ
      Mary Jo Foley
      • RE: Microsoft to developers: Metro is your future

        @Mary Jo Foley Mary, you're not making much sense pitting Metro and SL against each other. It's like saying "The black is out - the tetrahedrons are in"
        OxBAADFOOD
      • RE: Microsoft to developers: Metro is your future

        @Mary Jo Foley <br>But your slide talks something different. Metro style apps look under XAML, you have C#/VB and they are talking to WinRT. The WinRT is going to be a replacement to both .NET Framework and Platform API. I think it will be the merger of all the managed and unmanaged API. The .NET Framework will become part of Windows Platform or integrated. The .NET Framework you are seeing on the right side of the slide under Desktop Apps is to support the legacy apps, IMHO. I don't think it is bad as you think.

        Edit: Also about your headline. You are not making sense there either. SL is merely a tool to develop Metro. SL uses XAML and code behind/code beside to get Metro working. I thought you know about these all these days. Metro is the Abstract layer to define and design UX, whereas SL is the runtime/medium to host Metro and C#/VB or other .NET language with XAML is the implementation layer of that Metro and .NET is the final host of medium (SL, WPF etc.).
        Ram U
      • RE: Microsoft to developers: Metro is your future

        @Mary Jo Foley
        The word 'Silverlight' may be DE-emphasized, but XAML is not. Being a developer, I call tell you that XAML + C# is Silverlight [or WPF]. This photo explains it all [http://www.flickr.com/photos/longzheng/6143963169/in/photostream]. So, to answer your conundrum, xaml [silverlight] are not going anywhere.
        teeboy75
      • RE: Microsoft to developers: Metro is your future

        @Mary Jo Foley

        <i>"Metro is definitely the focus... and SL is definitely being deemphasized"</i>

        This statement makes no sense. Metro and SL are not mutually exclusive. Our first introduction to "Metro" was via Silverlight on the phone.

        They demoed creating a "Metro Style" application using Silverlight. So, not only is Silverlight not dead, it's even more integrated. Did we even watch the same keynote?
        Rich Miles
      • RE: Microsoft to developers: Metro is your future

        @Mary Jo Foley The question is: Shall we really differenciate Metro with Silverlight? We know that, in WP7, we develop using XAML/C# to build a Metro style interface. And we(Including Microsoft) call it Silverlight.
        Thunder_
      • RE: Microsoft to developers: Metro is your future

        @Mary Jo Foley
        I'd really like to know where your insight comes from regarding Silverlight. In most articles in the past you seem to regard it much like Flash, in which case you appear to be woefully lacking information. MS has put a ton of work into Silverlight, practically forgetting WPF. By the time MS releases Windows 8 RTM they'll probably be mid way to Silverlight 6 release which should have just about everything that WPF has to offer. Aside from Zune and Media Center the only offerings that used the Metro style were made using Silverlight, including Windows Phone apps. IMHO they are deemphasizing WPF in favor of Silverlight until Visual Studio has a toolset that resembles WPF/Silverlight/WinForms and it's further along in the standards body.
        relwolf
      • RE: Microsoft to developers: Metro is your future

        @Mary Jo Foley Then they best be careful. De-emphasize it too far, and Adobe will happily step into the breach. I don't think Microsoft would be too pleased if Adobe Flex became one of the dominant ways one writes apps for Windows.

        And make no mistake - too many missteps in alienating developers, and Adobe WILL step in.
        Mac_PC_FenceSitter