Dear Microsoft application developers: Grow up

Dear Microsoft application developers: Grow up

Summary: If you're a Microsoft application developer, either independent or bound to a corporate job, it's time for you to stop complaining and grow up. Windows 8 is here and you'd better get used to it.


A Facebook friend of mine, who'll remain nameless, taunted me a bit after my, "Windows 8 Tablets: The most successful tablets ever." article, saying that, "Our developers hate it." I told him that his developers need to "Grow up" and get with the program (pun possibly intended). There's no need to cling to the previous version of any operating system, although Windows XP is/was the proverbial bomb, it just makes you look like an anachronist, luddite or someone who refuses to change. Either you have to be mature enough change with the times and be flexible or you need to go flip burgers at a fast food restaurant.

It's cute to sit around and bash the latest iteration of some operating system--I mean, just look around and you'll see plenty of media types doing it--even I do it occasionally, but it doesn't change anything except other people's perceptions of you. So, stop it.

All of this Windows 8 bashing reminds me of the stone ages (1995), when Windows 95 first hit the market. Everyone complained about it. A lot of people stuck with Windows 3.x for years. Some of them even turned to Windows NT 3.51 to lengthen their tie to the past. It didn't work then and it won't work now.

At the time when my group (Domain Administrators) converted hundreds of developer and developer support desktop computers to Windows NT 4.0, I heard complaints from every direction during the process. It got old fast. I think, after two straight weeks of conversion complaints, I finally told one particularly annoying developer, "If you don't want to move to Windows NT 4.0 with the rest of the domain, then go find yourself a job where they live in the past. As for the rest of us, we're moving on."

We converted. He, much to my chagrin, stayed and complained more. 

You have to change with the times. You have to download the SDK, dig in and learn to use and work with the new operating system. You can't sit around and lament the good old days. Just shut up and get to work. Or, change careers. No one will likely notice your absence. Your cubicle will be ransacked and scuttled for anything good, your name tag will be tossed into the trash and your curmudgeonly complaints will be the occasional topic of discussion that begins with, "Remember that loser who..."

Sorry to be so harsh but that's reality. Either you change with the times or you do something else. You'll eventually have to grow up enough to make the necessary adjustments to your awesome applications or you'll have to support legacy crap for the next ten years and deal with almost constant break/fix problems.

So, back to my friends' comments on Facebook to me. He wrote, "You seem to be pretty positive about Win8. Have you had the chance to poke around it from a techie standpoint? I have a crew of friends who are heavy app developers (non-enterprise type of stuff); they all hate it. The objective consensus is there is nothing to make companies switch to Win8. The cost (even if the SW is free) and changes to infrastructure are too prohibitive."

My response, "They must suck because Windows 8 isn't that different than Windows 7. The interface shouldn't confuse them. It's still Windows underneath it all. Everyone wants to bash the new OS. It's tradition. Tell them to grow up."

Of course, he took the "Windows 8 isn't that different than Windows 7" thing a bit too literally. I tried to clarify it with the, "It's still Windows underneath it all" statement. But, alas, it was enough to latch onto for a few more comments.

I believe that Windows 8 differs from Windows 7 just a little more than Windows 95 differed from Windows 3.11. Or, NT 4.0 from NT 3.51.

We're not talking quantum leaps here folks. We're talking increments. Underneath the new grill and new taillights*, it's Windows. And, if you're stuck in the past, Microsoft makes it a little easier for you by allowing you to adjust your program to work in Compatibility Mode. You can select your beloved from a list of operating systems dating all the way back to (gasp) Windows 95 and 640x480 screen resolution. Sorry, Windows 3.x user/developers, you should have switched in the span of the past 17+ years.

Only a developer who's been in a coma for the past ten years could wake up and be shocked by what he's seeing. If a UI change is throwing you that much of a curve ball, you should perhaps take up UNIX or open source programming. No, I'm not bashing those, I'm just saying that the UNIX command line hasn't changed and isn't likely to, so for those who like a static environment, that's one alternative--but not a negative one.

I think that anyone who calls himself a professional Windows developer can't deal with a changing operating system substrate should probably make some changes of his own. After all, if things didn't change, improve and evolve, why would we need you anymore? We could just keep using Windows 3.x, MS Office 1.0, Mosaic and Chameleon forever.

Shut up. Grow up. End of story.

What do you think of all the Windows bashing that has gone on for the past 20 years every time there's a new OS release? Talk back and let me know.

*One of my favorite rants from days gone by is that car manufacturers think they're tricking us with "new" models that just have new fangled front grills and a new taillight assembly.

Topics: Microsoft, Apps, Software Development, Windows


Kenneth 'Ken' Hess is a full-time Windows and Linux system administrator with 20 years of experience with Mac, Linux, UNIX, and Windows systems in large multi-data center environments.

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  • Who's acting childish here?

    Developing apps formerly known as "Metro-Style" apps is not a hug technological leap for any Microsoft developer who's been developing in WPF or Silverlight. I know because I am one. Could it possibly be that few MS developers are excited about this as you think they should be because we just don't know how well Microsoft can pull this off? Windows Phone 7 comes to mind. If I were developing an app for the mobile market tomorrow, Win 8 wouldn't be my first or second choice as a platform target. It's BUISNESS! I I have a client request a Win 8 app that they want to pay for, I'll build it.
    • Look at the Windows Store

      Look at any app in the Windows store. Clearly it is a technological leap (or some other leap), otherwise they wouldn't all suck so bad.

      (I'm being a bit harsh perhaps, because there's one really good app in the Windows Store. It's called Fruit Ninja and I'm not kidding.)
      Han CNX
      • Suck so bad?

        Talk about a personal and subjective viewpoint. I've used the apps and they do not 'suck so bad' in the slightest.

        In fact, most of them are retreads/ports of iOS apps so........
        • What does that matter?

          I won't comment on the quality of apps as I have not tried them but have to ask, what does being retreads or ports of iOS apps have to do with the discussion. Just because it a port of what might have been a great app doesn't mean the finish ported app will be any good.
          • And...

            the ported app doesn't have much value being ported if the OS it's ported to does not have market share or the OS is poop.
    • Good thing for me though...

      I never needed to study Silverlight and WPF. :P
    • Agreed...

      Windows Store applications are basically "Silverlight 6".
    • I'm fairly new to the ZDNet realm... don't take my question the wrong way. Is Ken Hess the "Resident Troll" here? After reading his first aricle giving MSFT plaudits for bringing the "most successful tablet ever" to the masses before unit one was shipped to the public, then this article telling devs to "grow up" becasue Win 8 is progess so like it or leave it I can't help but think so.

      His last article still confounds me--I see no point to it but to be provocative. This article at least has a point--unless you are heading into retirement you have to move with the times: Progress==Change after all. The point needn't be made in such a trollish (perhaps "provocative" is a more diplomatic term) manner.

      But if MSFT shares Hess' attitude at all I fear this will be the start of its long decline. Ballmer's "Developers!" chant and bounding around the stage like a big ape notwithstanding, he had a point. MSFT obtained market share by catering to developers and VARs and OEMs. Putting out a pretty new interface and telling developers to eat their pablum or go to bed hungry will not do anything to maintain markeet dominance. The Free software community could be said to struggle with being too far in that direction in being very developer-centric at the expense of consumer appeal, however it offers an enticing (and to MSFT a dangerous) alternative. (On a side note, it seems Hess is under the influence of his own little reality distortion field--Linux in his world appears to be one of George Carlin's seven dirty words, so he censors himself by bleeping it our with UNIX. I find that curious...)

      Perhaps MSFT is trying (too hard) to be like Apple (within the bounds of this far-too-litigious industry--I suppose that is why Win8 tiles have sharp corners). True enough Apple's products are worshipped like idols and its share price has elevated it past MSFT in value, but is it really a path to market dominance? Macs are well loved and have a decent share of market, but are still a very distant second to the Windows platform. iPhones? Well, they had first mover advantage in terms of stylus-free, all-touch smartphones that allowed user installed apps. Then Andriod came out, now they are in second amongst manufacturers and Android as a platform has wiped the floor with Apple in market share. Apple is left with tablets as the one market they own. It is inevitable that Android and/or Win8 and/or BB10 and/or something we haven't seen yet will supplant Apple here too--and it will guaranteed be taken over by a platform taht caters to OEMs, VARs and developers in a way apple never has, not by the best imitator as Apple Fanbois would contend.

      MSFT ignores developers at their own peril. If they take too much from Apple's strategy they will end up with a PC market share to match, because a dev scorned is a dev who jumps ship to Linux (or Android...or maybe I should say "UNIX" so as not to offend Ken ;-)

      Not that it would be a bad thing to see more diversity in the market though...
      Mark Hayden
      • Shut it!

        Shut up! It's new so that means it's GOOD! What you say? Opposing awful solutions is also a factor in evolution of software? No!
        Jan Corazza

          ...opposing awful solutions is usually a factor in abandoning software.
    • Yes!

      I too love to suckle at the monetary teet of M$'s sucker-sheeple who are glad to pay for their money pit of technology. As such I too shall invest time to develop apps for Metro!
  • Users advocates

    Developers should turn advocates.
    Please make sure that we expose platform security flaws instead of joining the exploitation for your PM's ego. He should solve the problem for your developments.
  • I agree!

    I no longer get into "discussions" with these folks. As a developer I had to decide how I see Windows 8. Either as a problem or an opportunity. Smart Developers know which is the better choice.

    Recently one of my developers sent me a photo of a monkey using a touch screen, he made the joke that Windows 8 is built for monkeys. I asked him what does that say about the people complaining that Windows 8 will be hard to use?
    • Cute

      That's a cute response, and also valid; Win 8 is easy to use, no argument.

      However let's not forget that the only reason Metro is there in every (business) version of the OS (including Server versions) is to try and get to a credible ecosystem in the consumer / tablet space.

      In a desktop / office scenario, mousing around Metro isn't fun. And neither is poking at a large screen, quite a bit away from where my hands are on the keyboard.
      Han CNX
      • Mousing Around

        I've been mousing around in Metro for some time and once you get use to it, you find out in combination with the desktop, Metro and snap is a pretty productive setup. For example, my twitter feed is constantly snapped to the left to keep an eye on the industry while, the main view is constantly switching between desktop and other Metro apps. I find myself preferring to use Metro IE (I was also surprise). Get this, one of the reasons I like using Metro IE is that I don't have to move my mouse all the way back up to the top of the screen(30 inch dell) to go back and forward between pages. I catch myself all the time hovering half-way up the screen on desktop IE or Chrome expecting the little arrows to appear so I can go back a page.

        I think once the Metro Apps mature, this perception of them not being business friendly will go away.

        Remember Wordperfect? They didn't think this Windows interface thing was a priority when we had the last big shift in the industry, so they where way late to the market with a Windows version. We all know how that turned out. The question is, who will be the next Wordperfect? I would sure like to be the next Word!

        Problem or opportunity?
      • Cute response

        Saying that Win 8 with Metro is easy to use is NOT the same as saying it is easy to program for. In this respect, you side with Mr. Hess, who is not an app programmer. Try listening to those who ARE actually having to do the work.

        Have a nice day.
        • But it's not hard to program for...

          Or rather, it's not anything revolutionary. Anyone who's developed with WPF or Silverlight will not have any issues. Anyone who's made an Android app will be able to see the similarities. Visual Studio 2012 is great. Even in the express version.

          Win RT apps are different than traditional desktop apps for sure. But any developer that doesn't like something because it's "different" should really really re-evaluate their career path because change in development methodologies is a constant thing.

          The only complaint I would have is the weird requirements for digitally signing even when you're running locally. And even that is a VERY minor complaint and only in some very minor cases do you need to deal with it manually.
          • If only

            If only hiring agents thought the way you did, I would be able to get a job anywhere!
        • Balance of Complexity

          There's a finite amount of complexity in any solution (extra, superfluous complexity may be added on, of course), balancing between development complexity and user experience.

          Shifting the complexity toward the user makes for simpler programming, but a terrible and unfriendly GUI. Making a simple and intuitive GUI (that works well) then, naturally balances the complexity toward the programmer.

          I prefer to give the user a simpler experience when possible, and take on the complexities of the system myself (computers are good at this - especially repetitive work), and my users appreciate that. Naturally, one should still allow for more control in optional screens.

          The perception of course, defaults to "if it's simple to use, it must have been simple to develop". It's difficult to overcome this, but it's possible.
          • Why not "skin" it?

            Plenty of applications have simple GUIs like you described, but can switch to a power GUI for the advanced user.
            E.g. Nero express was very simple to use as CD burning software, but if you had the full Nero version you could choose to use the old simple interface, or with a click switch to the full GUI with all of the advanced features.

            That to me is a model of good UI design, it has something for everybody.

            Unfortunately we're seeing software increasingly turn into "beginners only". I keep downloading newer versions with simple GUIs where they've stripped out important features I used to find useful, all in the name of simplicity. What a rubbish design ethic