How one Microsoft team is developing its own HTML5 iPad app

How is one Microsoft team approaching the task of architecting an HTML5/CSS app? One key and telling step: "removing all the Windows dependencies."
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

The MSN team, like another of Microsoft's Online Systems Division units -- the Bing team -- has been developing apps for the iPad. In May, MSN launched "Onit," a men's lifestyle app for the iPhone and iPad. But it sounds like that's just the tip of the iPad iceberg.

I stumbled onto a software engineer job posting that mentions another new iPad app in development by MSN that is aimed at the site's own content editors. The post explains how the team is approaching the task of architecting an HTML5/CSS app. One key and telling step: "removing all the Windows dependencies."

Here's the post:

Software Design Engineer, Senior MSN Job Category: Software Engineering: Development Location: United States, WA, Bellevue Job ID: 750877 Division: Online Services Division

MSN is one of the largest websites in the world with 470M unique users a month and 650M page views per day. But the applications behind the scenes that content editors use every day need a lot of work. That’s where you come in. MSN is making a huge investment in becoming a turnaround story and we need talented web devs who care about the customer and quality to help us make that happen.

Our plan is simple. Develop one state of the art web app that delivers all the functionality an editor needs. We’re talking MVC3 with Razor views, jQuery, HTML5 & CSS3. Yeah, we have to deal with the existing apps while we build out the dream app, but we are being smart about it by re-engineering things as we go. A couple of challenges that you can come help us solve are removing all the Windows dependencies so we can enable Mac, Safari and iPad users, enabling ADFS (Active Directory Federation Services) so we can authenticate with LiveId and Windows Authentication over the internet, consolidating our existing four Feed management apps into one, implementing true WYSIWYG editing, the list goes on and on. (MJF: links in here are mine)

We are a very high energy team in a collaborative open space environment in Lincoln Square (MJF: That's in Bellevue -- just outside Redmond). We ship once a month and plan in 3 month chunks. The whole team is fairly new to MSN and we are taking a fresh look at everything, so now is a great time to join. We work smart and hard and have a great time doing it. Monthly morale events, weekly team lunches, Kinect competitions and regular Ping Pong matches is our M.O.

Yes, the content-editor CSS app the MSN team is building is an internally-facing iPad app. But the job posting also got me thinking about what other teams inside Microsoft are doing to rearchitect and/or build from scratch their own HTML5 apps that -- one would assume -- won't take Windows dependencies.

Microsoft is going to need a way to make these coming standards-compliant HTML5 apps something that will keep users loyal to Windows 8. One way is to make them work better on platforms that include a browser that is optimized for the underlying operating system. Another is to encourage Windows 8 "immersive" applications to embed the same "Trident" rendering engine that is part of Internet Explorer.

With Windows 8, not all applications are going to be created equal, according to tidbits I've heard. There supposedly are going to be tiers of apps -- and I don't mean just first-party (from Microsoft) or third-party (from other developers). There will be immersive/modern apps, as well as also legacy/classic apps, supposedly all with different requirements and expectations. Think the mobile app vs. web app vs. native app debate is confusing? I bet we ain't seen nothin' yet....

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