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Microsoft’s Silence is Infuriating .NET Developers

by Jonathan Allen on Jun 11, 2011 |

Earlier this month Microsoft unveiled a new touch-centric UI for Windows 8. According to the presentation and matching press release, this new UI allows Windows 8 applications built using just HTML5 and JavaScript to “have access to the full power of the PC”. This is great news for web developers looking to do more with the Windows platform, but all the buzz is about what isn’t being said.

By failing to mention whether or not WPF and/or Silverlight can be used to create applications for the new Windows 8 UI, Microsoft has once again sown the seeds of doubt amongst .NET developers. That alone really isn’t news; Microsoft is far too large a company to talk about every product in every announcement. The problem is Microsoft is flatly refusing to confirm or deny .NET’s role in the application model for Windows 8 at every level.

The last time a Microsoft executive misspoke about Silverlight was at PDC 2010. Tensions were already running high amongst Silverlight developers, a group that often finds themselves in a strange juxtaposition between the rich client developers and web developers. So when Bob Muglia gave the impression that Silverlight was being abandoned there were serious repercussions. Developers, and especially consultants, found themselves in the unenviable position of trying to justify their decision to use Silverlight to their employers and customers. Numerous contracts were cancelled during the first few weeks after the PDC as skittish customers dropped Silverlight in favor of Flex or HTML 5.

After a series of public statements and a Silverlight-focused event things calmed down a bit, but doubts about the platform remained. The lackluster attention for the non-Mobile version of Silverlight at MIX 2011 also ruffled some feathers, but it didn’t generate the same sort of backlash as the PDC. Developers and customers were beginning to believe that Silverlight, though no longer the favored child, has a solid place in the future of Microsoft.

Then the Windows 8 announcement came. Thinking this was once again just another PR mishap, developers and journalists leaned on their contacts for another statement clarifying the role of WPF and Silverlight. This time it isn’t just an academic exercise, knowing which, if either, of these technologies will be usable for the new Windows 8 Start screen could affect their decision on what to invest in for the short term as well.

In an apparent attempt to boost excitement for Microsoft’s new conference, Build, no one is willing to publically speak about the future of .NET development. Between now and September all we have is rumors and small snippets of information such as Mary Jo Foley’s article on the Jupiter UI.

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It's Not Just About WPF and Silverlight by Rob Eisenberg

What's really important to realize here is that the denial doesn't just relate to WPF and Silverlight...it's a refusal to confirm *any* .NET technology as present in the future of Windows.

Re: It's Not Just About WPF and Silverlight by Jonathan Allen

Please keep in mind we are talking specifically about the new application model for Windows 8.

Microsoft has confirmed that traditional applications will run on Windows 8 under the legacy shell; there is absolutely no reason to believe that doesn't include .NET.

Re: It's Not Just About WPF and Silverlight by Richard Clayton

I agree; I get no sense that Microsoft is going to abandon the .NET Framework. That is probably why they were so silent (it seemed so obvious to them that it would be available that they didn't mention it).

Re: It's Not Just About WPF and Silverlight by Cameron Purdy

What's "Windows"?

Re: It's Not Just About WPF and Silverlight by Jonathan Allen

Now that is a question worth asking. We aren't quite there yet, but I don't necessarily see Windows as being the dominate force over the long run either.

Typical Microsoft by Paulo Pinto

Microsoft is known for having the technology of the month, leading everyone to believe it is going to be the best in the world and then abandoning it for something else.

ODBC -> ADO -> ADO.Net
DDE -> OLE -> ActiveX -> COM
VB -> VB.Net
Windows Forms -> WPF -> Silverlight

So why should it now be any different?

Although to be honest I think this is more of a PR misstep and .Net and Win32 will also be first level citizens in Windows 8 world, but somehow Microsoft is, for whatever reason, unwilling to tell what is going on.

Re: It's Not Just About WPF and Silverlight by Mark N

Cameron, On a serious note, are you all still using Mac's? I am looking at buying a MacBook Pro and will be doing Java dev (i.e. Eclipse and Glassfish) with it. Just wondering how much "pot to fire" I will be dealing with.

Typical over reactive idiots by Robert MacLean

Really?! Who are these insane lunatics that think that .NET has no access to Windows 8?! Let's look at some truths, now I am not saying the OS team will or won't give access, I'm just looking at the real world and the history and saying it would seem more insane than anything anyone has ever done:
- Visual Studio is THE platform for development on Microsoft. Not just .NET but all of it, that will not change.
- .NET on top of Windows has been an issue always, one is managed and one isn't. However every release of Windows that has improved thanks to work by other teams (not the OS team). Vista was good, Win7 .NET support is great and no reason to see this trend broken.
- .NET can consume what ever COM/C++ stuff is out there, so unless Windows is written in fish heads I'm sure it can be consumed and some smart community people will.
- Microsoft has a MASSIVE investment in .NET (Azure, ASP.NET, VS, TFS, SharePoint, CRM, BizTalk and so on) there is ZERO chance just cause the OS team may or may not be supporting it that Microsoft will or even can stop that investment.
- Every Win8 preview has shown unmanaged apps still working (excel, word) so no reason to see that continue and the framework break.
- Around HTML 5 + JavaScript apps, we have that today it is called HTML Applications and has been in Windows for years.


So what is truly new? The new "start menu" and potentially new API's in HTML Applications. If you can't figure out to do a HTML 5 icon to launch your .NET app, please hand in your copy of VS at the door and the API's? Well unless they are made of fish heads too, I think .NET folks will be fine.

Re: Typical over reactive idiots by Rob Eisenberg

Microsoft has stated that .NET and Win32 apps will run on Windows 8 (or at least the non-ARM versions). But they were explicit in stating that these apps would work in what they called "legacy mode" or something like that. What many developers are concerned about is having their .NET apps run under the new Win8 app model. That is what Microsoft will not say anything about.

Re: It's Not Just About WPF and Silverlight by Cameron Purdy

Yes, I use a Mac. It's my first one -- and Mac OSX is generally less infuriating than Windows. If you can use an iPhone, you can use a Mac.

The thing with Windows is that 93.7% of native applications no longer make sense with HTML 5 / JS, so "what is Windows?" (or for that matter, "What is Flash?" or "What is IOS or OSX?") is a reasonable question. It's like coding ActiveX's or Applets after AJAX took off ..

Re: It's Not Just About WPF and Silverlight by Mark N

Is this the "real" Cameron? I thought you all had been using MacBooks for years.

Re: Typical over reactive idiots by Robert MacLean

"or at least the non-ARM versions": Microsoft have been clear to show that they run on ARM versions too. Look at the very first announcements where they showed Office running on ARM.

"legacy mode" & "Win8 app model": What do you think those actually mean? Legacy mode has been shown to be Windows as we know it, sans the explorer UI. That makes sense because you can't just change applications and the paradigms that they are designed. So what is the new model? Microsoft have said that is JavaScript + HTML 5. However Microsoft must provide API's for those applications so you can expect a new API that they will use. Once again, unless the new API is built in fish heads it will be consumable by .NET atleast so that means you would be able to plug it in and use it.

Drama queen by David Louis

Sounds like Jonathan Allen is a bit of a drama queen. Trying to make news about nothing. Pretty soon he will be crying because of a lack of info about Office 2014.

Embrace, Extend, Extinguish by Nick Watts

Of course Microsoft wants people to start developing apps in HTML5/Javascript. But they want it to be *their* exclusive brand of HTML5/Javascript. Get web developers who favour non-Microsoft platforms on board, then quietly get them hooked on the Microsoft-only extensions, suddenly everyone is using a Microsoft-only platform. Same thing that happened with all the IE only DHTML extensions and alternative AJAX standards. It's yet another attempt to pervert the web standards and get a monopoly lock on a new market.

Of course, developing primarily Silverlight and WPF doesn't help much either.

Re: Drama queen by Jonathan Allen

To be honest I didn't want to report on this at all; I've got more than enough real news to cover. But when every forum and newsgroup is full of threads complaining about this issue I don't have much of a choice.

I sometimes wonder if Microsoft is intentionally messing with people so that they will stop panicking whenever Microsoft fails to mention something in a press release.

Re: Embrace, Extend, Extinguish by Stefan Wenig

dear web standards crowd,

please publish a standard that allows us to write full desktop apps, or stop whining about people not using standards for everything.

thank you.

It's clear that MS will not drop .NET by Stefan Wenig

It's also clear that there will be some way to run existing WPF/SL GUIs on Win8.

What's totally unclear is everything else I need to know when chosing a platform for future development. There are some realistic paths here, and nobody can seriously guess which one MS is going to take. For instance, MS could
- provide SL as an alternative UI platform for Win8/Metro. Seems like an obvious choice, since this already works for WP7. Will be interesting to see if HTML/SL components can be combined then.
- provide something like GWT (productize/open source Script#, which I hear was used for OWA, but is totally unusable for anybody else due to its unsupported status)
- settle on HTML/JS alone for Win8/Metro, with no .NET support at all. Unlikely, considering all the investments MS has made even recently (e.g. async). But who can really be sure that the Win8 team has not managed to overrun Developer Division, like Scott Barnes predicted some months ago?

An official statement is due. Waiting until September is simply unacceptable.

Re: It's Not Just About WPF and Silverlight by huang zheng

is that true?

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