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 Monday, November 12, 2012
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Stephen Sinofsky’s departure from Microsoft was rather unexpected, but not unpleasant news, at least from my perspective as a business developer.

Before I explain that, let me say that I really love Windows 7, and feel that it is the best version of Windows ever released. I also really like Windows 8, and have high hopes for its future. These successes are to Sinofsky’s credit to be sure.

As a business developer however, I have been extremely disappointed in Microsoft over the past couple years as Sinofsky ‘flexed his muscles’ within the organization.

Enterprises require predictability and some reasonable level of transparency. Microsoft provided neither of these over the past couple of years. The complete ‘blanket of silence’ surrounding anything to do with Windows 8 was stifling. As a result people at Microsoft were unable to talk about anything useful at all for an extremely long time. The future of .NET, Visual Studio, Blend, and many other key developer technologies became completely opaque.

As a result, many organizations developed strategies to move their business development away from dependencies on Microsoft, at least in terms of any client software development.

If there was any ray of hope over the past couple years, it was in the server and cloud space. This is where all the best known developer advocates inside Microsoft moved to, if they stayed at Microsoft at all. As a result, many organizations felt comfortable using ASP.NET and other server-side technologies, but generally started assuming Windows would no longer be a viable target for client-side software.

Obviously this is horrible for Microsoft, and yet it is a direct result of Sinofsky’s influence on the company.

Even today the story around deployment of business applications to the WinRT platform is at best incomplete, and I think is more accurately described as non-existent. Sinofsky’s apparently dismissive attitude toward anything outside the consumer space has left Microsoft increasingly irrelevant to anyone considering building smart client applications.

In short, the one true stronghold where Windows is currently dominant has been largely abandoned by Microsoft, effectively pushing us all toward building HTML 5 cross-platform apps that don’t rely on Windows at all.

Clearly this is one of the primary areas that Sinofsky’s successor must address and correct – unless Microsoft really does intend to abdicate the business client to commodity browser-based devices (can you say Chromebook?).

Personally, and based on no knowledge of the new people in charge, I am hopeful that they will restore some level of predictability and transparency to the Windows platform and the related development platform. This will help restore some confidence around the idea of building applications for Windows in the small, medium, and enterprise spaces. And I am hopeful that they’ll develop a real strategy and mechanism for deploying business applications to the WinRT platform so Windows 8 can become relevant to more than just the consumer space.

All that said, and for all my criticisms of Sinofsky’s brutal blanket of silence and alienation of the developer community inside and outside Microsoft, he really did something that had to be done – reimagine Windows to bring it into the future. Windows 8 and WinRT really might be the future of smart client development for most organizations.

The foundation is there, and it is now up to his successors to make it viable.

Monday, November 12, 2012 10:32:14 PM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [14]  | 
Tuesday, November 13, 2012 7:54:33 PM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
Thank you for stating what I think thousands of developers have been thinking. I sure hope some of the cloud guy's come back and get Microsoft back on track. Great article!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012 7:15:27 AM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
Great comments, Rocky. Put succinctly too.

When I first heard Steven left I was shocked. I probably have a simplistic look at things, but I thought the most basic thing: "Oh no, Windows 8 actually is a disaster and they know it somehow and they fired him." As I started reading comments from others I realized that this is more complex that I originally thought.

Someone made the comment (tongue in cheek) "Gosh awesome, the one guy who is getting things done gets sacked. So more corporate doublespeak and groupthink in our future." That seemed like a reasonable perspective, especially since on the surface Steven fixed Office and then Windows in their darkest days.

But then I remembered a comment made to me by a blue badge many months ago when WinRT was new. "Windows and DevDev had a steel cage match, and Windows won with a KO." For a long time now, this image has been the truth:

I think Steven is the reason behind this divisiveness. He is also the reason behind the successes of Office and Windows. It is both, and in a way neither. Nothing is easy.

Maybe Microsoft is just too big to get agreement across business units and still make excellent products. The next phase will be interesting.
Wednesday, November 14, 2012 10:01:12 AM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
Was Sinofsky really suppressing the business/enterprise aspects of Windows, or was he really just trying to play catch-up with Apple and Google/Android?

I guess that I'm just like any other Windows developer who isn't part of the inner circles. I can see the need for developing Win8; maybe I can see the need for WinRT, but why suppress .NET and WPF/Silverlight? Why not make .NET better? Address any performance concerns, bring C++ on as a first class language (they were getting there with C++/CLI). And then there is the whole thing with the DLR and IronPython/IronRuby.

There's got to be more to the story than has been publically expressed.

So, will we see a gradual reversal of prior decisions. Will there be a Silverlight 6 (just as there were additions and enhancements to MFC in circa 2005), or is it gone forever, banished to the land of support only, and no future improvements?

Lotsa questions, not many answers. Perhaps you and the other Regional Directors and MVPs could apply selective pressure?
Keith Montgomery
Wednesday, November 14, 2012 7:19:03 PM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
They drank the iOS kool-aid, pure and simple. Secrecy, hubristic marketing and love-it-or-leave-it railroading of both developers and customers are all classic Apple tactics. Sinofsky's attitude certainly deserves a lot of the blame for Redmond's missteps, but the rest of the company leadership is complicit too. The fact that his technical successor is the person responsible for Office's much-loathed ribbon menus would suggest the problem is much deeper than one bulldog manager.

I'm hardly anti-Microsoft, and I'd love to see a Win8 service pack that returns missiong functionality, makes the app store less ubiquitous, and includes feature adjustments to bring Win8 back in sync with the PC-based business and power users that drive the platform. But this feels more like corporate politics than a sea change in how the Windows group operates.
Saturday, November 17, 2012 8:29:49 AM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
As a certified Microsoft developer, I have a couple of ideas for Microsoft going forward.

Develop and release a service pack for Windows 8 that does the following:

1) Provide boot to desktop mode (bypass Metro/Tablet mode)

2) Fork the OS as is and leave the current model for Tablet's and Give the start menu or some sort of application navigation to Desktop mode.

3) Listen to the developer community. .NET has been so successful over the past 10 years. How can you provide XAML and C# as an option for WinRT development and leave out WPF and Silverlight? I understand unmanaged C++ is faster, so put some effort into resolving any speed or security issues in .NET.

4) They've expressed an open source minded attitude as with Entity Framework and other technologies. Why open some technologies and hide others?

That's just my $0.02.

Keep up the good work.
Tuesday, November 20, 2012 12:52:00 PM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
Yeah, Microsoft, please do something good regarding your openness to community and predictability. First, continue with Silverlight.
You love C++ and native code, we love it too. Second, open to everyone WWSAPI which follows on par with web services in WCF.
Tuesday, November 20, 2012 2:52:02 PM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
Continuing support of Silverlight and porting it to ARM would have gone a long way in the .NET development community.

Even better would be letting businesses deploy their custom AnyCPU/ARM .NET apps to Windows 8 via side loading.

I know these platforms aren't touch-friendly and all that, but it would have made the transition easier and less jarring to corporations.
Andy B
Tuesday, November 20, 2012 5:44:51 PM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
Buddy James: they didn't want .NET on tablets, as they needed better energy efficiency that they couldn't get with .NET. On the surface (no pun intended) the theory was that .NET could be optimized on the specific hardware. In practise .NET can only be optimized so much, and still native would be faster/more energy efficient. WPF wasn't really catching on, the performance was quite bad (it did hardware acceleration, but done quite badly, making it slow), and it had too much learning curve. I did like Silverlight, but since it's .NET, you run into the energy efficiency issue again on phones. So the move to native from .NET for mobile seems to make sense. But there's no good UI for .NET on regular Windows, with Win Forms/WPF both declared obsolete, what's the path to the future? To me that's the biggest problem.
Wednesday, November 21, 2012 7:03:39 AM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
The demise of the desktop is something that I am struggling with currently as well. It is clear that Windows 8 is a tablet-centric OS and as a developer of automation systems, I have a hard time imagining what the automation space is going to look like in a few years. There are glimpses of it in the professional audio consoles that have control software running on iPads which as a musician is really cool. My biggest question is, "What will my development platform look like in the next 5 years?" Will I be moving to Linux full-time to be able to develop software on a desktop environment? Will a tablet have the necessary IDE tools to really develop anything useful?
Wednesday, November 21, 2012 9:14:36 AM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
"...they didn't want .NET on tablets, as they needed better energy efficiency that they couldn't get with .NET"

BS. If Android can be energy efficient with managed code and Windows Phone 7, 7.5, 7.8, and 8 can be with managed code (not to mention the legacy Compact Framework for Windows CE/Mobile), then Windows 8 can be too. The decision was much more likely because they didn't have time to make managed wrappers for all the new RT API calls before ship date. Nothing more, nothing less. As time goes on, more languages will inevitably compile to RT than C++. That is, if RT actually becomes a viable platform, which remains to be seen.
Wednesday, November 21, 2012 10:43:16 AM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
If I wanted something that looked like an Apple product, I would have gone to the Apple store and bought it. While the "under the hood" components of Windows Version 6.2 might be really spiffy (6.2 you say? Yes, because that's what's in the .inf files for Windows 8 and Server 2012..) The UI is 1000% the wrong direction. I can even imagine, in a business environment, the number of help desk calls because users can't find their way. In addtion, the UI on Office 2013 looks like a throw back to the days of MS-DOS with "Windows" style programming. Good grief Microsoft - where did the inovation go?
Wednesday, November 21, 2012 7:14:43 PM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
I would like to see some engineering discipline imposed across Microsoft products. Things like standardised class namespaces across products would be a good place to start. Silverlight is a subset of WPF so why use a new class namespace structure? This just wastes time for developers, increases learning curves and costs money. This is only one of many many examples of inconsistency across Microsoft development groups. I have found the ASP MVC group to be among the most consistent and if not for them I would not be developing on a Microsoft platform. The issue of documentation in Microsoft is also a major problem. Guide Documentation is invariably written by an individual as a how to article with one scenario in mind. This often results in the developer going down the wrong path with all the attendant time wastage and frustration that this brings. Guide and usage Documentation in Microsoft is treated as something the Microsoft developer does in their spare time. Microsoft developer platform groups need to become a unified software engineering house. We are getting really tired of them wasting our money and productivity.
Jonathan S
Thursday, November 22, 2012 1:19:26 AM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
I have no inside knowledge of MS at all, but it's been obvious for some time that somebody was railroading the Windows development process in a direction that has, so far, been rather disastrous. The whole Winphone debacle that didn't just ignore business users, it made the phone hostile to business use: requiring SkyDrive (the security hole in the sky) and the Zune music player just to move files, no integration with Outlook, limited capability of the actual OS, etc etc. They could have leveraged their stronghold of Windows being in every enterprise, but instead they actively discouraged close integration with Windows. All in the name of making the phone "easy for consumers" -- who ignored it as being irrelevant. Despite the marketing BS, they still seem to be doing the same thing with Win/RT and Desktop mode: try sharing files between the two even on the same box.

Then came the further debacle of alienating and disenfranchizing every .NET developer on the planet. What, you've spent the last 10 years following our advice and learning all these new languages and technologies? Well, tough. You're going to have to move to Javascript and HTML5 for your business apps now (neither of which are well suited for the task), or go back to C++. And believe us when we say "this is the future", again.

Microsoft could have added significant touch capabilities to Windows 7 -- even if not in the OS UI, at least in user applications -- via service packs. (AND done it before the iPhone juggernaut.) Then, developed Win/RT in parallel for actual tablets. But instead, somebody decided that "touch" was going to rule the world, and desktops (the thing that people use to actually do real work, as opposed to just consume media) were irrelevant. Of course this ignores the limitations of a touch-only interface; but no one within Microsoft seemed to be able to object, to add back some objectivity (some sanity) to the dictated direction.

If this idiocy, and the WinDev-DevDev war, was due to Sinofsky (and a few others who have also recently left), then good riddance.

But as someone said, having the person responsible for the "Ribbon" now in charge is not a good omen. It's not just that I (still) dislike the Ribbon interface (which I do), but that it has been badly implemented. It could have been made far more useable and efficient, more flexible and adaptable, but it wasn't, and still hasn't been. That's not a good sign for those of us hoping to get a Win 8 re-think in a service pack update.
Thursday, November 22, 2012 6:49:56 AM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
The energy/performance argument seems like a bad excuse for me all of those thousands of android apps that run in Java/Dalvik VM and i havent heard anyone complain about those apps draining the battery or being slow. And the Mono guys have developed their own .Net runtime for Android and it performance is very good sometimes even better than the Dalvik VM. The Iphone version of Mono (MonoTouch) also has very good performance they actually compile down to native. Yes native C++ applications are faster and are less memory hungry but for 90% of the apps that surface needs could be done with .Net without any problems. The only apps that i can think that may benefit from the extra C++ speed is super advanced 3d games like Unreal, Doom 3... And even then many advanced 3d games today uses lots of slow scripting code. I had a friend that worked as a game developer and he told me once that their 3D game was like 40% C++ and the rest of the game consisted of slow Lua scripts. And he thinks that in the future their games will consist of 20-30% C++ and 70%-80% some kind of high level language like Lua or Python.
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