If you’ve followed my blog recently you know I’ve done a lot of research into the licensing around deployment (side-loading) of business apps on Windows 8 (Windows Runtime aka WinRT).
As a result of this two things have happened.
First, I’ve had some interesting conversations with a few people at Microsoft. Some understand the issue, others just don’t get it. If you think this is an issue I suggest you have conversations with any Microsoft people you know because that’ll help educate and pressure them to fix the problem.
As an aside, it is hard to talk to the right people at Microsoft because the Windows Division owns all this stuff and they don’t talk to developers. In fact, they are almost constantly behind what’s known as the “veil of silence” – essentially unable to discuss anything interesting without risk of being fired. This unwillingness to talk to developers on your own platform is pretty ridiculous, and makes it virtually impossible to generate enthusiasm for building apps on the platform. I have hopes that Sinofsky’s departure from Microsoft will eventually allow them to come to their senses…
Second, I’ve had a number of people ask if I think Windows and/or Microsoft is done for on the client, at least in terms of business software development.
The thing about the licensing/deployment side-loading story is that Microsoft has it set up to be perfectly acceptable to large enterprises. Those orgs almost certainly already have an EA/SA and use SCCM and run domain-joined Windows Enterprise machines. Their Windows RT or other Win8 mobile devices are covered by the SA and/or companion device licensing. So their only incremental cost is the $4/mo/device InTune cost. That’s extremely comparable to the cost of MDM products for iPad/Android devices.
Where the Microsoft story falls short is in the SMB (small-medium business) space where businesses probably don’t have those bigger contracts and IT infrastructure. That’s where the incremental costs start to add up pretty fast (as per my previous blog posts and Excel cost calculator). Of course the long tail suggests that there are a lot more SMB orgs than enterprise orgs, so the poor story for this segment of the market is pretty devastating.
I keep posting and talking bluntly about the licensing/deployment story because I think we all need to be aware of what’s going on. We all need to know it so we can make near-term decisions regarding the use of WPF, h5js, and/or WinRT. And because those of us who enjoy building smart client Windows apps can pressure Microsoft into fixing the licensing story before it is too late.
Finally, speaking of “too late”, that’s a slippery phrase.
Businesses are mostly just now upgrading to Windows 7, and won’t go to Windows 8 for 2-4 more years. So in a sense you can argue that Microsoft has a lot of time to fix the side-loading story, because almost no one is going to care about this for a long time anyway.
On the other hand, the developer community tends to move a bit faster. We’re a fickle bunch. If we don’t perceive WinRT as a viable future platform for business apps then we’ll start retooling our skills to something else in order to preserve our careers. That won’t take 4 years. I suspect Microsoft has less than 2 years to get developer buy-in to WinRT or the siren call of h5js will become too much to bear.
At the moment of course, h5js has no rational or consistent smart client deployment story either. Although its ability to support smart client business development is maturing pretty fast, the only widespread deployment model still requires a real-time connection from the client device to a web server. Once the industry settles on a way to package and deploy “h5js apps” for offline use (and I believe that _will_ happen) then Microsoft’s ability to generate enthusiasm for WinRT becomes much harder.
I see this as a race. Can Microsoft generate enthusiasm around WinRT in the business developer world (by fixing the side-loading issue and by actually talking to developers at all)? And can they do that faster than the h5js world can devise and settle on a reliable smart client story of their own (because they already have developer enthusiasm).
- Microsoft has the technical issues pretty much solved, but seems intent on alienating business developers.
- The h5js world has a lot of developer enthusiasm, but has yet to tackle or solve some critical technical issues
It’ll be fun to see what happens over the next couple years.