“This is the market that will explode”

Here are my impressions after watching the key note of the //build conference:

  • The family of Windows 8 operating systems spans across the whole spectrum of devices: huge touch panels, all-in-one desktops, notebooks, netbooks, tablets, phones, and in some sense XBOX.
  • When you write a Win8 app, it means it will run on any of aforementioned devices. I’m not sure about technical details, whether there is literally no need to re-compile, or there are some relatively easy changes (like SL vs WP7 apps two years ago); in any case, it means that the bang for every buck you invest into writing a Win8 app multiplies proportionally the number of different form-factors supported by Win8. Of course you need different UX according to the screen size and other hardware details, but I believe, with a careful planning and utilizing ideas of responsive design, it is still possible to achieve quite an impressive multiplication factor.
  • And this is different from the competition. In Google ecosystem, you either write Dalvik apps (are we allowed to call them Java apps anyways?), which could perhaps run on Google-TV, but won’t run on PC and notebooks. Or you write native Android apps, which are, well, native to Android. In Apple ecosystem, the same applies for iOS apps that can’t run on computers. The only chance to get the multiplication effect is to use HTML5. But then you’re locked in the HTML paradigm (pages instead of apps), and performance and battery issues of JavaScript. Those ecosystems were designed chaotically, incrementally and mostly driven by market demand and feedback from the crowd. Designers of the Win8 ecosystem seem to have learned the lessons, and re-implemented the product line, in architecturally clean and reasonable way. A button is a button, no matter if it is on desktop, tablet, or phone. You can write the same markup and same code for any of those hardware platforms, as soon as there is no UX consideration against it.
  • But you don’t have to use the same technology for everything. Microsoft has learned lessons of .NET Framework in an impressive way. This means, you can still use C# for the apps. Judging on its features, C# is like Java, if Java have had been actively improved in the past 10 years. But you can also dive deep and use C++ and DirectX, for the maximal run-time performance. This means, Win8 apps can come as close to the bare hardware as it gets. And, you can use HTML5 and JavaScript, it case you care more about time to market and rapid software development. No matter what language do you use, you still has exactly the same API and frameworks to communicate with the OS.
  • Integration, Integration, Integration. Microsoft has always been about achieving excellent productivity via integration. Only after having used Microsoft Outlook without Microsoft Exchange and Office Communicator, and Windows without AD and single sign-on, I’ve learned to appreciate the significant synergy effects when you use different Microsoft products together. Also in this case, Ballmer has demoed a very deep integration between different Win8 devices. He has virtually said that the Win8 phone is THE phone a desktop Win8 user would wanna have. And I see how he means it.
  • Money, Money, Money. Microsoft has always been about earning money by providing platforms for others to earn money. They have the best know-how in this area, and you can feel it right away. Optional in-app payment engines is just one example.
  • And last but not least, I appreciated how Ballmer and other guys on the scene were looking. You know, all these Apple and Google events, with presenters if not outright metrosexual, then at least deeply caring about the cool clothes and shoes, and having cool hair-cut, and being manicured… I mean, yeah of course I would like to look as cool as they do. But I won’t achieve it by buying an iPhone or Nexus. Therefore, that’s actually the same kind of fad that the fashion industry is doing with the supermodels. The only reason why we the geeks don’t detect it is that we’re mostly both male heterosexual and introverted, and the idea to evaluate the exterior of the presenters doesn’t come into our minds. On the other hand, on the //build/ I saw just the normal guys, having normal to slightly high BMI, wearing normal clothes and caring about them not more than a normal geek does.

PS. If I have time, I will also watch the following sessions:

Introducing TypeScript: A language for application-scale JavaScript development

Modern JavaScript

Super-Natural Interaction

Designing great reading experiences

and skim through some other presentations.

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