Windows 8 app development

I’ve always been interested in developing for Windows 8 but I also felt that the SDK is still in its infancy. If you look at ASP.NET now and try to partially compare it to Windows 8’s SDK it’s clear than Microsoft still has a long road ahead to make it simpler and faster to develop for.

That being said, I’m currently playing around with the SDK trying to develop an app for a project I’m working on at work. I’d love to be able to test what I have so far on a Windows 8 tablet though. I’m not sure if it’s possible to, for example, deploy the app to a Surface RT/Pro for testing purposes. I’d hate to think that I can only test my Windows 8 app on my non-touch laptop.

I really hope XAML’s syntax gets a lot cleaner in future versions. Currently it just looks like a big pile of confusing XML mess (to the untrained eye I guess).

It’s Windows so it should run it, right?

People who buy a Surface RT or any of the available Windows RT tablets think that it should run and install whatever programs they used before on other Windows devices. But as we all know, this isn’t the case at all. Windows RT only allows Office to run in Desktop which is already preinstalled. Other than that you’re out of luck which clearly adds more confusion to the consumer.

That leads me to ask the following question: Why did Microsoft even slap on a ‘Windows’ label on Windows RT if it’s not the Windows that most people know of? Now, I know exactly what Microsoft is going after with Windows RT tablets, they are mainly consuming devices that are competitors to iPad and Android. That’s the market they’re after.

Windows RT is simply the modern UI with a Desktop ‘app’ that only runs Office. And like I said before in an earlier post, the inclusion of Desktop in Windows RT is one of the main reasons behind the consumer confusion around what exactly does this Windows RT really offer compared to many other Windows 8 hybrids which run the ‘real’ Windows (in the average consumer’s mind). Therefore, the position of Windows RT with what Microsoft advertised it as was awkward, confusing and out of place, not to mention that it costs as much as an iPad (especially Surface RT).

I’m really looking forward to what Microsoft will be doing to clear this mess, especially after their Surface RT was a major flop.

Everything should update through Windows Phone Store

If you look at what Microsoft is doing with Windows 8, they’re actually (for once) doing something great when it comes to providing built-in app updates. Those updates are all going through the Windows Store, which means there is no need to wait for Microsoft to push a major OS update in order to update those built-in app. So apps like Mail, Calendar, People, Music, Videos all get updated often through Windows Store.

On the other hand, when it comes to Windows Phone 8, this becomes a different story. Apparently, all built-in apps get updated with every major OS update, which happens once in a blue moon. This is another indication that when it comes to the OS architecture, Windows Phone 8 (in its current iteration) isn’t even close to what Microsoft is trying to achieve with their ‘Windows Everywhere’ concept and sharing the same Windows kernel. So in the case of Internet Explorer 11 on Windows Phone, you won’t see it getting updated with fixes or additional HTML 5 support any time soon until there is a OS update. Now, why is this the case? Why can’t those apps (which are in a way separate from the core OS) get updated more often directly through Windows Phone Store? The bigger question is why didn’t anyone at Microsoft suggest that in their meetings?

That being said, I’ve always felt Windows Phone 8’s team didn’t have much collaboration or meetings or talks (if any) with Windows 8’s team. Both OS interfaces (at least on the modern UI side) seem to handle things differently. There is no sense of consistency when you move from Windows Phone to Windows 8. Yes, there is that familiarity feeling but once you’re knee deep you realize they’re oceans apart.

I hope there is more in store that what was released and previewed in Windows 8.1, cause that might be an indication that Windows Phone 8.1 may not meet most people’s high expectation.

Windows 8, three editions for the average consumer

I always asked myself why Microsoft was so technical is naming their Windows RT edition of Windows. We all know it looks and functions the same as Windows 8, so why not just call it as it is; Windows 8. Not to mention the ‘Windows 8’ label doesn’t give any clue to what it offers. So instead of slapping confusing and potential-buyer-deterring labels, use three easy to remember and easy to compare and easy to differential labels:

  • Windows 8 Tablet Edition: It’s simply the modern Windows 8 interface without Desktop mode. Why include Desktop if the user won’t be able to install or run anything else besides the pre-installed Office suite? And since we all know Office suite will eventually be available as modern apps, this is more reason to completely remove Desktop from this edition.
  • Windows 8 Standard Edition: This is basically the current offering of Windows 8 (not the Pro edition). If you think about it, Windows 7 never came out as Windows 7, even the home edition was called Windows 7 Home. Heck, there was even a Windows 7 Basic edition. So why didn’t Microsoft clarify this by calling it Windows 8 Home or Windows 8 Standard like Windows 7 Home? I prefer the ‘Standard’ label since many small businesses are actually using the Home edition in their office therefore it makes sense to replace the ‘Home’ label with ‘Standard’ for general use.
  • Windows 8 Professional Edition: This is, obviously, the current offering of Windows 8 Pro.

Of course, there is also the Windows 8 Enterprise edition but I am currently just covering the operating systems that an average consumer would use.

In a nutshell, if you’re using the Windows 8 Tablet edition, then you’ll be only using the modern UI and there is no Desktop mode which means you will only be able to install and run Windows Store apps. If you’re using the Windows 8 Standard edition, then you’re going to have what the Tablet edition offers plus Desktop mode that gives you the ability to install and run any desktop app you desire. If you’re using the Windows 8 Professional edition, then you’re going to have what the Standard edition offers plus joining corporate or school domains, gives you access to Remote Desktop and provides enhanced data protection.

Easy as pie. Now why couldn’t Microsoft think of that?

There is hope for Windows RT

Believe it or not, I think there is still hope for Windows RT to gain traction only if the following three critical points happens:

  1. Rebrand it to something else other than the incredibly confusing “Windows RT” name. Call it “Windows 8 Touch”, “Windows 8 Express”, “Windows 8 Tablet Edition” or simply “Windows 8” and rename the home edition to “Windows 8 Home”. Whatever the name is, it cannot be “Windows RT”.
  2. Remove Desktop. Yes, there is absolutely no use for it if the only thing it can run is Office in Windows RT. And since the Office suite¬†is being developed as modern apps as we speak, it’s more reason for Desktop to be useless on Windows RT. File Explorer has been baked into Windows 8.1’s modern UI so that too is another nail in the Desktop coffin in Windows RT.
  3. Apps, and lots of popular apps. Without the top 10 apps that people know and expect on a tablet platform, there will be no reason for consumers to adopt Windows RT. Make sure those apps are in Windows Store.

That’s it. Consumers don’t need to know the technical definition of Windows RT to know what Windows RT is and what it enables them to do, hence rebranding it. Consumers don’t need to be confused with the presence of Desktop on a tablet when it’s mainly used for touch. And last, but no least, apps. Bring them, and buyers shall come.