Why are .NET Devs in knots after Windows 8 demo?


Okay, I had to throw my hat in the ring/shit storm/tornado that’s hit the .NET world after Microsoft demoed Windows 8. At the eye of the storm is the remark made during the demo implying HTML5 and Javascript tooling would be made available to developers to develop for Windows 8.

Now, if you take a bird’s eye view of this statement, you can look at it in all sorts of positive ways like

1. Javascript was finally becoming mainstream in MS world
2. We would have another ‘language’ in our repertoire to develop windows applications on.
3. IE engine was replacing the static desktop with dynamic desktop (fact that it’s been around since IE4 can be set aside for a moment) for Windows and heck they managed to put both (IE and classic desktop) side by.

Beyond this everything else is conjecture. However you put it, except for people working for MS in Windows and .NET team, no one knows any better. Then why this shit-storm and name calling and juvenile behavior from so many .NET devs?

Let’s delve a little deeper but continue with the positive stream of thought. Microsoft has been giving mixed signals about Silverlight and I would consider ONLY Bob Muglia’s comment to Mary Jo Foley (here) regarding what MS thinks of SL’s placement as a development platform – LoB and Mobile. Anything outside this, like posts, by Scott Barnes (@Mossyblog) or Mary Jo Foley (@maryjofoley) proclaiming death of SL or WPF is still conjecture. They may have ‘inside sources’ but unless MS officially declares ‘End of life’ for any of the products/tools in debate, it’s nothing but hot air.

However, it’s not hard to imagine in a huge bureaucratic company like MS (again that’s my assumption, I don’t know anyone personally in MS who could tell me so) there will be power struggles and duplication of work and more power struggle. So let’s for a minute assume Windows 8 team didn’t like the existing client development tools and decided to roll a new platform, I would say SO WHAT! They are still Microsoft, if one team gets an upperhand in a power-struggle then the other team will have to fall in line sooner or later. What does that mean? Well that means if HTML5 and Javascript is the new mantra, the developer tools will follow.

That brings us to the arguments – ‘what happens to my investment in SL/WPF/.NET’? I find this question silly, and here are the reasons why:

1. If you made an investment in SL/WPF/.NET stick with it, MS didn’t say they are pulling plug on SL or WPF or .NET in Windows 8 or anytime soon. Now let’s see what type of investment you made:

  • You built an enterprise app on SL that works great, it will work for the next 10 years probably but I doubt your business will need the same app for 10 years.
  • You built 5 Windows Phone apps, great, keep them in SL till a mature HTML 5/JS platform appears that can do more that what your SL app can do.
  • You built a LoB app, great, keep it around till Business doesn’t need it anymore.
  • I really don’t see where your investment is going! Much less going down the drain!

2. Software Development has always ‘evolved’ and software developers have evolved with it. Crying about why SL/WPF is not a ‘first class’ platform in a future OS falls in the ‘spoilt-brat’ or ‘lazy-ass’ category. GROW UP and improve your skills as and when required!

3. What makes you think Microsoft’s development products division won’t come up with creative ways to continue to use all your existing front end/UI and .NET knowledge to serve up native Windows 8 apps (that are actually HTML and JS)?  In fact today there is a mono compiler that converts IL to JS (https://github.com/kevingadd/JSIL).

4. Are we cribbing just because it’s HTML and javascript? That’s snobbish behavior best left to ‘others’. OMG JavaScript! is just not an argument and one who is making it doesn’t know javascript, period!

A lot of us (so called loyal MS fans) have often cribbed how MS always rolls it’s own, never follows standards and acts like a bully! If that’s true, then hey, this time they got it bang on target right? Then why this hullaboo?

Personally, I started my career as a VB6 developer (mind you all VB6 and rich client and no ASP). Three years down I moved on to C#, since then I’ve tried Java and VB.NET for ‘non UI’ development. But sometime around 5 years ago I realized Rich Client platform wasn’t going to ‘cut-it’ and started on ASP.NET skills, rolled my own MVC framework using ASP.NET Webforms and didn’t feel a bit dis-concerting when MS came out with MVC framework themselves. In fact I couldn’t be happier. Did I throw out my work overnight? No, the app still works on the custom framework I built for it, but when I need it to do something that’s much easier or already handled in the new framework I’ll move to the new one. I have done very little work on WPF (only a couple of prototypes, one of which is available for download on this site) and minimal work with SL (built a multiple file upload and preview control in the above web app). I have been leaning towards learning/using Javascript better and using some of the existing javascript libraries, because just like I felt ‘Rich-client’ wasn’t cutting it, I can now see the ‘server-side’ event model and post-backs on web apps aren’t cutting it. Partial postback and async is the name of the game. Doing it without plugins is an added bonus. If MS just upped the ante on that front, by enabling windows applications using HTML/javascript, I would go for it… Just don’t forget to ‘show me the dev-tools baby’ because I don’t want to work with any other dev tools…

To conclude, the .NET devs should just quit being juvenile or just quit. They are making a mockery out of not just themselves but the entire .NET community. I was initially confused at @Pete_Brown’s comments on twitter till he pointed us to the silverlight forum where I found a long list of comments that he had to moderate. Feel sorry for you Pete, indeed your employers have put you between a rock and a hard place. Don’t worry there are plenty of us, eagerly waiting to see what comes out of //Build/

Finally to MS, keep your in-fighting to yourselves just show us a happy face everytime and we’ll continue put faith in your OS and Dev tools. Last but not least, super awesome demo of Windows8. Let’s kick some competitors’ butts with it.

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