Windows 8 : Making new friends, Ratcheting Momentum and influencing anger.

After just having a discussion with a journalist today, a question was put to me that I felt I should share some more information around – Why do you think the developers appear to be angry with Windows 8?

It is not that I think developers are angry about code name "Windows 8" being well HTML5/JavaScript friendly in fact it is probably one of those situations where you would easily go "great, not for me but hey who knows how things turn out down the road". It is also not the fact that Microsoft have come out and hinted strongly at the idea of dropping marketing support for .NET going forward in favor of HTML5/JavaScript cocktail of weirdness.

I think what’s happening is developers across the globe in what appears to be millions now (currently on Silverlight.net forums there’s a few threads ratcheting around 11million views – which is 11x the traffic per month that site gets) all basically releasing a lot of pent-up annoyance at the communication blackout – yet again.

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I think this is a case of "the last straw" and it has been lurking for quite some time about Microsoft and a consistent amount of failings around corporate communication 101. To some this appears on the surface to be some idiot in PR being asleep at the helm again (keep in mind often Microsoft outsources its PR to companies like Waggener Edstrom) and so it could be a case of a room full of people pointing at one another for the "what do we say" moment(s). I highly doubt that, I’d wager this is an executive decision and its likely driven by the concept of ratcheting customer momentum for a final reveal in September.

Note: I recently had the VP of Corporate Communications for Microsoft follow me on Twitter post the Windows 8 Fallout(s)…. Why?

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Creating a disruption in the market with the sole intended purpose of getting people around the world to talk more about you in mixed emotions isn’t a brilliant new tactic – it was done in the Windows 7 launch with the Jerry Seinfiled ads that Microsoft bet around $300million on.   Realistically this strategy can often work (we’ve used this formula a few times with Silverlight in the early days) but at the same time it’s what I’d class as a high risk strategy given you could scare people too much.

This is of course speculation as at the end of the day the more Microsoft staffs I talk to internally about this the more I get the growing sense that majority of the staff internally are also in a complete blackout as well. Insiders within Microsoft are telling me that they are both concerned and frustrated at the lack of information coming from Team Sinofsky to the point where they are not interested in whether or not .NET lives or dies but how the heck they are going to clean up after this reveal occurs.

I probed further and asked what kind of convincing points are needed in order to illustrate to the presidential overlords that having 11million+ views all seeing the words ".NET" and "Dead" is probably not a smart play here and short of announcing .NET 5.0 at //BUILD/ you’re digging a very large hole. The response that I later got forwarded to me was one from an executive that stated that unless they see major accounts being withdrawn all that really is happening is interest and group of developers getting emotional about it all.

Yeah, my first impression was "what a jackass" but having sat in similar meetings like this when Adobe AIR was first considered a major threat to Microsoft, all I can say is that’s exactly how the company thinks at a higher level. It’s a numbers game, and hearing stories like "my friend just told me they are moving away because of this" small stories don’t add up to situations like the US Govt calling Microsoft to say "Yeah, the whole .NET confusion thing is something we aren’t happy with and so we’ll be moving to Java/Oracle – thanks bye" moments aren’t flowing just yet or likely to.Measuring account losses due to an event is somewhat hard as deep at your core you can see that the potential is definitely there despite the deafening "the sky is falling!!" emotions running high.

The reality is its unlikely to create havoc for at least a few years should they come out and say tomorrow ".NET is dead, thx" as looking at Windows XP & Internet Explorer 6 its obvious that Microsoft technology is very hard to kill of even with official announcements.

What is the TAX then? What is the one thing you can beat Microsoft around the head with that will send some sense to Redmond?

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Developers, Developers, Developers is that answer.

Microsoft are losing a battle in replenishing the .NET developer share, it’s alleged that for every 1x .NET developer that departs the Microsoft ecosystem there should be at least 2x more to fill their shoes. The reality it’s the opposite – allegedly.

Ok, so we highlight the depletion of the ranks and state "..if you continue scare the kids with the comms blackout that number will increase! And so you be able to control the depletion rates.."

That will not work either, as HTML5 and JavaScript is a nice big juicy cake to sink ones potential teeth into. As the big bet is that if you can convince the world’s developer base – the ones NOT using .NET today – to jump onboard with the new Windows8 concoction called Metro meets HTML5/JavaScript across all screens. Bing! (No pun intended) you just got a completely new market share you did not have yesterday.

That is the bet at the moment, win hearts and minds with a unified platform the world has agreed upon across all languages – HTML and JavaScript.  Sadly, the .NET developer base is being used right now as collateral damage and is considered acceptable loses.

This is dangerous game being played and all the years I’ve been involved in Microsoft this is by far the most interesting and distracting time for the company. In under 48hrs in my opinion Team-Steve managed to undermined and undo a total of three years work by the various people within the Silverlight teams so should the reveal in September be a case of "Look we were just kidding, here’s our roadmaps going forward.." it would still set Silverlight back quite a lot in terms of regaining what marketing momentum is left for the product.

The reality is Silverlight’s marketing & evangelism has been severely reduced from where it once was and the products are now in auto-pilot mode (aka "they are now matured" which is code word for being bored with it).

Evangelism efforts are going to have to dig deep post reveal on September and to be openly honest their record lately for influencing the influencers has been murky if not non-existent. It’s a contact sport Evangelism and I’ve noticed in the past 2-3 years more so that the steam it once had has diminished quite significantly (due to budget cut-backs and basically VP of DPE – Walid Abu-Hadba driving the entire practice into the ground).

It is not that people are angry, they are confused and disappointed.

Let’s hope this bet pays of Team-Steve as the guy before you made a big bet as well. The last we heard of him now is that he’s trying to make it into the music scene so one hopes you’ve learnt to play guitar Mr Sinofsky 😉

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  • Vic Klien

    I guess if someone in DevDiv got p*ssed enough, they could pull a WikiLeaks and upload as much of the technical details and road-maps as possible. I suppose the mechanics could be as simple as creating an anonymous email account and then emailing a zip file to multiple journalists.

    From the point of view of a disgruntled MS employee, imagine the feeling of power. For one moment you would be more powerful that Sinofsky, Baller or Gates. You could truely effect computing history.

    Vic

  • http://www.riagenic.com Scott Barnes

    I agree with Vic…

  • http://www.entityspaces.net Mike Griffin

    Remember back when Borland seemed poised to take it all? They had C++, they had their OWL (Object Window Libraries) for Windows which was a very nice C++ OO implementation that encapsulated Windows, and finally, they even had a full implementation of the STL (Standard Template Library) which for all you .NET folks who never used C++ those are “generics”.

    Now, they had all this before Microsoft even supported C++, Borland’s dev tools were very nice indeed. One wonders how things might have been different had they won the developer tool market. OWL was light years ahead of MFC which was the worst framework ever created, nonetheless somehow OWL faded out and MFC seem to win out the day ….

    What am I saying? I really don’t know, only that MSFT is very close to becoming the crazy aunt we keep up in the attic that nobody really wants to talk about.

  • LordInsidious

    WTH! I’m a developer and I understand 1 thing: Nothing stays the same. It grinds my gears that people in the coding world are shocked or upset by change. Want things to stay the same, teach ancient history don’t ‘oooh and aaaah’ over new technology then get p*ssed that .NET is going to change. FYI no matter what .NET is going to die possibly in version 5 possibly in version 55 but if you learnt .NET and/or silverlight and figured ‘that’s it i’m good for a career’ you better be planning your retirement party.
    BTW first level IT support want can’t wait to treat .NET to a “Office Space” style printer field trip.

  • Fallon Massey

    @LordInsidious – Most people are shocked when they don’t understand anything they read.

    If you bothered to read the article you just commented on, you’d see how silly that comment is.

    On the topic, Scott is right, but there’s one thing that MS is forgetting. They will get some of those HTML Devs, but they’ll still hate MS and it’s stack, and don’t let the HTML or JS be impure.

    If that happens, the more religious freaks will really be turned off.

    As someone said on SL.net, this has become an abusive relationship, and there will be a price to be paid somewhere down the line.

    If Google or Apple were smart, they would be looking for ways to take advantage of MS’s PR blunders. IMO, MS needs some competition.

  • DK

    Scott,
    I have read your reference to the US Govt letting Microsoft know that they are on thin ice with keen interest. I am part of that group and I can say that Silverlight has a very tough competition in this environment from the Java/Oracle combo. I have been a major driving force behind Silverlight adoption and interestingly, just today before even reading your post, I have set some things in motion that will let Microsoft know: you better have some good news in September in regards to Silverlight or Java/Oracle + natural adoption of Android on tablets will be the reality.

  • Chad

    What to me killed Borland was when they moved away from their C++ extensions and basically turned OWL into a slightly-improved copy of MFC, with much, much worse documentation.

    I’m a Linux user and I still think MS has gone nuts, even though MS’s strategy is much like the SCSI connector-of-the-month club… which they eventually gave up, too.

  • http://www.binaryfinery.com Jamie Briant

    If Google or Apple were smart, they would be looking for ways to take advantage of MS’s PR blunders. IMO, MS needs some competition

    Microsoft is going to force all its developers to learn HTML5/js! Google doesn’t need to do anything!

    Are the people writing HTML5/js apps going to flock to windows? Many of them will avoid Windows on principle. OTOH, .NET developers are pragmatic, and will develop on any platform that is productive and effective. Once they have HTML5/js figured out, can we expect them to develop apps for Google and Apple platform? I think so.

    I can’t understand this decision at all. It seems to be a guaranteed way to make Windows totally irrelevant.

    I would advocate doing the exact opposite: support de Icaza and make C# available on Android and iOS. How is that different? Supporting C#/WPF/Silverlight on other platforms gives Microsoft’s developers the ability to develop on other platforms, but gives those developers the competitive advantage on “home field”. I can ship apps on iOS using C#, but my core skills are 9 years of C#. Moving to HTML5/js cuts the legs out from under loyal Microsoft developers, putting them at a total disadvantage on every platform, and giving Googlers and Mac developers an advantage over .NET developer on Microsoft platforms. That is just fucking insane.

    I. Dont. Understand.

  • http://www.binaryfinery.com Jamie Briant

    If Google or Apple were smart, they would be looking for ways to take advantage of MS’s PR blunders. IMO, MS needs some competition

    Microsoft is going to force all its developers to learn HTML5/js! Google doesn’t need to do anything!

    Are the people writing HTML5/js apps going to flock to windows? Many of them will avoid Windows on principle. OTOH, .NET developers are pragmatic, and will develop on any platform that is productive and effective. Once they have HTML5/js figured out, can we expect them to develop apps for Google and Apple platform? I think so.

    I can’t understand this decision at all. It seems to be a guaranteed way to make Windows totally irrelevant.

    I would advocate doing the exact opposite: support de Icaza and make C# available on Android and iOS. How is that different? Supporting C#/WPF/Silverlight on other platforms gives Microsoft’s developers the ability to develop on other platforms, but gives those developers the competitive advantage on “home field”. I can ship apps on iOS using C#, but my core skills are 9 years of C#. Moving to HTML5/js cuts the legs out from under loyal Microsoft developers, putting them at a total disadvantage on every platform, and giving Googlers and Mac developers an advantage over .NET developer on Microsoft platforms. That is just fucking insane.

    I. Dont. Understand.

  • CGC

    When they (MS) cut the legs out from under 20,000,000 VB Classic developers, I wondered how long it would be until they did the same to .Net – and here we are.

    MS just can’t be trusted in the long term.

    What really gets me is that the next big thing – html/css/js – is still as crappy a development concept is it was back in 1995 when I first started using it, whereas new languages (e.g. Silverlight) are far superior from their first release.

    Even if HTML6 was perfect, how long would we have to wait for it?