- Internet Explorer is still being regarded inside Microsoft as a standalone ecosystem. I am still nervous and not excited about this thus suspicious of Typescripts charter (that fork in the road for IE vs. other browsers in the parity/ubiquity story is still coming up ahead).
- HTML5 vs. XAML/MXML. I still roll my eyes at HTML5 mainly as when you’ve used both MXML or XAML in your day to day development then look at HTML5 one can’t but help see the HTML5 has not only gone of charter – yet again. If we are going to go full, tilt XML UI declarative then let us fold Resource Dictionaries into place instead of CSS / style tags and be done with it.
- Typescript reminds me of the days when Adobe/Macromedia switched from ActionScript 1.o to 2.0/3.0. You felt it was a move forward and the idea isn't new, at the same time it took a long while for existing developers to cross that chasm of adoption. Hopefully it ECMA6 wont fall into that same vortex of pain.
It is like getting a hand job from a crack addict. You know it is wrong, you know it is a substitute for what you really want and lastly once it happens you can never look your friends in the eye the same way again. It however got the job done.(That was the clean version of that believe it or not).
If I could get paid for each time I’ve been asked which UX technology/platform should one bet on in order to produce the next generation of software in day to day business – I’d be quite well paid!
I don’t have an answer, and what’s really sad about that is that I should have a few answers not just a single one.
Today, you’re spoiled for a choice of technologies to help you produce some user experience namely for mobility. Since the introduction of the iPhone and iPad it’s arguably put something we’ve all kind of known into the mainstream hands, which is “experience matters”. Businesses are now keen to ensure that the next piece of software they produce works like it would on an iPad or iPhone (the amount of times I’ve been given a brief that uses that as its baseline for success is almost 90%+).
Why the issue in selecting today then? Well let’s look at the brands in question.
You cannot disagree that Apple’s influence on the UX discussion has been quite loud and obvious. Almost all phones and tablet devices have pretty much copied the entire existence of their products to the point where even though they hadn’t invented some of the ideas, they now look as if they did. Having said that, Apple still is a prescribed existence in that in order to play on their hardware you have to develop & design to their standards. You also have a limited amount of agility in order to take the device and slot it into various enterprise/industry verticals (mining, finance etc).
Distributing your solutions via a closed private cloud like existence can be done with iPad/iPhones but its still a bit messy in deployment. Furthermore inside almost all large organizations your cubicles of developers don’t have “Objective-C” in their resumes.
Whilst it has become the baseline for what a device driven UI should look like in the eyes of most business and technical decision makers, it’s still got a lot of latency and turbulence around its software development life cycle (i.e. it’s fast become a specialist skill not so much as a mainstream one).
Google / Android.
Google have managed to hold strong with their device platform story, that is to say their entire development and design pipeline isn’t that bad. Having said that I’ve seen, heard and been in enough meetings to see it being instantly rejected and it has to do with versioning and security as the core reasons for rejection (right or wrong).
Furthermore Java development at its core isn’t something you see go hand in hand with design focused teams, so again you have this issue with as stated by Apple around specialist skills vs. mainstream skills mixed with some market acceptance issues.
Just read my blog for a few pages you’ll see a theme emerge. Microsoft had a few ideas around what the UX space should look like, they put some bets on the table around these ideas, they got some semi-successful acceptance worldwide on these ideas but now they’ve kind of hit reset on the said ideas, taking two steps back and pissed the developer base off in the process.
To summarize, Microsoft has a whole new round of trust issues around long-term decision making, their tooling is good enough to build large enterprise applications with and lastly they still have a healthy developer base that have mainstream skills in C# & XAML.
The downside is their entire strategy around what you should or shouldn’t do going forward is out of control and requires a focused mind to unravel.
What I would say though is that Windows 7 is likely to be around and in a healthy state over the next 3-5 years and I think the hardware market will still look into ways in how to socket Windows 7 as their native OS when possible (for business, not so much for consumers). Given Windows 8 Surface is making their own hardware it could also be a negative for Microsoft, so whilst the only real option for hardware makers is to adopt Windows 7 or other, this in turn puts a long-term question mark around whether or not Silverlight or WPF should be something you double down on?
I often praise Adobe more than I have in the past as despite how close they came to overtaking HTML as rich media technology platform, they have managed to regroup nicely around being focused on tooling.
Given the turbulence above this company may solve the problem through tooling so it could even abstract the decision making process around which is the next bet by simply saying “it doesn’t matter, just use Adobe XTool”.
It’s still a long way off before that idea is realized, but none the less Adobe Flex / Flash aren’t something one should ignore outright. It still has some legs and although its clear Adobe Flash and iOS will never meet, they do meet however on Android and potentially Microsoft Windows device(s).
Despite Silverlight’s attempt to knock Adobe Flash out of the decision process if anything Silverlight’s demise has strengthens the runtime’s position further.
That’s all argumentative, so who’d you pick?
There the above working summaries overall and it really comes back to the question of making a decision. A decision like this is important and still necessary as when you start making architectural bets for the life of your next industrial grade solution, you need to line up how you’re going to present your connectivity to its vast user base.
Walking into a meeting and saying “all of the above” won’t fly, walking in and holding the posture of “right tool, right job” mantra also may make you feel like you’re a software mountain sage it does little for productizing ideas/solutions to a customer base who have a variety of IT environment(s) that are looking to your company as a lifeline to making the said decision.
Bottom line is someone somewhere has to be the one that says let’s go with “X, because…”
If I was asked today which one I’d pick out of the lot, given I’ve worked in all the above.
My bet for enterprise would be WPF for one simple reason – Windows 7.
Microsoft spent all of last year praising how successful Windows 7 was in terms of sales, record profits and so on. What I got from all that bravado was that whilst Windows 7 was stomping on Windows XP wind pipe, it also was replacing the old problem with a new. That is it won’t be something in which gets deleted from Enterprise machines that cubicle workers and field agents use today anytime soon.
That for me has a much further and greater ubiquity story than most either realize or choose to acknowledge.
iPads are definitely something that may get some traction going further in large business but ultimately it’s such a specialized decision that I think having those devices do anything outside of a HTML app in its first generation of solutions in the enterprise is something that I’d say isn’t a worthwhile bet (it’s still in pioneering mode).
WPF and WinForms will still have a much longer usage than most will also care to agree outloud but I think once Silverlights engines get shut down more and more the retreat position for most will be back to WPF whilst they wait for the whole WinRT story to stabilize.
Adopting WPF today gives you also some healthy amount of skills to target WinRT later on, but it also gets you into a position where there is a likely chance of some additional changes / upgrades should the WinRT vision fall flat (Which I’m thinking it may very well).
That’s what I’d say out loud, as I’d say this based simply on your HR recruitment potential, tooling story and lastly ubiquity related decisions that are made in organizations where little patience is given to solutions built in HTML of the past.
My opinion has now been noted, so what would you bet on and why?
I often get many theories floated past me from staffers, usually it is a case of mind candy, and ways to figure out the chaos within Microsoft – kind of like reverse detective work?
Today, I got a great piece to a puzzle I have been trying to put together for quite some time. It comes mainly from a meeting that Microsoft and Adobe CEO’s had a couple of years ago – in secret kind of.
The two meeting for a catch-up was always unlikely, and when those two get in a room there is an agenda, now the question was always – what was that agenda
The working theory is that Silverlights death was confirmed in that meeting, that in order to regain favor with the Adobe crowd you had to basically show your intent has been to knife the baby – get rid of your competitive threat and at the same time work out a strategy into getting the hordes of design audiences at Adobe’s disposal to give Microsoft another look – despite the brand fail of internet explorer / office clippie and many many many more.
The inside gossip I got today was that Microsoft are working together with Adobe to close the gap on the casual gaming market, in that Adobe’s always owned this market online via Flash for many years and to go after it, despite the XBOX brand’s success would simply take a lot of investment.
Instead, Windows team getting into bed with Adobe to produce a tooling story that compliments their future platform strategies around casual gaming makes more sense as it wins on two fronts. The first being is Windows team aren’t keen to own the tooling strategy for this area, its basically to hard and requires a separate war chest to dominate. Adobe is keen to shift away from being the platform story (notice why Adobe is less platform focused these days and gone back to basics on tooling?) and more about owning the tooling that goes with platform(s).
Adobe working with Microsoft also provides a partnership elsewhere; they both get to cross-pollinate with the developer and designer adoptions. If you can get developers to buy, your tools to work with designers both parties win. As Microsoft is desperate to win hearts and minds on the design bloodlines, it is why metro is the default look as despite its marketing fluff; it is simply a case of ascii art meets public toilet signage – idiot proof.
It is not enough and despite the proactive technical audiences raising glasses in favor of the solid color screens known as metro, it still is not sustaining the creative momentum it desperately needs to retain the interruption required to seed a bigger customer base.
Looking back on BUILD conference, I also found it interesting that XNA was not mentioned as much is it could or probably should have been. It like Silverlight was left with a lot of ambiguity around its futures specifically how casual gaming audiences could benefit from Windows 8 in the future.
In fact, sitting down to play with the current scraps of beta that was given to us via this conference and focusing on Window 8, under the hood it’s still murky as to how the overall new platform is going to work with regards to games.
Not only that, but the reality that plug-ins as we know it aren’t going to be friendly within Windows 8 Browser(s) it’s also a bit of a question mark around how Adobe can retain success here going forward. In fact, if Windows 8 does go ahead, it’s basically a case of Flash being shut down the moment that platform gets traction and before you throw the anti-trust argument on the table, remember that no longer applies – the Windows team can push out Silverlight over night to every machine world wide if they wanted to (not as optional either) as legally speaking, nothing is preventing this today?
That was also our intent in the Silverlight team, when the consent decree sunset kicked in we had strategies around how we would get ubiquity worldwide in quite a rapid way – I mean in nine months we pushed Silverlight out to half a billion people under a lot of tight constraints. Today, nothing …despite constraints gone?
Silverlight had to be knifed but why, and WinRT is not enough there has to be a better story on the horizon.
The windows teams are not really interested in tooling or mini platforms, they typically want a locked in way of life in that you buy Windows and THEN the free market opens up.
If the Windows team have any chance of success of having an AppStore model much like the iTunes/Apple story they need to provide a lot of free market opportunities to folks who aren’t already exclusively tied down to Apple (content wise as well as other categories).
Apple have made it clear Adobe has no future on their future platform stories other than tooling for designers to create Objective-C experiences and also they can install such tooling on the Operating System – but that’s it, beyond that Steve Jobs was quite open about his dislike for Flash.
Flash and HTML5 are also becoming quite a topical conversation in the Adobe communities, specifically the FUD around the future of Flash – Yes more Flash is dead posts arriving to an RSS feed near you.
Adobe have to figure out a strategy here around retaining control as in the end despite them spending a lot of time and energy now on tooling vs. their vision of the platform dominance for mobile devices (CTO Kevin Lynch used to always beat that war drum, today, not so much? He was ahead of his time in thinking and cunning strategies to position Flash but in the end, it never stuck).
Microsoft have to bridge this gap and until you see a casual gaming story unfolding at the next BUILD something or someone has to provide the ingredients here to make that work, as in the end this is the carrot that gets you in part Windows 8 adoption with consumers – especially given the Windows 8 in its current form has no level of excitement from Enterprise or Medium Business industries.
Today, I was told a scrap of info but the more I step back and piece things together the more I begin to cast a theory, and this post is a current working model of it.
I could do with more information, care to share?
XNA, where’s that heading next? What is Microsofts casual gaming story in the new Windows 8 world? Why no Silverlight focus on Casual gaming? HTML5 can’t handle it on its own that’s for sure…
In October 2010, Steve Ballmer met with the CEO of Adobe the apparent discussion was around how to compete with Apple head-on.
Having been an internal lead on Adobe competes within Microsoft, it got my wheels turning and I tried as much as I could to get some insight into what that meeting was actually about. It was a very weird meeting given the heated competition both Microsoft and Adobe have had over the past 5 years (almost as big as Apple competes).
Adobe have lost some staff to Microsoft so my first thoughts were that maybe the ex-employees are looking to patch a bridge and discuss some ways to work together in terms of how Flash and say XBOX etc. could work together (there's a huge casual games market up for grabs that uses Adobe Flash).
Today however my spidey senses got all tingly when I saw the new Adobe HTML5 Edge tool sneak peak via Adobe Labs.
This tool is the missing piece in what I call the HTML5 all up story - i.e. it is fine to hack together add-ons to existing tools for HTML5 coding compliance but it needs a designer story.
The more I looked at the sneak the more I started to think about that meeting and how it could have possibly gone down.
If Microsoft wants to sacrifice Silverlight on the web to gain momentum in the mobile device market than overall, the threat matrix for Adobe drops quite significantly. In that, really the only threat to Adobe Flash is around how it sockets into a mobile device such as Android, Windows Phone 7 and so on.
If I was in a meeting with an executive again and I was talking about the SWOT for an Adobe, partnership I would lead in more with opportunities that lead to strengths rather than threats / weakness in this partnership.
Flash has always thrived at being a parasite on many hosts so it is not as if this is new dangerous territory for it to take such technical dependencies on. The product also as I stated before has a lot of already existing Casual Games / Widget Apps already made today that could be ported over.
Downside is they do not have the developer base - design yes, developers no.
Secondly, Microsoft has failed at attracting the design market. We spent millions and came up short every time as whilst I use Microsoft Expression Blend daily its one hard cumbersome tool that even most .NET developers won't touch let alone designers. It just failed.
The Expression Blend team is now parked in the archive bay and I wager Silverlight 5 additions will likely be its last shipment for the product. If that being the case, sure the tool failed at its charter in attracting the devigner audience to the .NET codebase(s) of tomorrow but the problem didn't go away - if anything it just got worse.
If you are going to then tell designers of tomorrow to build HTML5/JS or even Silverlight vNext solutions for Windows8 and beyond - how do you get them to combine design and development skills?
Adobe have the design audience locked, it's the only company in the world where in every design agency there is a design tool owned by them either bought or pirated. They make a tidy profit from it as well.
Flash now can produce iPhone and Android based solutions and it would not actually take much to get that solution into Windows Phone 7 given the Silverlight/XAML parity - in fact, some devs in Microsoft have shown that getting Silverlight to cross-compile to a swf isn't farfetched, as it would seem.
Putting Adobe Flash or at the very least using the same iPhone cross-compile methodology for Windows Phone 7 is a massive win for both. You get a new developer audience on both sides for one and lastly the design audiences can also play their respective roles within the tools they feel the most comfortable with.
Winning as the Sheen would say.
That all being said there's a flaw in this theory, it positions Adobe to be way to powerful in the device discussion and the last time Adobe/Macromedia held dominance in this space it took Silverlight to wake them up - you don't want that again, trust me.
How do you keep Adobe in check whilst competing with Apple at the same time as if you create a universal app that works on all devices then this if anything can fuel iPhone's appstore submissions more so.
That is a good thing as it fuels competition for one and both Apple and Microsoft do not have to necessarily fund large amounts of dollars in both tooling and marketing. Adobe wins because it gets more hordes adopting its tooling but at the same time, it cannot survive unless there's competition between Microsoft and Apple. Google is the cream on the cake, as it then has to dovetail into the same competition stream – thus a forcing function for their Android story.
All Microsoft has to do is sacrifice Silverlight for the web (video will always be a big problem for both to contend over just like QuickTime vs Windows Media Player) and Expression Blend.
Did I mention XAML team is disbanded and the Expression Blend team has been put in park?
It rather works that way for the console market.
Note: I have no inside goss on this one so this is me just spit balling based of my own conspiracy theories.
Ask not what Microsoft can do for you but what you can do for Microsoft. That's really the inspiring quote that President of the new colonization group - aka Windows - needs to say to the unwashed masses of tomorrow.
Microsoft is taking on a mission that looks to go beyond the moon, they want to land on Jupiter and it will be done with Apollo. Still confused?
If you've not paid attention to all the codenames flying about the place you'd be forgiven to be confused as there's a space theme happening and with these code names its quite interesting to see how the objectives for the next generation of Microsoft is likely to shape up.
Jupiter is rumored to be the reset button to Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) and Silverlight. A reset is the latest suspicion as just yesterday I found out that the XAML ethos within Microsoft has been disbanded and set to various corners of the company. Some went to Internet Explorer team, some went to Windows teams and others went to Google, Amazon and Facebook.
Why disband the teams? It is time for pencils down folks, let us stop piling on code for the existing stuff but now let us set our sights for the future, let's be bold. Let us be daring. Why land on the moon when you can land on Jupiter floating on a cloud of Azure? (Ok, I lost myself in that metaphor as well).
Ok fine, I have gone through the seven stages of Silverlight/WPF grief and I am at acceptance I think.
In order to better prepare for the mission ahead, let us think about the various things we need to account for prior to launch (September).
Replace Crew Members.
Inside Microsoft there is a lot of toxic turmoil going due to internal re-orgs (which is fairly common) that fueled with how the Global Financial Crisis has affected employees etc. it's no secret that Microsoft are losing some quite influential and dare I say, hard to replace staff to places like Google, Facebook, Amazon and so on. I personally know of three employees who have hated working for Microsoft for quite some time but have been stuck due to housing prices in Redmond etc not being ready enough for a resale - that is - until Google, Adobe, Facebook and soon Amazon have campuses of their own in Seattle.
Now the super geeks have alternative employment options. Microsoft is now on notice, treat me better or I will leave. The later choice has been winning in my opinion and the more the new found employees have sent me messages of "Omg, its way better over here than Microsoft" which has to be salt in some current employee's wounds whom are likely staring down the barrel of uncertainty in the company given its end of year commitment scoring mixed with the demise of what we used to call the Silverlight/WPF & Blend ethos. What to do!.
A gentleman and fellow .NET scholar Jose has done the best he could in reverse engineering Direct UI (rumored to be the leaked incarnation of Jupiter). He has some insights that are both great and disappointing at the same time. The great part is it could very well be the next iteration of what has to come in the landscape of C# and XAML for tomorrow's UX Pioneers.
The downside is its 3-5 or maybe more steps backwards in the current feature parity you have all eagerly waited for over the past 4 years. There are some fundamentals in the room whilst there are concerns around some of the other features that may or may not make the cut for version one.
If I know Microsoft and I like to think I do, this is likely to be yet another one of those traditional "version 1" moments whereby the team(s) behind the product eventually stumble across the finish line, exhausted but barely breathing enough to shout "Give me feedback on what you want in version 2, it will be better I promise" followed by some metaphor about how it's a marathon and not sprint to the finish line (We got great mileage out of that with Silverlight and I dare say you could get a few more products out of it yet).
The tooling is likely to be not in place during this version 1 lifecycle as my sources tell me that the Blend Team aren't cranking out the vNext improved world of Microsoft. I know Steve Sinofsky has had a few ambitions about what the Tooling should look like in the perfect world of Windows vNext frontier and I am guessing he did not play well with others in the Devdiv team(s) to share such ambitions.
That being said, either there is a skunk works tooling team hidden in some random building in Microsoft that others do not know about or the tooling story behind this next frontier is unlikely to be in place before Sept or for whenever this next version of our beloved Silverlight/WPF ethos occurs.
What I mean to say is welcome all to Microsoft 2005. Hold onto your Winforms or ASP.NET MVC for a little bit longer and for those of you in Silverlight/WPF investment land(s) - try to not focus on the future but the now (best to keep your code base as lean as possible and not to tightly wound in client-side logic).
Put vital organs into Escrow.
Microsoft are quick to throw technology at a problem first and then ponder as to why the problem existed. I've often personally seen strategies - wait, that's not correct, strategy requires forward thinking - tactical decisions (better) made around trying to grow developer audiences.
The assumption are
"ok, we're not making our tech palatable enough, lets steal stuff from Ruby On Rails, Apple or Oracle to make it better".
The absolute harsh reality is often a lot of non-Microsoft customer(s) etc. just don't like Microsoft (Ever liked a girl/guy and they don't like you back? You try changing your clothes, hair, car etc. and still nothing. Welcome to the Microsoft Developer outreach program, you will fit right in).
The other side of this coin I guess is those of you who adore Microsoft for what they are. You spend thousands of your own dollars to go to various events to listen to Microsoft confuse the absolute crap out of you. The problem is lately, they seem to be a company you just cannot bet on for the future.
Grandiose plans to land on Jupiter may be bold, daring and exciting but is it dependable? Can this company commit to a master plan and is this a plan or just a tactical political brain dump mixed with a lot of Microsoft experimentation.
Is it a case now of not waiting for the next Service Pack but now waiting to see if a product can get past version 3 and 5 before you really consider it as a viable option of the future?
In order to prepare for this next mission, someone has to donate some good will to the fans of Microsoft technology. That means you cannot stick to the ye olde "need to know information" mentality. You got to bring your roadmap(s) for the future and you got to show us that you're telling the truth that you want to aim for Jupiter and not some closer planet or worse - the unknown void beyond Jupiter.
Commit and stop being assclowns.
Commit to us so that we may commit to you. No more lies, No more "I've got a secret, can you guess!" and lastly no more internal political child play spilling over and into the blogosphere. It's time to be a big boy company and use big boy strategies with big boy plans mixed with a lot of big girl personality (somehow that did the ladies no favors).
If we are to take on this mission, it's time for a smarter playbook around transparency and if Steve Sinofsky is willing to bring the "come to Jesus" moment for the company around consolidating the entire product lines into a consistent continuous experience across all devices with a developer/designer experience to boot. Great, I personally will print out a t-shirt that says "I'm back in team Steve" (heh my old team inside Microsoft was called Team Steve...Steve the manager though was a arrogant jerk, different story, different time).
Right now its just a case of me holding up a really sick puppy that others have kicked and telling you all about the neglect its owners have given it. (If I quote that metaphor I was given last night by a friend).
There is a consistent theme that I often see when I have been invited into conversation(s) regarding Windows 8 and the whole HTML5 saga. The main undercurrent is "Why would they do that?" and it is a perfectly valid question that often gets lost in the whole opinion / news pieces that are floating around.
Understand the metrics first.
Inside Microsoft you are really goaled around a metric that involves the words "market share" in that somewhere along those lines your entire reason for drawing a pay cheque distills down to that. You have to help Microsoft grow its market share across all battlefields and there are multiple battlefields in play.
Battles are what are happening in today's software industry. It is quite competitive and cutthroat in many places and often mercy is for the weak. Companies on both sides often play by the rules governing ethics but often more so than ever it is not the case under the covers or behind closed doors. There are often many tactics at work that the audience(s) and customer(s) do not always see.
For instance, when Silverlight/Expression was heating up in the early days the battle between Adobe and Microsoft was quite intense (I myself was caught up in it quit easily). You'd have situations where Adobe would threaten to shut down a conference if Microsoft Staff showed or you'd have Adobe specifically target Microsoft showcase wins the next year and spend large amounts of $$ to win the customers back to create the perception that these customers had buyer's remorse.
Apple, Google, IBM and Oracle all suffer from the same somewhat software industry driven guerrilla warfare style tactics. It is a competitive sport and staff within get quite emotional and aggressive at times about it - like a thunder dome of super geeks.
Tactical approaches and competitive aggression is what fuels Microsoft often. It has also to answer the question you have around "Why would they do that" simply put; it is about building an army primarily.
Understand the Tactical Programs
You have programs in play like BizSpark - an idea to give the software away for free in order to seed start-ups into adopting the Microsoft technology stack. It is the old heroin addiction formula at work, in that the first hits free but the second and third will cost you. Ensure an addiction takes place then the monetization will follow.
Understand the Compete motions
The thing though is this playbook or this strategy is in no way different to the days when .NET was first created and it is again a rinse/repeat formula being played out.
The motivation is growth around developer share (that is an obvious objective around winning) the other objectives are also around competing head to head with Google & Apple. Google is the main focus though, this company is taking bodies from Microsoft staff lines often and if you were to look at the past two years around who's left the .NET development teams as well as the Internet Explorer teams for Google it's almost alarming.
Google don't need to compete with Microsoft, they just need to re-hire their staff and I often giggle about this as I once wrote an internal memo regarding Adobe compete whereby I said "We should make a $300k a year offer to their entire evangelism staff to work for us, we say here's $300k now go sit in the park and enjoy life for the next 2 years as it would be cheaper than what we spending on compete for Adobe".
Google are kind of doing that in many ways.
Understanding the gullibility.
Google played Microsoft and it is this small random pocket of competitive insights that often go unnoticed in the industry. These small little gems of "hah that was funny" all add up to the situation we see before us today around why Windows 8 looks and is likely to act in the way it is.
There is no real strategy here, just tactical competitive reactions played out that do not often give pause to the massive impacts it places on the hordes of developers who wear the Microsoft logo on their blogs / resumes etc. with pride.
Microsoft is doing a terrible job at corporate communication(s) and the most frustrating part of all is that it is the actual fans of the brand that are noticing the most.
That is probably a small glimpse at how a competitive situation can motive product lines into making snap decisions the way they have been in the past five years. The reality is you the customer out there who use the technology actually play somewhat a smaller role than you do think around feature selection and roadmaps for product designs.
It's often a competitive influence that drives the most decisions and sure compete leads to innovation right and that's something we should all embrace - except if the tax is instability.
For a deeper insight into this topic around “Why” Listen to a podcast I did list week titled “Windows 8 Round Table” via TalkingShop DownUnder.
It looks bad, I mean it really just looks bad. The President of Server & Tools in PDC just came out and pretty much implied that the race between HTML5 vs. Silverlight internally is over. The winner by way of Presidential nominee is HTML5.
It's easy to assume that maybe Mary Jo got it wrong, that maybe she took some journalistic spin to the overall story and tricked BobMu into saying things he didn't want to (it's what Journalists tend to do sometimes). Think again, Mary Jo doesn't play that game and its exactly why she gets these types of interviews in Microsoft, so why start now?
It's also easy to assume that maybe BobMu is just some empty jar head executive who says a few buzz words here and there? someone who typically isn't informed of the inner workings of one out of many products that fall within his portfolio? sorry, that's not true either. Each quarter when I was in the team, we'd have what we call "RTB's" - Reviews of the Business. It's that point in time where the team would put together a PowerPoint deck that covered everything from roadmaps through to metrics associated with the said product. BobMu was not only informed, he'd make decisions that we'd all react to post such meeting. He was informed and unless he was heavily medicated, he meant what he said.
What's the story then?
It's not like I didn't warn all about this turn of events a few weeks ago, (read part one of this post). The story isn't whether Silverlight is or isn't dead. I don't think Microsoft could even kill off Silverlight to make way for HTML5 just yet (HTML5 is simply still a science project in the market). I think what we are really seeing is a company as large as Microsoft in chaos.
You've got a President doing PR 101 mistakes, You've got a marketing team that double down on a single product instead of their entire UX Platform portfolio, you've got the Internet Explorer team writing their own messaging that confuses the masses against existing messaging. You've got an IE9 demo at PDC that smells, tastes and looks like a previous one in MIX07 only without the word Silverlight in it? You've got Silverlight not making an appearance at PDC which isn't a bad thing given MIX is really the party for Silverlight, but given market conditions - YOU SHOW UP.
Bottom line is this, the entire Server & Tools business within Microsoft is in dire need of marketing reform. The strategy coming out of Redmond is chaotic at best, the design and develop discussion has obviously changed within the belly of the beast. The problem is, they've kind of forgotten to inform the masses of this and we're only just starting to see glimpses of the inner truth now - and its frightening the kids especially when its Halloween time!
I did want to dedicate this post to how Microsoft has shut down the entire "designer engagement" strategy across all divisions, but clearly this is simply a symptom of what we're now seeing unfold online.
Microsoft is by all outward appearance shutting down its vision of the circa 2007 UX Platform, it's now winding it back to secondary citizen in favor of the new shiny object, HTML5?
I for one reject our new HTML5 overlords.
The problem with moving Silverlight & WPF back to the end of the visibility line, is that nobody really has sat down and asked existing rich client developers what they think of this new vision? it's a forced entry into the market mixed with a whole bunch of messaging from the Internet Explorer team that's labeled "Trust us, we have this covered" seal of quality assurance.
The one team in which has breed so much distrust in Microsoft. It's probably the biggest cancer within Microsoft and is the main reason why the Consent Decree exists.
It's one thing to get onto a soap box and declare a true x-platform strategy like HTML5 the future? it's one thing to say "open standards or bust" as being the mission statement of the world's future software ecosystem.
Someone just point out where the strategy exists for moving people both willingly and unwillingly across the desktop/plug-in divide over to this new world, because if Microsoft is running this show, we're all basically f#$%ked - I say this as right now, they couldn't organize a virgin in a brothel to get laid (as they would be too busy fighting over which girl was the prettiest).
Silverlight vs WPF vs HTML5?
Pete Brown last week released a blog post around the future of WPF which talked about successes and hints at the future of the platform. Pete did something extremely hard in making this post come together, he went internally and asked a simple question "Where is this bus heading?" and that's just before PDC2010 as well - big hat goes off to Pete for pulling this together, as many have tried and failed that little mission.
It's still not enough though! - now before you grab your pitchforks and declare me a jaded hateful ex-WPF/Silverlight team member, hear me out.
The reason I say it's not enough is that we just heard 200+ engineers are working on Silverlight/WPF and looking at the new additions to WPF, i can't but help wonder how thinly the team are spread. There is a lot of surface area to cover inside WPF, the biggest of which is around performance and getting line of business grade features onto the table. The WPF team are reacting to the data they have and unless there is radical changes since October last year in the way they get this data, it's still a ways off (the product usage data etc inside Microsoft is simply disconnected and a mess, features are skewed between what looks fun vs politics etc).
It's not enough, there needs to be a consolidated marketing strategy around the product(s), there needs to be an Evangelism rhythm that maps out how this drum beat gets played out worldwide, i.e. its one thing to announce how you intend to build something - its entirely another to actually get that message to every developer you possibly can.
It also needs to connect back to Silverlight. It needs to fit in with how developers can navigate the ye olde "It Depends" response from Microsoft. The guidance Pete used was old, I know as it was something we crafted back in July last year - "Use Silverlight until you hit a wall, then go WPF" was pretty much the summary we came up with (even then I remember thinking, that's just bullshit but what else can we say? WPF is dead? :D)
WPF also needs to connect back into HTML5? so how does the new IE9 overlords and WPF play in the same sandpit together? at what point do you separate the two? Windows 8 team have ideas on this, but I'm pretty much betting that the HTML5 story will get more air play in that pool of brilliance.
Lots has been said in the past month, bottom line is this. The technology is currently a big software buffet, we have loads of options and different portions on the table to pick from. We need informative views more so than ever now, given the emerging mobility vs. desktop discussion and more importantly how all these pieces fit together.
Microsoft lacks the marketing muscle right now to answer these questions, they simply just don't have the maturity needed to lead this vision forward. You've got pretty much majority of the executive branch abandoning ship and the competitors they used to just sweep the legs out from under are basically starting to get their act together.
Adobe for one has its act together finally, I've watched this company for years fumble around in the dark around this entire discussion. At MAX 2010, they not only connected it together but they did so in a way that is slow, simple and has the appearance of saturation + ubiquity.
Microsoft's shows up and starts waving its hands in the air about Internet Explorer 9, Azure and how Silverlight is now winding down - not to mention zero WPF discussion (except for Rob Relyea - owner of WPF Team - picking up the Developer Platform & Evangelism divisions dropped ball and doing a PDC session on WPF).
Bob Muglia needs to really take a hard look at his organization tree and start putting together a plan of reform. This isn't a technology problem anymore, it's a marketing one pure and simple.
As for Silverlight Marketing Team getting ahead of the PDC2010 fall out? – “Out of Office” summarizes it all.
Like you, I’ve watched from the sidelines this whole Apple vs. Adobe battle take place and can’t but help laugh at Adobe. It’s like watching a geek get all agro because the pretty girl in the class ignores his advances and no matter what he tries, it just isn’t meant to be.
Let’s look at this from a different lens?
Apple set out years ago to create a mobile device; they built this idea from scratch and spent millions marketing it to the world. It changed the way we look at mobile devices as fast forward today, the iPhone, has more copycat products on the market than any I’ve seen so far. Apple did what it said it would do, it thought differently and it worked. The problem is that it’s up to Apple what goes on it and what doesn’t and for Adobe to sit on the sidelines and piss and moan about “open” is somewhat boring and pathetic. Here a company like Adobe is lecturing Apple on innovation online? Did I miss the big invention of Adobe somewhere?
Adobe honestly thinks they can turn an entire iPhone user base against Apple?
For instance, I remember being on Microsoft campus the day the iPhone 3Gs came out. I remember working late the night before and creeping back home around 5am, driving past AT&T store at Redmond. There was a line around the block so others could get a slice of the iPhone for themselves and as I drove past I noticed a lot of familiar faces in the Microsoft staff directory, some whom would probably get a scolding or initial look at the time for “buying the competitor”.
Today, it’s rumored 30,000 active iPhone connections exist on campus – yet – Microsoft is one of Apple’s biggest competitors? You have people inside the company who bleed blue and would shoot some venomous action your way at the mere sight of seeing the Apple logo. Still folks lined up around the block at 5am to buy this device.
Adobe’s Marketing and Evangelism have simply lost the plot as they are forgetting this is what they are up against, their sole priority is to discredit Apple – to remind you that Apple are a dictatorship and they are starving the world of “potential” innovation.
Here’s the thing though, I’m yet to see Adobe do anything exciting past its Photoshop and After Effects tooling. Flash is a product where I simply see less value in its existence and a product which I may add that Silverlight has not only caught up to in features but in many ways overtaken.
The thing is they’ve had market share with Flash for almost a decade and nothing bad decisions, terrible product marketing and countless stories of their developer/designer community abandonments. Steve Jobs was right, they are and were lazy. As that’s why Microsoft said “enough, let’s make our own” and that’s why others like Apple are following this line of thinking – two giant brands disregarding Flash? Coincidence?
Same playbook, different victim
When we would compete head to head with Flash back in Silverlight’s infancy we often were the ones of their targeted attacks, much like Apple is today. We’d have constant skirmishes back and forth over random events or some snarky blog comment here and there. Basically the same playbook they are using on Apple today came from Microsoft vs. Adobe and yet despite their attempts they’ve never won on both battle fronts.
Adobe want in on the iPhone Apple said no, I have no dog in this fight other than to say, I’m happy with the way Apple have been pushing the innovation in today’s marketplace and I’m yet to see Adobe even come close to both Microsoft or Apple when it comes to the word innovation.
Today, Adobe just seems to be immature and have finally over-inflated the brands ego. I think Adobe is on a downward spiral for a couple of years as this kind of behavior is going to hit their bottom line, which you can guarantee.
I read this latest post from mesh and just roll my eyes and I actively wonder if Mike actually believes in the spin he’s typing?
How much more kool-aid can one drink?