UXAustralia my take-away opinionitis filled rant.

The past two days I had quite a positive experience at this year’s UX Australia and I cannot recommend how important that everyone next year attend. This is not your normal conference; I mean I have been to many conferences ranging from your barcamps, webjams, adobe maxs, techeds, techreadies, sxsw, mix, wwdc and so on. Sure, these conferences have different pockets of value but in the end, I would confess they were mostly good drinking and social gatherings rather than brain candy. UX Australia for me was 100% street university, where I walked around and felt like I was the dumbest person in the room (which for me is rare thing – after all I am humble ) and I loved it.

Here are some take-always from the conference regarding the art of being a User Experience practitioner.

Trust is still broken.

A few years ago, the Silverlight team spent a tidy sum of money to figure out what the word “designer” actually meant. The main aim of this was to not only size the market but also get a better understanding as to what roles exist under this broad term and how we could position Expression and Silverlight into their wallets / hands.

The research that we got back outlined that the concept of a designer is not merely a person who creates pixels day in day but someone who goes beyond that – information architects, accessibility experts, prototypers, animators and so on.  Their role in enterprise corporations either can be an embedded entity within a cluster of developers, or centralized away from developers.

At the time of the research the initial thoughts were that this was part of the designer evolution, that somehow over time this would blur away from its current state into this mutated “devigner” style creation which in turn would have the bloodlines of both design and developer (segregation shall be removed!).

The last two days, the more I listened to speakers and various conversations the more I started to realize it is probably had the opposite effect. Trust is still not in place and one would say that designers are the ones who are now soliciting developers & management to embrace design. I found that thought the most profound of all as in 2008 we at Microsoft were sending guys like Shane Morris (amazing presenter & UX thought leader) into agencies to solicit them to help developers.

Throughout the entire conference, a theme emerge where it was essentially based around the idea that designers in large corporations need to have a central rally point, stop duplicating work and form a gang. Designers also need to pick small fights and build out from there, ware your opponents down through design based pestering power initially. Lastly educate the developers, as on the basics of design in the hope they will come around to our way of thinking (as if you were missionaries preaching the gospel of Christ to a tribe of engineers).

Trust is still is an ongoing battle between business owners, engineering and designers. For instance, I had noticed that at times speakers would talk about their experience with developers, but in a way that often sounded like “so I showed the natives fire, get this, they made me their god”.  The tone was in a little way a bit offensive but at the same time I did chuckle as when I go to developer conferences they also talk in the same way – it has as if both gangs cannot agree the other is smarter or just as talented. Until both sides can look each other in the eye as equals, I sadly see developers being treated like children prone to irrational decision making and designers as being premadonnas who procrastinate on unimportant things – just make it look pretty.

Note: Not everyone thinks like this, it is just my voiced summary of what I see before me.

Developers and Designers are not the ones at fault.

Continuing with the trust issue, the other noticeable theme I saw emerge was that there was a lot of discussion about how does one get developers to slow down and work with designers. That is to say how to ensure developers value the work of a designer in an office more rather than looking for ways to bypass them unless being told to work with them.

Here is the problem here that I see; firstly, developers and designers are not the ones that need convincing to work on great product(s) – a developer in a cubicle or a designer does not decide Deadlines. Secondly, a Product manager or Product Owner is the ones who typically hold the two entities purse strings and are the ones who decided the said deadline(s). Having a product owner on the side of design is critical no matter what organization you sit in as it not only ensures you have designer buy-in but you also take the pressure off developers from running the shipping gauntlet (agile really only helps you break up the pressure in ‘chunkable’ pieces – yes I made that word up).

In my experience, I have always been able to win hearts & minds with design by focusing on the future instead of today that is you sit down and think about what would make a product owner convert to your cause. The answer is fantasy user interfaces which in turn set the goal posts on “what if we had unlimited time and money, how would we change the world”.

A fantasy user interface can provoke a product owner to think beyond their current limitations, it provides them with a vision of what could happen if they relaxed their tight grip on shipping. A Fantasy User interface could also be used to help sell others both internal & external on what could happen vNext.

My point is everyone is rushing around dating each other in the developer <-> designer cubicles when in reality a designer who paints a vision of the future can in turn create a sense of purpose that transcends beyond what they see before them today. It creates an atmosphere of winning team mixed with “I so want to work on that idea” – assuming the design is good. Lastly if you have everyone thinking positive about design, the laggards or negative jaded souls tend to fall back into line or better yet make themselves known with “cant or but” responses. As once they show themselves, you know who they are and can start to formulate a plan to contain their negativity or resistance.

Summary

The conference was amazing, I did learn a lot and there was only one negative, which was that the conference only ran for two days instead of say five. I think there was a lot of intelligent and useful data that floated around within the room that was untapped furthermore it wasn’t a case of the usual echo chamber speakers that pretty much tell you the usual “web accessibility / usability 101” rules.  The speakers were insightful, funny, energetic, presented flawlessly and lastly but most importantly trustworthy. I never once questioned their credibility or integrity as it was if you were sitting down with someone at dinner who then shares a story with you about something they learned yesterday.

I absolutely enjoyed every minute of it and I would urge anyone in Australia or internationally to jump on a plane and hang out with these cool kids.

Tomorrow I am excited about some new ideas that I want to execute on for my work and I am in a fortunate position where my manager believes in the importance of design already whilst at the same time the developers in all cities are also excited to see what we can all achieve.

Watch this:

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Is Microsoft mobility still a choice for business?

Mobility is fast becoming a topic, which does not seem to yield a concrete answer. The more you sit down and analyses mobility within an organization, the more you begin to notice there is a lot more choice on offer than before. That is to say, not getting an answer is not due to lack of choice. The plethora of choice available is what is causing the paralysation of selecting one or more platforms to adopt.

A company today who as adopted .NET cannot accurately answer the question around which mobile device they should target. They cannot answer this,  simply due to the uncertainty of what Microsoft’s current product line(s) look like today, let alone unsure if what they propose will fit tomorrow. A company first must contend with the idea that the .NET developers within their pod will have to be outsourced and/or up skilled in order to begin mobile development.

Choosing a platform of any kind in the mobility offerings is often times based around a few conditions such as these:

  • Ubiquity. Will the chosen mobility platform work on as many customers as possible whilst giving the maximum chance of profit and/or adoption.
  • Reduced Development Costs. Will the chosen mobility platform increase or decrease development time(s). Will the platform also enable or empower a uniform design experience across one or more platform(s) that compliment proposed ubiquity needs.
  • Workforce Ready. Will the chosen mobility platform stand up to various conditions workforce is likely to put them through in their daily work style(s). Will they be compliant for industrial work not just office work, will they have work around to employee’s wearing gloves (safety) and so on.

These three core choices often will end up dictating an outcome for adoption within an organization. Choices like these are not the only criteria for selection but they often become the core starting point, which then will branch out further into other criteria. A choice will not always just be one it typically is more than one if not all three and often more times than not ends up with compromises built-in.

The choice of platform is a bad thing for Microsoft customers in that it will hurt both Microsoft and the customer. A customer who is thinking about adopting a secondary platform will approach the subject with a sense of relaxed state, despite the anxiety of choice. The reason for the relaxed state is they will have to lower their expectations initially in order to test the notion that XYZ platform will work for them. Furthermore, security teams within an organization will not be able to guarantee or support the security policies that they have developed for Desktop in mobility. Lastly by way of seeking out alternative adoption they in turn build muscle in coping with the idea that Microsoft are not part of the adoption discussion, which results in potential harm to Microsoft itself.

Choosing a non-Microsoft platform is not bad; in fact, many companies around the world actively do this and not only survive but generate enormous profits. Today a company looking towards moving closer to a cloud-like environment may ask the question whether Windows as an operating system continues to be relevant. The rationale for most organizations around owning office is due to “Office” like software and dependency on solutions they use day in day to make their business run (e.g. Architecture firms with ACAD, Finance companies with TAX software etc.).

Mobility today, has the ability to affect the workforce in a way that goes beyond desktop. A mobile device can go from just being an “Angry Birds” casual gaming platform to now being a first-response workflow-processing tool. The device can also become a basic work tool for email, word processing, spreadsheet refinement and even presentation preparation readiness, all for significantly lower cost than desktop.

“Does the desktop software need to exclusively sit on desktop?” which is now become the question most of the vendors are asking themselves quietly.

Microsoft customers also face a secondary influence when choosing mobility, which is financial hardship. The global financial crisis sent most organizations into immediate survival mode, whereby they slashed costs as deep as they could in order to weather the financial storms. By switching into survival mode, they in turn explored options around how to keep their organization lean and agile enough to reduce its capital expense by also switching it over to operation expenses. During this switch, software and hardware leasing also normalized and it was largely due to the suppliers of these two industries also adapting to the crisis by coming up with smarter, more affordable service plans.

Today a customer within the Microsoft community simply faces uncertainty in around the mobility offering they have before them. They see failure at almost every turn, they see developer relations showing visible signs of souring whilst lastly they see Windows 8 “Start Screen” as a massive distraction that they may not desire or want.

Mobility inside the Microsoft community has more noise than signal when it comes to developer skills reuse, existing IP reuse and lastly basic hardware considerations. A seasoned .NET influencer today would find it hard if not next to impossible to predict what the next 2-3 years would look like from a company such as Microsoft. It is fair to say any industry right now cannot predict 2-3 years from now but when it comes to setting up internal discussion or position papers around purchasing, it helps to have at least a hint or clue that arrives at a confident bet. Today, you do not simply get that unless you can read between the lines of journalism or worse, you rely on blog posts like this for the answer.

In summary, Microsoft faces a massive challenge ahead. They first must bring a sense of calm back to their markets by using Surface and Windows Phone 8 in a clear & specific manner that does not involve the word “consumer” (which they will of course). They second must also reassure developers more clearly, that their C# and XAML skill reuse in mobility by providing clear and well-defined instructional-based solutions (dev. center needs work, it is a mess). Thirdly and most importantly of all they now need to convince the business community that their platform is cheap, reliable and touches on the above three points in a manner that trumps all. If Microsoft can produce answers to these few questions, they in turn can regain lost market share within the business communities.

Do you see it happening?

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Windows 8 Search could be better. My theory.

 

Today I wanted to search for Word 2013 in Windows 8. At first, I hit START+W and began typing “Word”, and then of course nothing came up.

Confused, I closed it down and went START+Z then found it the hard way via ALL APPS.

My immediate thought was “hmm my Search experience is broken, this is stupid. I must be doing it wrong”.

Sure enough, I realized after some rinse/repeat frustrations that each icon you click on represents the context in which you are searching. To me, that was far from obvious. It took someone else showing me that workflow before I realized what it was. I have made a point of not watching videos and tutorials before I use Windows, as I am keen to see how a Windows 7 user approaches Windows 8 without a crash course in the upgrades.

Ok, now I get how Search works but what made me a little irritated was that I had assumed Search would act globally. In that just like Bing or Google, you type in your search and then you are presented with results that are global in nature. Google for instance not only has the ability to narrow your search context via its Web, Video, Images etc. but in that initial search screen it also brings those results from each of those into the feed (aggregate function).

My thinking here is that Search should act globally but in order to do so it has to be quite smart in its formula on Windows 8, that is to say if you have 20+ apps installed and each has internet connectivity attached does that mean it makes 20+ internet connections outbound per keystroke?

No.

My thinking is that as you type in search you send out a broadcast to all apps and of course Windows 8 your current keystroke / search criteria. Then what happens is each app has a small agent that has a quite a strict footprint that it uses as a means to begin its contextually relevant search. The moment these agents begin the search they show a state of “I’m finding your answers” (whatever that may look like) whilst at the same time they head off to find the said answers. Once the answers come back it reports in the form of a “total results” meaning it lets the user know that “I have something here, you can now look at me should you find relevance”. This then invites the user to decide if the “Twitter” app may have the answers, it needs and so on.

The formula for search could be refined based on both frequency of use of applications (popularity stack ranking) and chunking with timeouts. In that you can do a search batch at a time so that if the search has to trigger internet connections per app the allow 30-50 at a time with a 1min timeout.

The architecture of Windows 8 right now wouldn’t allow this or scale very nicely but there’s this small little team in Redmond called “Bing” and they have this driving need to compete with another small startup called “Google” (You may have heard of both). I am sure if you grab these guys and their collective intelligence this is a problem that could be solved in a way that shifts people from thinking about Search differently when it comes to Windows 8.

I see this problem with Microsoft now. They are not paying attention per say to the bigger picture, in that if you want to start setting the scene for platform of the future then think beyond Apple competes scenarios. Think of search as being a Windows problem not a web browser problem and more to the point if you want me to embrace the cloud in a fashion that’s elegant start creating endpoint packages that have a sole purpose of empowering developers to write their own search result for agents like Windows 8 Search and so on.

If I was a developer and I paid for a Azure search result service that I basically connect inbound API calls to a data repository of my choice which then gets used by plethora of different solutions out there (Apps, Windows 8) etc. This to me is obfuscating the psychology of the cloud whilst at the same time giving me a content provider a sense of control on how my data gets prepared for searching.

It has not to say that Search engines cannot access this data and then reformat / index it in their own way to prevent me from hijacking the results.

My underlying point is that the future of Internet has and always been this TextInput box with a button next to it called “search”. The next screen will change as we move forward but in reality, more and more users of the internet and computing are keen to see just those two control elements on screen first.

Why make me click, you click.. I gave you what I was interested in. you go find it and do not come back until you have solved it. I don’t care about your architecture limitations, solve it, patent it, sue others once you have patent it but just give me it.

Search could be better!

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Public Apology to Steve Sinofsky – My Bad.

On Saturday morning, I was in a 1:1 email thread with Steve Sinofsky talking about a few things regarding Microsoft and .NET (mainly what is the future of .NET Framework). In the back and forth Steve stated that he thought my name-calling was unprofessional and that I should at the very least treat him like a human.

“..Dont respect me.  Just act like a human.  Dont say things you would not say to a person face to face in front of others…”

That bugged me a little, as in the end, he was right It was uncalled for from my end. I tell people from time to time that one of the biggest things I disliked inside Microsoft was the bullying behavior that took place. I found the overall behavior of watching someone verbally and emotionally beat others down to be a toxic thing to witness and is why I believe good ideas never rise to the top – yet – here I am via this blog doing the very thing I cannot stand to someone with whom I have a disagreement with in strategy & execution.

I mean I teach my own son that this behaviors not acceptable yet here I am doing it. (Shameful).

There is no need for me to call him names via blog posts and it is probably a good reminder for me that despite my strong disagreements with Steve’s choices in the manner of .NET community in the end he does have one positive thing that I am in firm agreement with – consolidation of the brands.

Windows 8 and so on may or may not be a success and we can pick over the bones all we want but we all mist collectively admit that the first time in the history of Microsoft (that I can remember) the branding and product teams do show outward signs of alignment (which is rare).

That all being said, I submit my humble and firm apology to Mr Sinofsky for any remarks or Photoshop doctoring of images and will not continue this behavior.

Scott Out.

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The consequences of declaring WPF is dead.

When you write a blog post like the one I wrote around WPF being dead, you tend to get a few emails that are either filled with confusion such as “it’s dead?…wtf?” or worse you get the email that basically outlines how you just ruined a perfectly good deal for someone.

Having just received one of these emails, I thought I would address a crude FAQ on the pros and cons of WPF being dead.

Question. If we all say WPF, is dead, wont that hurt its present day adoption?

Answer. Yes. Definitely and I have personally been at the bruising end of that conversation. There is no doubt that if we the .NET community declare WPF end of life we in turn let Microsoft get away with their bad decision making (in truth my bad decision making as its former Product Manager) and lastly we shoot ourselves in the foot for future XAML friendly work.

Having said that, declaring it dead is important short-term loss but potentially long term gain and I will explain why.

Mobility platform adoption is at critical crossroads. Today companies worldwide are under a lot of pressure to discuss what their software offerings in and around web + mobility are likely to be. That is to say, the sales pipelines are handing feedback up stream that ask the question in around “when are we going to be mobile” (not in a literal sense but conceptually).

If we today continue to prop up WPF as a “good enough” technology bet knowing Microsoft has abandoned any further support then we are placing the entire .NET community at risk of alternative development. This is to say that most developers who are bored with .NET or do not’ care will not be fussed either way and probably would embrace this all the more.

Developers who do enjoy sitting inside Visual Studio and dare I say, Expression Blend might find this a troublesome thought to contemplate. The fact of the matter is .NET development is successful given its tooling story and .NET framework often gets you in and out of the development workload quite fast (I am a former Java/ActionScript developer, so I am not saying this a pure .NET whore).

If we ignore the Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 proposition in favor of high fiving WPF, well we are placing our short-term bets on desktop development here and now whilst leaving the whole mobility continuance exposed to iOS or Android development.

This in turn can have a knock on effect, whereby developers in the .NET space are given a choice of either doubling down on HTML5, up/down-skilling in iOS or Android development practices or worse being outsourced to specialist teams who have prior experience in the alternative(s).

WPF has no mobility story other than a remote desktop application on an iPad touching a desktop built in WPF (messy and clumsy).

I see the whole Windows 8 proposition as a mess; do not get me wrong Microsoft have done us all no favors with their UI choice(s), developer relations nightmare and lastly internal bickering and constant wave after wave of aggressive behavior.

It is time the company either started to fire some executives or regroup and come up with a better strategy than the one(s) they have now. Until such time, it in the end it has been left up to Architects worldwide who have influence to provide clarity around what the Microsoft mobility offerings look like and help position new projects towards this in a calm manner.

I am not saying this will happen overnight it will probably take 1-2 years to push the business community into the Microsoft Windows-only mobility space. If we also can carefully, correct Microsoft messaging that WPF is dead whilst at the same time Windows 8 is the next version of WPF (current source code, tooling and skill reuse), you stand a greater chance of success than you do by choosing to downplay its state.

The trick is to go beyond Microsoft’s weak guidance today that “Silverlight & WPF aren’t dead, XAML/C# are alive!” as if that was the answer to the question. It clearly needs to be expanded on further and teased out in careful threads on what that actually means.

It’s not about XAML/C# it’s about “can I keep my existing work on Windows 8” first and foremost. If they can answer that question with clear and definitive guidance the whole WPF is dead becomes less of a bad taste.

If they cannot answer that, then look to the blogger left or right of you and pray they understand Microsoft better than they themselves as its coming down to the ye olde “influencer takes all” position.

Ubiquity seems to always be a sticking point with Microsoft. The fact that WPF right now has probably one of the best ubiquity stories that would make Silverlight at its peak salivate with envy still goes largely unnoticed. It has to do with Microsoft’s lack of marketing & evangelism around this but in reality you could knock out a WPF application and reach more audiences than most other languages.

Think about that, how many Windows machines are there worldwide, specifically when it comes to Business customers (less consumer). Now what has always been the sticking point about making applications in HTML vs. Windows? Answer – cross platform.

Having cross-platform has always been most sort after request and the main core reason why WPF adoption has often been parked in the “maybe next time” bay. The amount of times at Microsoft when I was in the Product Management team we faced this issue we would often just retreat to Silverlight as an answer hoping that would get deals across the line where possible (hence Silverlight got all the investment and WPF didn’t).

The reality is Microsoft is a Windows only company and for a while, Silverlight and its x-platform strategies distracted us all, but ultimately that is what killed it. Microsoft cannot as a company afford any more to be semi-agnostic; they are losing so much market share right now it is ridiculous. They now have to regroup (Windows 8 product lines) and go back to their tired playbook of “Windows Only or bus” (it’s the only trick Sinofsky knows).

If Microsoft cannot position WPF as a viable solution to real problems and instead are bowled over with weak answers to the cross-platform perception then what are we all doing? Do you keep fighting the lonely fight or do you regroup and rally behind the one thing that actually might get you out of this discussion a bit more cleanly via the Windows 8 pitch.

Tooling is tapering off. I do not see Visual Studio 2012+ and Blend+ continuing much more in investment around Windows 7 + WPF.  We all saw this happen with WinForms and it is not as if they will cut and run with these two, they just will not spend too much time on the problems that are faced with tooling for WPF.

WPF is likely to still have internal investment so long as Expression Blend and Visual Studio continue to pull from its code base how that spills over to the public though is an open question (that will not yield answers). It is in Microsoft best interest to turn a cold shoulder here on WPF (despite its internal adoption) publically in order to get everyone shifted over to Windows 8 in a more timely manner.

If they let WPF linger or keep feeding it backwards compatibility then it turn becomes what Windows XP has been to Windows 7 or Internet Explorer 6 to Internet Explorer 9 … a legacy you just can’t kill off no matter how much you promise “new” is better.

Question. Ok, so you are saying let’s all announce WPF is dead and long live Windows 8?

Answer. Yes. Before you grab your stones and start throwing my way, it comes back to the key driving principle behind why that is. Do you optimize for a short-term gain and in turn leave the mobility and future platform battle to the alternatives or do you instead promote its end of life but do one better than Microsoft themselves by outlining what the transition will look like over the next two years.

What I mean to say is, do not just say, “its dead, end of story”.  Instead, say, “It’s dead as long as Windows 7 isn’t alive. The future of WPF however is tied-up in Windows 8, so if we want to get more into mobility then we have a transition moment here. We can continue to keep existing code that we have written and transport it across primarily. Secondly, we can also retain our developers skill sets that we have invested today given the tooling and languages are still intact (with minor and major modifications throughout).

It sux and I am facing the same issue right now. As I sit here and type this on my Office 13 Preview via my Windows 8 Install, I am doing so under duress. Do I like Windows 8? I don’t like the UI, sorry I think Metro is a form of mass design retardation in full flight but on the flipside I can live with it provided I get a UX platform that I can do more with.

I will trade my dislike for Windows 8 upfront if it can let me create a vision of what I think the software industry should do with its out of date workflows & problem solving. I’ve waited 15 years+ for a descent UX platform to come along, I sat through VRML, DHTML, Flash, Flex, WPF, Silverlight and now this hell spawn known as Windows 8.  I worked as an outsider and insider on all of the above and I’ll be damned if I’ll give up now because some bald headed napoleon complex ass-hat decides “He’s got Steve Jobs beat”.

Question. You are still putting developer’s jobs on the line.

Answer. Yeah I probably am. I am not proud of that fact and when I was part of a team that funded Silverlight & WPF we actively choose to ignore WPF in favor of Silverlight. It was a calculated bet at the time but clearly, the result is we have two products facing a slow death march in favor of a reboot to a solution we almost had at the start.

Let me unpick that further.

When I first joined Microsoft, we were fighting to get WPF into the hands of .NET developers worldwide. We needed to move everyone from Windows XP over to Windows Vista and in a timely fashion. Microsoft spent millions pushing the agenda alongside getting Office Open XML blessed as a standard (given it would help influence adoption).

The whole thing was a mess and as a result Silverlight was born if anything as a way to buy some time around what to do in terms of solving cross-browser and cross-platform related issues (with a keen eye on mobility).

Silverlight did its job initially but in the end, the chaos that flowed from those days to today still is haunting us all.

My point is that by talking openly about the technology platforms the way I have, I am looking to cut through the political and chaos that is before us today. I am looking to instead help others diagnose the problem aloud as in order to solve a problem you first have to admit you have one.

WPF is dead. Ok. Now what. Do you go HTML5? Probably yes, but do you honestly think WPF being alive or dead have influence to this discussion – more to the point do you think this blog is going to send companies racing for HTML5 now? I would say if a decision is to go down the HTML5 path that thought was planted well before I arrived there.

Do you invest in iOS or Android? Again, go for it watch the dollars you were going to spend on HTML5 and WPF escalate given its not only foreign development practices to your existing .NET space but you probably will have to absorb the time to up skill or hiring of specialist teams to do the work (India outsourcing can only buy you so much).

If this blog is the catalyst to a WPF team getting the termination letters then you were cooked well before I arrived I’m just the 1000th cut.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Unofficial Windows 8 Developer FAQ

Early this week I’ve been talking to a few current and former Microsoft staffers about all things Windows 8. In my discussions I’ve started to gather some gossip in around what happened to Silverlight and lastly the specifics around the DevDiv fall out between Steve Sinofsky and Soma.

Should I share the chat logs it is an entertaining read however what did struck me throughout the conversations was how much positivity Microsoft has been squandering due to petty internal squabbles or “dare not speak of that, for the overlord Sinofsky shall smite thee down for saying the nameless one out loud”.

Today, I’m going to attempt to do something Microsoft staff should have done long ago or didn’t do correctly or simply were held back from doing so. I’m going to release the Unofficial FAQ on “What Just happened” in Microsoft for developer(s) worldwide.

Note: This is all based off internal gossip, second hand information and blah blah, so if you want to call bullshit on the below do so but back it up with specifics on what actually happened – don’t just say “that’s b.s” as we’ll take that as a deflection attempt at setting the record straight.

Ready.. (Remember this is from the perspective of “if I was still a Product Manager at Microsoft positioning not official etc.).

The Unofficial FAQ

Q. Is WPF Dead?

A. Yes and No. Yes WPF as you see it before you is end of life that is to say no more code will be written for the “platform” given Windows 7 and Windows 8 have different DNA going forward. No as in when we decided to move everything over to leaner Windows 8 platform we had to put both Silverlight and WPF on a diet in order to get Mobility parity / compatibility in check. The Upside is we’ve fixed some of the UI rendering issues that have plagued you in the past; the down side is we’ve had to sacrifice features here and there in the process.

 

Q. If I make an Application today in WPF it won’t work in Windows 8 tomorrow.

A. Not correct. Expression Blend uses WPF still in Windows 8, so in a way you’re covered as long as VS2012 and Blend continue to take their cue from the previous XAML Rendering that has been in place since Windows 7. There are certain things you can’t do in Windows 8 going forward though, that is to say new features won’t work in both Windows 7 and Windows 8 for obvious reasons. If they aren’t obvious then …stop coding now.

 

Q. Do I have to learn HTML5 or C++ in Windows 8 now?

A. No. The neat trick here is that we took the body of work found in Silverlight and made it handle the rendering of XAML. Now we didn’t take it as-is we again had to scale it back and use it as a starting point for a reboot of WPF/Silverlight to ensure two things happen going forward. The first is that we have WPF/Silverlight parity issues resolved in terms of performance and developer centric API changes whilst at the same time we had to find a way to make Steve Sinofsky believe that Silverlight was killed off. The last point wasn’t a technical issue it was more of a political one and so in order to help give him the illusion of Silverlight’s death we renamed a few namespaces and adjusted a few features here and there to give the appearance of “new” on the “old”.

 

Q. Why did you change so much in Windows 8 to confuse us all on old vs. new?

A. We had to find a way to put Internet Explorer back into the hands of the masses in a more aggressive manner. In order to facilitate this internal metric we needed to also scale back Silverlight’s popularity given when you think about its future roadmap and Internet Explorer the two will end up competing with one another. Having Internet Explorer start taking over the HTML5 discussion would also help us win hearts and minds with the non-.NET crowd which would then help boost our internal metrics around Linux, Php, Apache and MySQL/Oracle compete (that has often plagued us for many a fiscal year).

Once we’ve placed Internet Explorer onto many devices worldwide we will then ask developers to fork their beloved HTML5 in a way that lets them access Windows 8 further. This in turn will help us regain the lost dominance we once had before all of our Internet Explorer staff left the company to work for Google Chrome. Additionally, it will help us with our many year attempts at attracting more developers to our Windows Server & Tooling business units.

Now to answer your actual question it’s important to know the previous strategy for Internet Explorer as now the problem we face both internally and externally is how we are going to balance Internet Explorer’s future with XAML given the old “Silverlight” concept was directly competing with this strategy. In short we had to make it feel there was a lot of change in the room and decided that letting you believe that what’s really happened is that WPF & Silverlight were merged as one and that Silverlight 5 wasn’t the last release as really Windows 8 is Silverlight 6 Desktop.

Letting you believe that would keep you preoccupied with that branch of thought where what we need you to do is come back to the Internet Explorer way of thinking – there is no plugin only a browser.

Q. So… you saying Windows 8 is really Silverlight 6?

A. Yeah in concept yes. Technically no, but if you take a step back from our bad messaging, public relation screw-ups and lastly our idiotic executive we pretty much did what you asked – we fixed WPF and Silverlight parity & performance and we made it also work on both desktop and mobile. I give you Windows 8.

 

Q. Well ..why didn’t you just say that? Why did you scare us with C++ or HTML5 rhetoric?

A. I have no answer suffice to say there was lots of infighting going on and I don’t see Soma and Sinofsky sharing a beer or two at a BBQ in the near future unless the bottle was broken and one has the other pinned down with a desire to kill..

 

Q. You said mobility and parity are you saying Windows 8 is compatible with Windows Phone?

A. Yes. Windows Phone 7 was kind of a hold our place in the line while we figure out what to do next release. It was badly marketed and in the end we were too late to enter the market – not to mention we weren’t ready to talk about the work we were doing with Windows 8.

Now that we’ve finally hit reset on Windows Phone via our 8.0 releases we’ve now found a way to put the XAML rendering we have in Windows 8 onto the phone. Well to be fair we really kept Silverlight’s DNA alive in both which has now let us enable you to write applications on both platforms via our new upgraded API’s and tooling (again to give the appearance of new).

This is in part why you can’t use Windows Phone 8 code on Windows Phone 7.x compatible devices,  Additionally you would see how we swapped the two out and start to guess what really happened during the Soma vs. Sinofsky fight.

Q. I don’t think that’s technically correct.. if you look at Windows Phone 7 and then look at…

A. I’ma let you finish by stating that the phone may not have changed radically but Windows did that is to say if you were going to drag Silverlight’s work into the new Windows 8 whilst releasing Windows Phone 7 previously then which of the two do you change? The phone or operating system? – Answer is you do both but incrementally.

Q. Hang on so all of Windows 8 is now Silverlight? That doesn’t make sense..

A. No. Windows 8 core is,  (as the messaging and PowerPoint decks say,) new. Now the XAML piece that bolts on top of that core is what I’d call “Silverlight 6” that is it’s all the work that has been done on WPF/Silverlight since their birth converging as one.

Q. Why did Sinofksy and Soma duke it out?

A. It comes back to Sinofsky’s dislike for Silverlight that was in place years before Windows 8. Internally what had happened was the Windows 8 Planning teams felt that Microsoft had lost its way on the importance of web both from a tooling and platform perspective. Silverlight was simply a distraction that got out of control and what they felt was that HTML5 was getting more and more market acceptance. As such it was time to put the genie back in the bottle and double down on Internet Explorer again with an eye this time on integrating the web with the operating system via some minor fork in both JavaScript and HTML5 (eg iecompatiability tag)

This of course didn’t go down well with Developer Division as this in turn meant that they had to scrap all the work done with Silverlight to date! The Silverlight team then went to work proving that both options are still viable and that for XAML, Silverlight would be a better candidate to ensure that path continues to occur.

Essentially it was an internal two horse race for a while with the deciding vote going to Sinofsky. Unfortunately it was an unfair race given his alleged dislike towards Silverlight, so this in turn become a tense standoff between the head of DevDiv and the head of Windows. It’s rumoured that Soma and Steve had a huge falling out over settling old scores and as a result Silverlight was put into a “do not talk about it” status mode.

Despite the executive fallout the Silverlight team (aka XAML team) were moved under the Windows org chart and put to work dragging the old into the new but with a clear direction to forever wipe the name Silverlight from their minds. It’s rumoured that in planning meetings the words compatibility and Silverlight were no-go words.

It’s all gossip in the end, but that’s what’s being said at the local water fountain anyway.

It could explain why Scott Guthrie went over to Azure. It could explain why you see some of the old Silverlight bloodlines talking in the Windows 8 presentations but finally, it could also explain why the “strategy has changed” remark got former Executive Bob Muglia in a whole world of trouble.

Summary

Look. The above could very well be fiction and time will tell exactly what has happened here but the more I think about Windows and it’s Phone counterpart the more I start to think what has really happened is a clean reboot to WPF/Silverlight has occurred for the greater good.

The downside is that we’ve all been preoccupied with the new UI of Windows 8 and lastly the community wanted to know what the future of the brand Silverlight/WPF was per say (this is awkward). Instead of getting actual answers they were given deafening silence and finally, to this day the overall developer relations overall from Microsoft has been both lazy and poorly executed.

What we are seeing is Microsoft power brokers asleep at the helm, specifically their evangelism is dead and lastly their messaging around the transition for Silverlight/WPF has been fumbled to the point where it’s easier now to believe Microsoft has hit “Shift+Delete” on these two products rather than to read the above (too much carnage on the roadmap now).

If Microsoft had of come out and said something to the effect – “Look you asked us to fix WPF and Silverlight. We did that, we came up with a way now that lets you develop for our platform in three ways. The first is C++ if you want deeper access to Windows then we’ve tided up our Com++ API’s to a way that C# developers have found palatable. If you don’t want to do native code then you can build applications like you have done with Silverlight in the past, but the difference is it will now  Windows only (sorry). If you then want to build apps that are cross-platform then again we’ve got HTML5 and Internet Explorer story brewing, whilst it’s important to understand that we will not be looking to expand our developer story beyond Windows anymore (there is a certain amount of control HTML5 will give but we still believe Internet Explorer is a better bet overall).

Then they show a few slides on how you can write-once deploy to both Desktop, Tablet and Mobile via the XAML/HTML5 and C++/C# story then it becomes a bit of a consolidation discussion vs. a “they’ve killed my favourite toy” discussion we see today.

They didn’t do that. That would require actually someone in the company with a backbone or marketing muscle that goes beyond ass kissing to Sinofsky. The problem we have right now ladies in and gents is we are all suffering from Microsoft’s internal bickering and as a result companies are looking to seek alternative to Microsoft for fear that this petty squabbling will continue to spread from not  only the mobility market share losses but to potentially the operating system as well.

Microsoft also has to figure out how to also re-engage their hardware vendors going forward given their failure rates in Windows Phones weren’t profitable for these guys and now with Microsoft Surface sending mixed signals it well has now turned into a bit of a question mark above the companies head around whether it can survive beyond its current dominance of desktop market share.

Inside Microsoft Server share has dropped significantly and it’s why you see a lot of effort in the web platform stack around enticing Php and MySQL folks back to the logo.

The only thing left for Microsoft to control is Office, Desktop and XBOX. Beyond that, they don’t have dominance anymore.

Again someone explain to me why Steve Balmer is good for the company?

 

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Enterprise Adoption & Windows 8 Hijackings.

In a business today there is a sales team who are out on the road or in a customers cubicle giving the said sales pitch about their vNext software. The sales pitch is a normal one filled with roadmap breakdowns, price adjustments and depending on whether the company had a descent designer on staff – screenshots that make you either turn in disgust or clap excitedly at the new coat of green.

A question finally emerges from the customer, it centeres around the one area they are most likely dreading being asked – “What’s your web and/or mobility story going forward?”

Since Microsoft has pretty much announced a big slab of chaos for each and every development team world wide around their failure (WPF and Silverlight) this in turn has created a a bit of a churn across more and more .NET product teams.

They realise upfront WPF/Silverlight are dead and with mobility solutions like the iPad being more and more disruptive amongst staff within their customers customer, it’s back to the platform adoption drawing board for many large to small software vendors.

Native vs Web.

The sales team will eventually make their way back to the in-house software team and ask them to come up with an answer to “what’s our mobility story on the web?” which at first seems like a query around “web based mobility”.

That’s the error, as what’s being asked is a case of firstly how can you deliver a solution on the web and touch as many platforms without having to fork your code-base or design experience (reduce cost).

Secondly what Mobile platform do we target and why.

The development teams will now go off and explore a few options and somewhere along the lines they’ll stumble on Phonegap and maybe even KendoUI (if you’re in the .NET scene that is). You’ll avoid JQuery Mobile because someone at a UserGroup told you it’s a bad day ahead but overall you’ll shout Victory initially as you’ve found a solution that rules the day across all platform(s).

You in turn go web-native, that is you build using HTML + JavaScript and spit out a few basic LOB apps that mimic the Native UI on iPhone, Blackberry, iPad, Android and so on. It almost feels as if it was a little to easy.

Some may even cheat by avoiding having to do any of the above and simply slap Citrix on to the iPad and VPN into a Silverlight/WPF experience you already made and make the user fumble their way through two layers of glass to achieve a native like experience.

The above strategy will work for a while. That is until you want to do more than just fake your way throughout your experience (dont get me wrong with enough patience and built-in JavaScript forgiveness, in the right hands it can do some pretty impressive things).

Eventually though, Native becomes the forbidden fruit. You want to get a bit more performance or scale in a way that makes sense to the device and less to the fake-it until you make-it revolutions you seem to be spinning on.

Now comes the hard question, which device and why.

Platform Adoption – Use Case.

Garnter’s VP recently came out and stated that 80% of businesses by 2013 will be outfitting staff essentially with an iPad like device.

It’s a pretty bold stat and you have to remember that Gartner get paid to come up with research by companies that need the said research to abstract their sales pitch from bised to unbiased opinion – that being said – it’s not unreasonable to believe what he stated.

Picking up a mobile device like an iPad at first seems like it’s a toy, or unnessary for variety of industries as they will never replace a desktop device. An assumption like this will be short lived in most large companies that are weighing up their platform decision making.

Firstly concept of an iPad in the hands of an after hours worker is more valuable than a laptop. The main reason is they are carrying the device around with them and are more likely to whip it out during a dinner with friends than a laptop or slate (excuse me while I take out my laptop, no continue talking vs let me look at this device that almost to the untrained eye gives you the appearance i’m checking the bill for our dinner folder thingy).

The worker opens the device, performs some quick “at a glance” review of the data within their company, see’s no urgent issues and continues to go about their evening.

Having First response reactions are highly valuable and will be the likely first candidate for mobility in most verticals. It’s more to do with the psychology of the device than its possibilities that is to say you could shift a lot of your desktop solutions onto an iPad-like experience but it won’t’ happen until organisations wrap their heads around Security and how they plan to break up their current desktop experience(s) into more finite pieces.

Security will be the biggest sticking point initially and UX Technology adoption aside, it comes back to the fear that if a user were to leave the said device at a dinner table then people can shut down a factory or steal intellectual property from a company faster than if they were on say a laptop (yes it’s retarded but you know there’s a Security jackass in some IT Division scaring the kids with just that scenario and getting traction).

A company will in turn dip their toes in the water, they’ll use Frist Response workflow / process as a way to see if this whole Mobile thing has legs from an investment standpoint and technical adoption acid test.

Platform Adoption – Development Teams.

Assuming you jump over the pitfalls with choosing “why” you need mobility in your company next comes the how one will build solutions to backup the “why”. Like i said most companies will ignore the mountains of research that showed AJAX as a bad idea for LOB apps and instead be mesmerized by the new pretty Orange Shield logo known as HTML5.

Like a beaten housewife they will return back to their room of pain with all the promises of “it’s changed now, it’s not as bad as it used to be” and sure there’s some frameworks now out there that have gotten a bit more code added to them to almost forget the fact you’re writing HTML and JavaScript (almost).

However, I’d wager big dollars that before long the horns of retreat will blast form within the cubicles of software development teams world wide and they will in turn look for more native-like experience(s) to seek refuge.

Companies at this point have probably drowned a few developers for their late delivery and like a drug addict who’s won the lottery in vegas – spent a small fortune on a lot of good ideas at the time strategies.

At this point one has to decide how they will navigate the current Platform arena. On one hand you’re going to have to figure out a way to enable 1x Team of developers to write an App for all devices. That will come up with a very short list of possibilities if none at all.

Next comes the last desperate refuge whereby the said people will in turn reduce the friction and ask that the target platforms be scaled back, that is “let’s just write for an iPad” style thinking.

Problem here is companies that want to target all platforms will in turn likely have to invest in staffing up individual platform-specific teams that don’t x-platform develop. It’s a new day really when that happens as typically most companies traditionally like to place a bet on a single platform as the primary choice (aka .NET).

None the less people better start warming up to the idea of there being an iOS team, Android Team and lastly Modern UI ..(big f`k you to Microsoft for screwing up Metro branding) Team.

Platform Adoption – Windows 8 Hijack.

Having forked browser discussions or worse having forked staffing of development teams is about as interesting to a large company right now as letting users have free access to an iPad without a SOE lock down.

The reality is right now any adoption bet a company makes is likely to be repaved post Windows 8 sales begin as weird as that sounds?

If you look at Windows 8 today you’ll see the Google Chrome Logo color scheme spread out into a bunch of Boxes that are basically fluff for the consumer. A few people out there will get all excited about the Metro – err..Modern UI – style experience(s).

Companies who have a solid bet on .NET however will be keeping a very close eye on how you can hijack the consumer experiences to suit their agenda(s). Just like in the Original XBOX or Kinect release in which Microsoft had expected the market do X in turn users ended doing mods/hacks to use it for their own needs.

A company facing a mobility crisis as the one they are facing today will see past the mickey mouse Windows 8 UI layer and instead hijack it for their own needs. Giving users the ability to wet their appetite with .NET level code on Win8 devices will be enough to hold the door open in the potential “if we don’t build a mobile/web story our competitors and/or customers will kill us” door closing campaigns.

That in itself is an interesting thought to let fester, what if Windows 8 saves the Enterprise from having to decide on HTML5/Android/iOS? What if the .NET kids simply keep pumping out a WPF like solution but on a device.

Wait, I just looked around and it occurred to me. It’s already happening only downside is they need a way to kill off the Windows 8 AppStore experience and revert back to a “my app will be all you need for this new Surface hardware you have in front of you”.

Windows 8 will have a yearly upgrade path, there will be a subscription model that works like it did with OSX Lion and if you combine both Apple payment ideas with Silverlight’s deployment model you have a fairly good enoug Windows 8 story that will keep Business occupied long enough for the merging of Windows Server 2008 and Windows Enterprise Customer Client Thingy story.

I’d wager that if business does uptake on Windows 8 they will force Microsoft into a reactive situation where they’ll likely have to sacrifice features set for consumers only and instead opt for Enterprise (which is where they will make their unit sales through the most).

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Seem’s Microsoft has a case of the Metro’s

Keeping score on the failure rate of Microsoft Marketing is getting to be a sickness of mine. The latest bug has to be by far the clear and most defining moment in all of Microsoft fails.

Microsoft would appreciate if you stopped using the word “metro” as just like that drunk racist at party who tells a really bad joke and then follows with “what, don’t be so sensitive, I was only kidding..” they in turn are hereby stating out loud “it was only a code word, it was never meant to be a brand”.

It’s times like this I wish I could have The Daily Show staff on standby and we’d then queue up a montage of every Microsoft staffer on stage saying the word “Metro” in comparison to the word “Windows”. No doubt you will see a score tick over with more usage of the word Metro than I’d argue Windows.

It’s not their fault, it was the company that is giving them the legal eye’s fault.

Yeah you could throw the company in question who would argue Metro is their trademark under a bus here. You could do it easily enough with the right amount of PR spin, but, anyone who’s been a Product Manager for more than five minutes in Microsoft would be able to tell you swiftly that you never ever ever name something in Microsoft without LCA running trademark searches against it.

Exhibit A  – Silverlight’s Out of Browser. When we came up with the feature of offline Silverlight / Desktop usage (aka the feature that would later kill Silverlight) we agonised for weeks over what to call it. We tried out names like “RIA Desktop” and a whole bunch of left field names that had no real meaning. Each time we posted a probable name for the feature we had LCA verify we wouldn’t get sued over it (given the US is a sue happy legal system).

Unfortunately the ass hats in the Microsoft Marketing team(s) didn’t get the memo that most if not all Junior Product Manager(s) get when they first join – You don’t name a puppy unless LCA approves it.

Either LCA screwed up here or it was Microsoft Marketing (I somehow think it’s the later).

Where to from here, how do you undo a brand?

metro abuseGiven its a fairly fresh and clearly abused name it may stand a chance of being deleted from the minds of millions of .NET developers worldwide. I doubt it will get a high five for its replacement name though, as “Windows-style” kind of looks like the default case in a long list of good idea switch statements, but none the less “Windows Style” it is.

I feel however for people like the MetroTwit team who have worked quite hard to claw their way above all the other twitter client clones to establish a unique brand. I guess Long and his team will need to hatch out a plan around “WinTwit” or something along those lines if they wish to comply with Microsoft’s “oops” moment.

In closing Microsoft has yet again screwed up and like all its previous screw-ups  its left yet again up to the community to dig in deep, sigh and cleanup after the company’s amateur developer relations).

At some point with all those billions Microsoft has been making they will actually hire someone with Marketing experience but point in case they hired me as a Product Manager for the company and I had none!

That thought will fester.


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