Tuesday, 20 September 2011

The Daily Review #3: The Death of the Plug-In (and DevDiv too?)

The Daily Review - 20th September 2011
Photo © Buurserstraat386 | Dreamstime.com

The Death of the Plug-in. (And DevDiv too?)

Apple started it 18 months ago, and now most observers (at least those who aren't Silverlight MVPs) think that Microsoft have dealt the final body blow: Browser plug-ins are officially dead!

The decision to exclude browser plug-ins from the shiny new 'Metro' interface for Windows 8 was buried in a blog post from Microsoft Windows/Office head honcho Steven Sinofsky, posted around the time the Build conference kicked off. For some reason, just like the Windows x86 apps on ARM story that broke a few days ago, it was never formally highlighted as part of the keynote. Odd that! </sarcasm>

Officially the reasons given are just a rehash of those Steve Jobs gave when he declared war on Adobe: plug-ins like Flash (and by implication, Silverlight) are apparently "too insecure", "non-performant" and "too draining of crucial battery power" on tablet devices.

But as Tom Arrah points out in his article for PC Pro magazine called Windows 8, Flash and Silverlight: Some Very Bad News Microsoft's publicly declared reasons don't add up. Hell, let's not mince our words here, it's pure BS!

"Regular readers will know that I have never bought this argument.", says Arrah. "More to the point, I know that Microsoft doesn’t either. After all, the company has spent the past five years arguing the exact opposite: namely that page-based HTML is great but that there are certain things that it just isn’t well suited to deliver: little things like high quality media streaming, digital rights management, interactive vector animations, device-based capabilities such as camera and microphone handling and, more generally, the richest possible, desktop-style web experience."

Microsoft has shafted its developers says PC Pro Magazine

While subjects like this have been debated on the blogs, even before the Build conference kicked off, amongst Silverlight developers it seems the Adobe world is only just waking up to the fact that Flash may be on life support in years to come. Adobe have shrugged off the announcement, pointing out that Flash will still run on the 'legacy' (my word, not theirs! ;-)) desktop version of the browser.

In his blog post Silverlight, WPF, HTML5, Metro and .. err, Flash. Andrew One seems concerned for Flash, but somewhat confusingly (in a tweet he made earlier today) thinks that Silverlight is fine because XAML in Metro is just the same thing. Clearly he hasn't read many of the links I've been posting about all the breaking changes, the need to maintain two copies of XAML, and the sheer time-consuming hard work required to 'port' REAL Silverlight applications to the new environment, should you want to (and if Ballmer is seriously considering porting a monster like Office to Metro, as he indicated in a talk to journalists the day before Build, why wouldn't you?).

I sincerely hope this is my last 'editorial' comment on the whole 'Silverlight is dead' topic. Silverlight may not be dead, but I've certainly kicked the debate around whether it is or not to death!

But what does intrigue me about all the back-and-forth debate where everybody's sticking to their entranched postions, regardless of the evidence to the contrary, is the real story that keeps getting missed.

Build wasn't significant for 'the death of Silverlight'. It was significant for 'the imminent death of Microsoft's Developer Division'

A year ago, Ray Ozzie, Bill Gate's official replacement, was seemingly booted out, presumably because of the battle between himself, defending DevDiv who owned the .NET stack and the developer tools like Visual Studio, and Steven Sinofsky fighting the 'money making' corner for WinDiv (Windows and Office) which, crucially, controlled Internet Explorer. It was never going to be a fair fight.

Since then we've had one high departure profile after another from DevDiv, culminating in DevDiv 'hero' Scott Guthrie being 'moved sideways' to Azure, away from day-to-day control of .NET work in DevDiv.

Too simplistic an analysis? Possibly. But nobody can have failed to notice that Guthrie was relegated to a minor, walk-on part in the keynote that lasted mere minutes, where ordinarily at a developer event - and Build is Microsoft's PREMIER developer event - he'd have the starring role.

Scott's buddy, comedian and highly respected developer/manager Scott Hanselman, who'd normally share the stage with him for the bulk of the keynote didn't even attend the Build event. When was the last time that happened? (Answer: Never)

DevDiv have been seriously decimated over the last 12 months and the results are there for all to see: lots of departures, a rapidly diminishing role for the technologies that DevDiv were responsible for (primarily .NET and Silverlight) and for the staff who worked there.

David beating Goliath is a great story, but in the case of Microsoft, it looks like it was never to be. And most of us who work with the Microsoft technology stack see that as a bad thing. A very bad thing!

Loved on the tablet, but not on VM Twitter quote

Today's "Opinion Piece" Links

Must Read! Windows 8, Flash and Silverlight: Some Very Bad News (Tom Arah, PC Pro)
PC Pro magazine looks at the Build announcements and thinks they contain some very bad news.
Must Read! Moving from Silverlight to MVC3 and HTML(Jonathan van de Veen, Developer42)
Jonathan van de Veen has been using Silverlight for line-of-business apps for over 2 years now. But now he's moving to MVC3 and HTML. In this blog post he explains his reasons behind the move, whilst also explaining why he DOESN'T think Silverlight is dead.
Good Read! Windows Re-imagined Green in Apple (Orktane)
The author of the widely acclaimed MVVM framework nRoute returns to blogging with a post about the recent announcements. He's not impressed!
Good Read! Microsoft's new Windows 8 contracts: The debut of the developer clipboard (Mary Jo Foley)
Mary Jo Foley attended a workshop presided over by Steven Sinofsky, and shares what she learnt about the new contracts and charms in Windows 8.
Good Read! Microsoft Faces Fresh Anti-Trust Probe from Spanish Authorities (Tom Warren, WinRumours)
Quoting a report from Market Watch, Tom reports on the new Spanish Antitrust probe - this time it's for allegedly blocking third parties from selling personal computer software licences.
Good Read! Dell CEO rubbishes "post-PC" era talk, looks to Windows 8 future (Tom Warren, WinRumours)
Well I was in agreement with Dell's CEO until he stated that he thought the tablet market was a two horse race - between Android and Microsoft :-O! Erm, no! At the moment it's a ONE horse race and the horse is not called Android or Microsoft!
Good Read! Why do 'Not Windows Store' (Lee Richardson)
Windows 8 Platform Preview is an early preview release for developers and not for users, so why do we need an App Store before Microsoft launch theirs? Tom Warren states his case for 'Not Windows Store'.
Good Read! Decoding Windows 8 UX Principles - Let context Breathe Instead of the UI (Scott Barnes)
Former Silverlight Product Manager doesn't like the new Metro User Experience. In this blog post he tries to work out why.
Good Read! Silverlight, WPF, HTML5, Metro and .. err, Flash (Andew One)
It seems Adobe Flash developers are only just starting to pick up on the news Microsoft tried to bury at this year's Build conference - no Flash in Metro.
OK Windows 8 and the Up-and Coming Hardware Revolution (Keith Elder)
Some observers think that Windows 8 has a split-personality that will hit it in the marketplace. Keith Elder doesn't agree.
OK Blend Insider announces Facebook, Twitter and RSS Feeds (Microsoft)
The new 'official' Blend blog has announced its posts are now available via RSS feed, and that they can be followed on Facebook and Twitter. Still don't understand why they couldn't just use the old Blend account instead of creating a new 'Insider' one!
OK Digging into Windows 8 Metro (Channel Metro)
Not so much 'digging into' as glossing over the surface. Very few words but lots of nice pretty pictures.

Today's "Technical" Links

Good Read! How to Dual Boot Windows 7 Step-by-Step (Pure Info Tech)
Simple step-by-step guide to installing Windows 8 to run alongside Windows 7.
Good Read! Compilation of Windows Azure Sessions at Build (Brian Loesgen)
If you're wandering along with your head in the clouds and little interest in anything else, you might find Brian's handy, and nicely presented list of all the Build sessions that covered Azure useful.
Good Read! BIOS and Options Screens on Build Tablet
If you're wondering how to get into the BIOS of your free Build tablet, this MSDN forum post has the answers.

Today's "Fun Stuff" Links

Good Read! Email to Steven Sinofsky
By his own admission it's childish, but what the hell it made me chuckle. Former Silverlight Product Manager Scott Barnes, reacts to community suggestions that he offer Microsoft UX help, by dropping an email to his arch-nemesis Steven Sinofsky.
Bookmark It! Silver Diagram - A Visio-like tool on the web
OK, so this is Silverlight rather than Windows 8/Metro -related. But it's a seriously slick demo of what can be achieved with Silverlight. Take a look!

Fast and fluid News

Don't forget that all the latest Windows 8 Metro links are posted in 'real time' on the Fast and fluid Twitter account.
The Fast and Fluid Podcast, covering all things Windows 8 related, will be launched later this month.

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