Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Microsoft Build Conference Day 2: Thoughts and Links

The dust seems to be settling after Day 2 of the Microsoft Build conference, and if the Twitter stream is any indication, most are more than happy with what they're seeing for Windows 8.

No .NET Apps in the App Store

Perhaps the most frequently tweeted complaint is the fact that the Microsoft App Store won't allow .NET applications to be sold. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, so far as the client is concerned .Net is history. Let it go! People don't seem to have grasped the fundamentals of what the new world of Metro Style Apps and Windows RT is all about.

More on Windows RT

Essentially Windows RT is a cut-down version (rewrite) of the .NET runtime written in native code. This is hopefully good news as it should imply improved performance, with Microsoft claiming that there won't be any discernible difference between C# code and Javascript code.

From what I can make out (it's early days yet and the videos for the sessions explaining this stuff haven't been posted yet) using Windows RT is going to be a bit like the old days of COM, except that there's no registration and there is .NET -like metadata.

Metro Style Apps HAVE to be written using Windows RT which is a Windows 8 feature. This explains why you can't install Visual Studio 2012 on Windows 7 and hope to write Metro Style Apps with it. It also explains the oft-tweeted comment, usually followed by an expression of dismay, that there is no support for Silverlight or WPF for Metro Style apps. The important point here is that there IS support for XAML, although how much rework of existing Silverlight/WPF apps will be necessary to make them work as Metro Style Apps is the source of much debate. Telerik have already announced they'll be shipping new controls for this new 'XAML/Windows RT' Metro Style App environment.

The App Store is geared towards the new world of Windows RT and Windows 8 Metro Style Apps, NOT .Net, which perhaps explains why .Net apps won't be allowed into the App Store. The world has changed, and people need to get used to it (although with Windows 8 about a year away, and many users still on Windows XP there's no reason for anyone to panic!)

Also gone is GDI (all graphics are DirectX) and (sadly) XNA, which in some ways shows how quickly this whole new world has suddenly sprung into life given that Microsoft were pushing XNA heavily this time last year.

There is an excellent must read article, written by Tim Anderson about Windows RT "A Few Facts about Microsoft's new Windows RunTime". It helps explain some of the tweets I saw today like 'Custom WinRT components can be exposed to Javascript', 'C#/VB classes that want to be available as WinRT components must be sealed classes (no inheritance)', 'C# structs compatible with RT can only contain data - no methods' and 'List<T>' is not a WinRT type, use IList<T> (use similar patterns like Dictionary<T>)'.

Another interesting read is What is Windows RT, and is Silverlight Dead?.

Windows Server 8

Today's keynote was mainly about servers, and there are a lot of changes afoot. Too many to mention here, but for a quick overview check out Highlights of Windows Server 8 OS from IT World, and Windows Server 8: Taking the Cloud to the Operating System.

Team Foundation Server (Azure Preview)

One of the nice freebies for Build attendees was a free six month invite to use the new Team Foundation Server Preview, which is based on Azure and has a Metro interface. I've got a couple of spare invites so if you want to trial it, drop me an email at More information can be found here and you can request a future sign-up if you don't have an invitation at

.NET 4.5

For most developers, the highlights today were details of .NET 4.5 that seeped out, mainly via Twitter. I've already mentioned (previous blog post) the details of what's new in WPF 4.5, but for news of all the other goodies (ASP.NET 4.5, ASP.NET MVC 4 Preview and Visual Studio 2012) check out Jon Galloway's excellent post on the subject. Cool stuff demo'ed at the keynote include the ability to choose an HTML DOM element and see the server-side ASP.NET code that generated it, some very cool 3D pixel analysis, automatic detection and minifying of CSS and Javascript code, support in Ie10 and Visual Studio for Web Sockets, and news that jQuery Mobile will ship with Visual Studio 2011.

Oh and for the 1% of .NET developers that are interested :-P version 3.0 of F# was announced.

Internet Explorer 10

The third platform preview of Internet Explorer 10 has been made available. More information in this blog post about IE 10 Platform Preview 3

Miscellaneous Stuff

It's slightly concerning that initial reports of the new release of Expression Blend 5 indicate it's far better integrated with Javascript than it ever was with XAML :-O. The new Blend blog I mentioned yesterday now has an RSS feed and has a couple of new posts up today, but perhaps most useful is Timmy Kokke's article on Discovering Blend 5 Templates.

If you've installed the Developer Preview of Windows 8 and want to use Fiddler, there are some workaround changes you have to make. They are detailed in this article on Fiddler and Windows 8 Metro Style Applications.

The Developer Platform Preview is actually being officially supported by Microsoft, and there's a set of Windows 8 forums for unofficial support too.

The Windows 8 platform previews made available yesterday all include the Express edition of Visual Studio 2012. MSDN subscribers will be happy to hear that Ultimate editions are now available instead although it's not quite clear the best way to install all these different bits and pieces.

And perhaps the last word on Windows 8 should go to Keith Elder who declares 'Windows 8 is a hit'. How does he know? Because nobody wants to sell their free Build Windows 8 tablet. Ebay seems to back up his claims and at today's keynote Steve Ballmer was claiming that half a million copies of the Developer Platform Preview of Windows 8 had been downloaded!

Exciting times for developers are ahead.

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