Microsoft is working on the new major release of Windows, which will be released some time in 2015 and be named Windows 10. It’s available now in a technology preview. It’s not advisable for regular users to upgrade at this time. This time around, Microsoft will have a single OS that spans across all screens and devices: Phones, Tablet, Laptops, Desktops and big screen TVs (Xbox One).
We are now about to entering what I call, threshold to the cloud.
The following is based upon my own personal experience and memories of my time in the software industry. Memories can play tricks on us, so please remember that as I might not be entirely correct (I did verify the release dates and some other details).
We have now come full circle when it comes to software development. I did some (in my own view) impressive intranet-solutions back in 1999-2001, utilizing HTML features such as hidden iframe and DHTML to make rich web applications. These ran only on Internet Explorer version 5, 5.5 and later 6 that was released in 2001. At which time it had won the browser war and become the most widely used browser. From IE4 there was a very rapid release cycle and lots of “innovations” in terms of features extending the HTML specification. Some of those innovations stuck around, other’s disappeared.
With the growing popularity with Java (released 1996) as a development platform for Client and Server, and that Microsoft was forced to discontinue their own Java VM, Microsoft had to come up with an alternative platform to avoid loosing too many developers from their Windows-platform, and then .NET was born in early 2002 (beta version in 2001).
After IE6, they won the browser war and had +90% market share. That’s when Microsoft abandoned their browser, which effectively have held the World Wide Web back in development for a whole decade. Yes, the effects was a major step backwards for the software development world. The standards work came to a halt, HTML 4.01 was finalized in 1999. It’s now 2014 and HTML5 is in a proposed recommendation state.
Wired wrote about Bill Gates and his strategy letter The Internet Tidal Wave for Microsoft back in 1995:
“Gates proceeded to outline a strategy for Microsoft to not only enter the internet, but to dominate it.” – Wired
Their strategy after -95 was in some terms a great success, with a complete defeat of web browser competitors. It did have negative effects on the company, which have been found guilty in anti-trust cases in Europe. Before -95, they failed to see the importance of Internet.
– Microsoft failed to understand the Internet in 1995.
– Microsoft failed to understand the Web in 2001.
– Will Microsoft get it right the third time? I do think they will!
It took 5 years, 2006, for Microsoft to release Internet Explorer 7. Mozilla had major issues with bloated software, so FireFox was born. It was a long struggle to gain back market share. And eventually Google launched Chrome.
As this graphics show, it took a whole decade for the innovation to start growing in the browser space again.
Race of the giants
From the release of .NET, there was a race between Sun and their Java, and Microsoft with their .NET. This gave us technologies such as Windows Forms, Windows Presentation Foundation and more recently, Silverlight. The race was for the desktop client and the servers. Microsoft won the desktop easily, yet struggled more on the servers. ASP.NET Web Forms was a technology to more easily ease client developers onto the web. It somewhat accomplished that, but also added a lot of bad stuff to the web. At the same time, the open source communities had rapid innovation with projects such as Ruby on Rails. Microsoft responded with ASP.NET MVC released in 2007. Yes, almost as long time for Microsoft to upgrade their web browser as it took for them to truly understand the web development platform.
After the first version of ASP.NET MVC, Microsoft changed. They changed to a cycle of rapid releases, lots of great innovations. Their recent efforts with turning major parts of ASP.NET into the open source space, will help a lot. What’s happening with the next version of Visual Studio and the ASP.NET-platform is amazing and empowering to developers.
Apps comes to town
Apple have had unprecedented success with their App Store. The amount of apps developed and millions of money that app developers have received is amazing. It changed our life’s and it still is. Apps for everything in our lives. Here is a video that illustrates how everything on our desk have now become digital.
The traditional way of searching, finding, downloading and installing software is tiresome and prone to many errors. I have had to fix many computers that have ended up with a lot of malware. Having dedicated app stores for any platform, ensures that the games and apps are tested and verified. With Windows 8, Microsoft added their own digital store into the OS.
At the same time as the Windows 8 announced, it was clear that their software development strategy was about to change. The future was web technologies.
I believe that the strategy behind Windows 8 was a good and correct, but it failed the proper execution. Biggest issue was the separation of desktop and touch. The apps where all full screen, even a utility such as calculator. The market responded negatively, something had to change.
The title on this section is called Web Apps, with this I try to encapsulate all the world of HTML-based apps. Microsoft call them Universal Apps, Google call them Chrome Apps, Mozilla call them Open Web App. One thing for sure, there will continue to be changes in this space. All of these 3 platforms have gone through revisions of naming already, see my blog post Packaged Web Apps.
I’m betting that Web Apps will stick, it’s short and concise. I love it, Web Apps!
And I do realize that the term “Web application” is already widely used for different things, with different meaning to many individuals. I’m still betting on it to win.
Google have had web apps for a while now, enabling developers to build software using web technologies (HTML5) that runs on Windows OS, Mac OS, Chrome OS and Linux OS. That’s right, the old pipe dream of Java, write once run everywhere, was realized with web technologies.
On the threshold
Now we are on the threshold to the cloud, desktop apps, or rather web apps, will now link our computer desktops directly to the cloud. The lines between what is local and what is remote, will blur even more than what it already have. Apps will update automatically, in the same way websites have for years.
I believe we are living in interesting times, as we did more than a decade ago in 2001. The DotCom crash hurt our industry a lot, and one can only speculate if that might be part of the reasons why Microsoft suspended their Internet Explorer efforts. I don’t know the historic details of that tail, other than what has been publicly made available throughout the years.
I have for years pushed web technologies, HTML5, as the future of software development. Now is the time to get serious, go develop web apps.
The final proof that we are at the threshold, have a look at my screenshot that shows two versions of the same app running, one Universal App and one Chrome App. Enjoy!
One Store to rule them all?
One final thought: Is there room for two app stores on Windows? Will developers be on both platforms?
We have to remember that, even though Windows is the most important platform in regards to market share, developing Universal Apps for Windows devices means that your apps will only run on those devices. I don’t think many developers would want to leave OS X, iOS, Android, Linux and a whole range of other platforms behind.
I believe that web technologies is the answer to this question, it enables developers to make software that more easily can be deployed using different mechanisms and platforms. The code-reuse across Windows Store Apps and Chrome Apps can be immense, if you plan for it and develop with a cross-platform in mind.
Here is another example of Amazon Kindle Reader, one is a Windows App the other is a Chrome App. Take care and be safe!