New Questions the Build Conference Causes

Build answered a lot of questions for developers who wondered about the future of the Microsoft platform. WinRT is the new API for “Metro ” applications, which are streamlined enable both tablet and pc inputs. These applications can be built in .Net or native C++ using XAML, or in JavaScript with Html5. The traditional desktop interface is still available and it still runs all sorts of full .Net and Win32 applications.

But I’m left with a lot of new questions…

Silverlight is dead but not dead

Silverlight is alive on the desktop version of Windows 8. And it’s easily ported to Metro. But it seems like a big deal to me that the Metro version of IE won’t support Silverlight and Flash.

XNA is dead but not dead

XNA is not supported for Metro games. Given there is no XBox touch screen, maybe the point is that the input libraries could never be made compatible with Metro. Still, that seems like a big deal. C++/DirectX works on the desktop, on metro, and for the 360.

There is no legacy layer for ARM, but is there a Desktop mode

Will the desktop mode even run for ARM? It’s known x86 binaries won’t run on ARM, but will the desktop be recompiled for ARM? Because if not, then all the non-metro supported paradigms (Silverlight, XNA, WPF & more) can’t be recompiled to run on the ARM version. If you have an ARM tablet, you can’t use a flash site or silverlight site. Even if docked. The iPad has that restriction, but keep in mind the iPad was never marketed as a tablet / dock-able laptop like these new Windows 8 machines are. In other words, are desktop applications now “fat binaries”? Which leads too…

You can write Windows desktop applications in almost any language, what about Metro apps?

Did they also just close the door on people who write in Java, Python, Ruby etc? There are windows bindings or even portable UI toolkits (think GTK+) that run on Windows and enable a variety of developers of other languages to write Windows apps. Are they now only able to write desktop mode apps for consumers who have x86 based machines? Or will Microsoft help foster a community of bindings to WinRT for a variety of languages.

Speaking of, anyone notice that F# was not on that diagram as an option for metro apps? They didn’t say .Net, they said C# and VB.Net.

There was a lot of exciting news, and it’s generally a good direction. But they definitely shook up the developer community and didn’t answer everything. What do you think?