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back to article In three hours, Microsoft gave the Windows-verse everything it needed

In a three-hour session at Build 2014, Microsoft pulled itself further clear of the wreckage created by the company's ex-Windows 8 chief Steve Sinofsky. Most keynotes ramble at least a little bit, but the sheer deluge of updates at Microsoft's annual developer conference yesterday seemed to leave the audience battered and …

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Anonymous Coward

Clueless

Microsoft still haven't got their act together. I honestly can't commit to any of their techs any more. They certainly can't.

I've been burnt too many times by their killing of products, but at least they weren't as obvious as this nuclear disaster in slow motion.

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Unhappy

Re: Clueless

"I've been burnt too many times by their killing of products"

Quite. When they miss the boat they run around like headless chickens (apologies for metaphors.) I learnt my lesson when we worked closely with MS to develop corporate web applications in the mid-to-late 90s. A project budgeted at over a million, running for 18 months, was eventually brought to its knees by multiple changes of direction from them, each previous "strategy" being abandoned and us with it. You only have to find alternatives to this type of nonsense once, and then discover that they're not as wonderful as they think they are.

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Re: Clueless

>>>> Microsoft still haven't got their act together. I honestly can't commit to any of their techs any more. They certainly can't.

True, all this talk about "developers, developers, developers" was a load of crap. They alienated us, fed us BS, talked down technologies while the market was embracing them, then gave us the Win8/RT/WinPho nightmare.

Wanna code iOS/OSX? Objective C and XCode.

Wanna code Android? Eclipse/ADT.

Someone asks you to write a Windows App? I haven't got a clue what we're meant to use now. Tbh, I'd use a browser.

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Re: Clueless

You gave up on MS the 90s? So you missed out on the hugely successful XP, Windows 7, and the .Net platform now in its 11th year? It's one way to go.

Me? For me it's like musicians - I chose what I like, I don't pick one then blindly buy everything they do. I buy the stuff that makes me happy.

By the sound of it MS are on their way to making something that makes me happy.

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Re: Clueless

"By the sound of it MS are on their way to making something that makes me happy."

I'm going to reserve judgement on that one until braver folks have had a chance to cut their teeth on it.

In my view Microsoft are in a pretty good place in terms of having a broad spectrum of technologies, some of them able to play in the consumer space. They seem to be throwing a mix of R&D projects while reacting to the (negative) feedback of Win 8, this could actually help folks out *and* move their myriad of platforms forward.

We'll see, but if anyone can pull off a turn around like this I think it's MS with Bill Gates lending a bit of drive & vision - it's still a long shot though.

I really can't believe I just wrote all that. I want to point out that I still don't like the way MS conduct their business, and I hope that they can live along side Open Source / Free Software through harnessing their R&D brain trust rather than trying to crush it through legislation & taxation.

Gimpmask because I think there are good odds that this post will come back to haunt me.

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Re: Clueless

"Wanna code iOS/OSX? Objective C and XCode.

Wanna code Android? Eclipse/ADT"

Wanna write for pretty much anything? Use C# and Xamarin, and only worry about maintaining a single code base with some very minor tweaks for how the underlying system behaves (eg: handling an incoming call on mobile).

I can now take a game that I've developed on one mobile platform (usually Windows Phone as I prefer Visual Studio to Xamarin Studio), and go from "new Android Project" to "running game requiring a bit of plumbing work (ie: call handling)" in under an hour.

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Re: Clueless

This is a curate's egg situation, "parts of it are good" is not healthy.

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Re: Clueless

Xamarin at $999/year/developer/platform is a bit pricey, no? Most folks aren't going to chance that and I suspect they aren't going to see a return on the WinPho platform if they do. Is this a popular choice?

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Re: Clueless

"By the sound of it MS are on their way to making something that makes me happy."

A chapter 11 filing?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Clueless

> they run around like headless chickens (apologies for metaphors.)

That's a simile!

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Re: Clueless

>>>> Wanna write for pretty much anything? Use C# and Xamarin, and only worry about maintaining a single code base with some very minor tweaks for how the underlying system behaves (eg: handling an incoming call on mobile).

I'll check it out, cheers.

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Facepalm

Re: Clueless

Jesus, who downvotes someone for wanting to check something out? Has Eadon gotten back on here?

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Re: Clueless

"Xamarin at $999/year/developer/platform is a bit pricey, no?"

Depends what you're after. If you're an indie wanting to experiment, you can start off with, just Android (for example) for $299 for a year's support. And "support" is the key word here - from the Xamarin site FAQ:

"What happens when my Xamarin subscription expires?

Your apps will continue to run even after your subscription has expired. Your Xamarin license is perpetual. If you choose not to renew your subscription, you will no longer have access to new releases and support, and we will be very sad.."

... in other words, you can still build and deploy apps, you just lose updates and support. In fact, their support team recently helped me fix a problem I had that prevented me doing just that, even though my licence had expired!

On the other hand, if you're looking for business use, think about how much it would cost to employ specialists for (say) both and Objective C specialist team for iOS and a Java specialist team for Android. You'll soon recoup the $999 out of a salary you don't have to pay since you'll need fewer developers to maintain a single code base...

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Lots more than that -

They also open-sourced Roslyn (the C# compiler written in C#), they've open-sourced WinJS, and introduced .NET Native. And then of course there's Cortana...

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

Re: Lots more than that -

Andrew wrote this piece about an hour before the Roslyn announcement. We've got something about that coming up.

C.

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Linux

Re: Lots more than that -

>They also open-sourced Roslyn (the C# compiler written in C#), they've open-sourced WinJS, and introduced .NET Native. And then of course there's Cortana...

There's a difference between open source and, free and open source. In Microsoft's case, the former is encumbered with patents. So take a good look at Android and Linux, and watch how Microsoft asserts its patents to rid itself of competition, then think again whether or not it's a good idea to adopt Microsoft technologies.

I for one won't touch dotnet with a ten foot barge pole. Its cross platform support is sketchy at best, and the patents that surround it are concerning to say the least; especially when Microsoft's past behavior is taken into account.

FOSS technologies are the future, not proprietary, patent encumbered ones like Microsoft produces.

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Re: Lots more than that -

"FOSS technologies are the future, not proprietary, patent encumbered ones like Microsoft produces."

It's released under the Apache licence

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Facepalm

Re: Lots more than that -

"It's released under the Apache licence"

Now now, look what you did - you spoiled all the fun with your unwelcome little fact. Tyrion was an a roll with 5 upvotes already!

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Re: Lots more than that -

Roslyn is very interesting and I believe that .Net native is a by-product of that.

WinJS, javascript interfaces to the Windows API, who cares? Phonegap catchup.

You didn't mention Universal Windows Apps. Plenty of euphoria on 'tech' blogs over this, when it's actually just PCLs with new Visual Studio solution templates.

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Happy

Re: Lots more than that -

Is that Tyrion son of Tywin, lord of the 7 etceteras?

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Trollface

Re: Lots more than that -

WinJS, javascript interfaces to the Windows API, who cares?

FTFY :)

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Re: Lots more than that -

"Now now, look what you did - you spoiled all the fun with your unwelcome little fact. Tyrion was an a roll with 5 upvotes already!"

Indeed. As a long time opponent of Microsoft OS's and business practices, I get frustrated by the damage done by the FUD spreading Linux users that happen to be cult-of-RMS fanbois, they do more harm than good to Linux and FOSS in general.

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Re: Lots more than that -

Open sourced WinJS...oh thank the lord! I think not...I think humanity would have been better off had they not bothered!

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Windows

Took them long enough...

But it's nice that they care enough about their jobs to actually deliver 90% of a consistent target for developers to aim at.

POSIX must have outlived more MS APIs than I've had hot dinners by now. :P

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Re: Took them long enough...

Ignoring X11 for a moment… which has similarly been around almost as long as I've been alive.

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Roo
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Pint

Re: Took them long enough...

"Ignoring X11 for a moment… which has similarly been around almost as long as I've been alive."

Have an upvote, I was going to include X11 but I thought, let's not dilute the point... But while we're at it, how about some of the newbies like zlib, STL, libTIFF, OpenGL, OpenSSL, ... and so on... ? ;)

Have a beer for the freedom and free beer !

P.S. I recall a TV item on the MIT team working on X - and their 1MIP, 1Megapixel workstation - the specs seemed fantastic at the time, but I felt they were way too low for what they were trying to achieve. Then along came Apollo, Sun et al and suddenly you had hi-res full colour UIs on monster monitors. A Windows 3.1 PC was a bit of a let down after experiencing an Apollo Domain box for 15 minutes. :P

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Joke

Re: Took them long enough...

The only reason X11 is still around because nobody has figured out a way of shutting it down it that'll work on all implementations.

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Re: Took them long enough...

Ignoring X11 for a moment

Technically, X11 is a protocol. The API is Xlib. Ah, sweet pedantry.

X11 is a relative newcomer - only been around since '87. Various UNIX APIs (later standardized by POSIX and X.Open, and then the SUS) and parts of the C library (later standardized by ANSI X3.159 and ISO 9899) have gone unchanged since the early '70s.1

Similarly, MVS goes back to '74 and many of its APIs live on in zOS today.

In Microsoft's defense, sort of, I will note that there are still available Windows APIs that haven't changed since Windows 2.0, such as SendMessage. (They may date back to Windows 1.0; I never wrote code for anything prior to 2.0.) So that makes those APIs as old as version-11 Xlib. Of course, keeping some APIs says nothing about the ones that were discarded.

For that matter, NTVDM maintains various DOS APIs, such as they are, and it's still present in 32-bit Windows 7. That pushes the oldest APIs Microsoft still supports back to 1981, though purely as a curiosity.

1Roughly 1973; before that the C language was sufficiently different that the APIs can't in fairness be considered the same in most cases.

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Re: Took them long enough...

> That pushes the oldest APIs Microsoft still supports back to 1981

MS-DOS 1.x APIs were cloned from CP/M with only minor changes, so make that 1975.

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Too Little Too Late

In all honesty, I think it's too late for Microsoft. The world has moved on from Microsoft's proprietary API's to FOSS solutions like Android, ChromeOS, Ubuntu, and SteamOS. Who really needs Windows these days? Some might say the enterprise, but I don't think the enterprise really matters because they're always a decade behind everyone else. Eventually they'll catch up as well, and they won't be going Windows that's for sure. Business, governments, etc always eventually follow the consumer trends. Especially since BYOD and cloud computing now do most of what traditional fat clients used to do.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Too Little Too Late

Down-voted for mentioning the once-promising and now a dog turd UBUNTU

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Re: Too Little Too Late

BYOD mostly means iThingy or Windows these days and this will likely grow since BYOD get's more formalized currently and the question is more and more often "will it integrated with the company network/security setup". Getting a Win8 tablet pc "in" is easier in 90+ percent of the companies (that already run/use Windows Authentification) than doing the same with an Android. iOS being the "one with paying customers" gets some support at least. Helps that there is only one manufacturer...

And outside a few very powerful units - BYOD can not replace a classic desktop. Legal reasons alone make sure of that since a "computer based workplace" needs to follow "da rules" and a 10'' touch tablet does not. And once you start looking for the needed docking stations etc - welcome to the Intel / Windows (or MacOS) world. And as much as I like a good tablet pc for meetings, presentations and similar customer events - for programming and larger writting jobs it gets snapped into the docking station connected to two big monitors and a keyboard. And that is a HUGE 13'' Convertible with a top end keyboard etc.

OS is "whatever fits the needs and infrastructures" and "whatever runs the software I want/need". Both in companies and in most peoples privat lives. Computers are tools for about 98 percent of the end users, they do not want a DIY system that needs experiments/trials to get a software/hardware running or one that is no longer supported 12 month after introduction (Hi Samsung, Bye Samsung)

Proprietary API are not a problem as long as they are well documented and long term stable. Say "will be supported at least from 2003 to 2014". Unstable API (and ABI) that change every year or so are a LOT more problematic since they require a constant re-work. Windows, Solaris (and I assume MacOS) keep API, ABI and driver models static at least two major releases often more (Win8 kicked XP driver support IIRC)

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Re: Too Little Too Late

I agree it's too little, too late. I think the sudden appearance of Office on iOS is a sign Nadella recognises market share is more important than quibbling with Apple about their 30% App Store cut.

Imagine what the market share of Office on iOS would be if Ballmer hadn't wasted nearly 2 years arguing the toss about that. Instead they're now trying to charge £80 a year for Office when all new iPhones and iPads come with Apple's Pages/Numbers/Keynote apps for free.

Unless you're a power-user that needs macros and mail merges those apps are more than adequate for any average user, meaning Microsoft are again losing out on capturing new Office users.

I like what Nadella is doing, but I think it really is too late to turn the ship around...

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Re: Too Little Too Late

"The world has moved on from Microsoft's proprietary API's to FOSS solutions like Android, ChromeOS, Ubuntu, and SteamOS. "

Hmmmmm, another one who thinks FOSS == Linux/GNU

Your use of the 'fanboi-alert' penguin icon was a clue!

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Re: Too Little Too Late

As soon as you use the stuff in the office / in BYOD the "can understand MS Format fully" element comes in. Not "almost" not "mostly" but "100 percent as the original". Been there, done that, thought about MARVing the customer.

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Re: Too Little Too Late

"The world has moved on from Microsoft's proprietary API's to FOSS solutions like Android, ChromeOS, Ubuntu, and SteamOS. "

With the exception of Ubuntu, all of those are like Free, Open-Source Software, but not actually FOSS. However you build them, the free sources of Android can't make the Android or ChromeOS that Google gives to its OEM partners.

To add to Jamie's point, above: I'd argue that the products that have done most commercial harm to Microsoft are Apache, PHP and MySQL, but I guess as they're not GNU-licenced, they don't count?

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Re: Too Little Too Late

"I don't think the enterprise really matters "

Tyrion, you're obviously a genius seeing the world in a far cleverer way than the rest of us. Or quite mad.

Or just plain silly.

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Re: Too Little Too Late

Actually, I think you are mostly right, apart from on one point. In the consumer landscape computers are not just tools, they are increasingly moving into the fashion area and that puts a whole different spin on it, a spin Microsoft has never been able to get rotating.

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Re: Too Little Too Late

I do not see much financial harm done by Apache or PHP. The Apache runs just fine under Windows as does PHP. Choosing between them is often a "what do we run also" question. If i.e Sharepoint is part of your setup you'll more likely use IIS and a ,NET language

One could argue that mySQL eats a few MS SQL Server licences and/or into Access (more into the latter) but if I NEED a full sized RDBMS with Triggers, Stored Procedures etc the competitors are Oracle, DB/2 and Sybase.

And while MS would gladly sell you a Visual Studio they have included the IIS with all server versions of Windows (and quite a few non server ones) since NT4. And the Dev Environment always was an "enabler" not a cash cow. The full versions are costly for a hobbist but small money for a professional developer who makes money with it. OTOH most hobbist can do well with the free version.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Too Little Too Late

"Apache, PHP and MySQL"

Those all run fine under Windows. And are much less likely to be hacked on that than say on Linux.

And they don't really cost Microsoft anything commercially - MySQL is on a par to the free version of SQL Server but with far fewer features, and Microsoft includes IIS / .Net in with it's OS licences.

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Re: Too Little Too Late

> MySQL is on a par to the free version of SQL Server

Except it is not really free. Not only is it time limited but you need to buy CALs for the clients to access it.

"""SQL Server 2014 is available for download today as a 180-day free trial version through Microsoft's TechNet Evaluation Center here."""

PostgreSQL is better.

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Re: Too Little Too Late

> Those all run fine under Windows.

No, not really. They run, but slowly, with missing functionality. When you use them side by side, as we do, it's very obvious they were written for Linux.

>Windows. And are much less likely to be hacked on that than say on Linux.

News to me.

And isn't the free included-with-the-OS IIS limited to a total of 10 simultaneous connections?

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Mushroom

I hate to bang on about this AGAIN

But this is garbage and always has been except for trivial widgets:

" Finally, at long last, developers can use "90 per cent" (its figure) of the same code base to create Universal Windows apps for Windows Phone, RT, desktop Windows and now Xbox."

No you need DIFFERENT GUI and UI strategies for

1: small phone/screen

2: big phone

3: tablet

4: Desktop / laptop etc

5: TV with only a remote

6: Games console with game pad etc/

7: Server, even if GUI as it has to be bandwidth / Remote Access friendly

Underlying non UI related code could be the same. But writing the SAME non-trivial application for these is fantasy. The same GUI dehydrated death no matter if old idea of miniaturising Win9x for WinCE 320 x 240 or expanding Zune GUI ported to phone up to a desktop.

Sinfofsky was doubly mad forcing one tile GUI yet different APIs.

Also ditch the stupid ribbon and Win 2.0 themes.

Fix the damm bugs in Explorer there since 1995 instead of messing with new features.

Obviously APIs to access storage / files / draw primitives / print / communication etc should be the same. But even if EVERY API was identically compatible for the 7 platforms there you'd be moron to port say the same 3D modelling or accounts package with no GUI or design changes. I'd guess a trivial thing like an eBay sniping tool could be a little "widget" the same on all.

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Re: I hate to bang on about this AGAIN

Ah. Silly me (and one or two others) then, for spending all that time creating a responsive design for my web site. Did you know that XAML is mark-up in the same way that HTML is? And that you can build your app using HTML and JavaScript instead of .Net?

Oh, and if you'd paid attention you'd know that you can choose which parts to share, and which not, and that you can even choose to share no components at all (*gasp*).

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Re: I hate to bang on about this AGAIN

"Ah. Silly me (and one or two others) then, for spending all that time creating a responsive design for my web site."

If your website tries to look the same on all these platforms then yes, you've wasted your time. If it adapts to the target device and offers different layout, different facilities, different navigation, then you've done just what the man said and created different UIs for each case. Well done.

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Re: I hate to bang on about this AGAIN

That's why the universal app projects in Visual Studio allow you to share as much or as little common code as necessary. If you do have something that works fine on WinPhone then you can go ahead and push it, otherwise you can tune controls or whole pages to look the best on the different platforms.

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Re: I hate to bang on about this AGAIN

"And that you can build your app using HTML and JavaScript instead of .Net?"

But would you want to? For me, there are a few things that I've yet to see Javascript do well enough for my liking. Little things like, ooooh, readable code, inheritance, interfaces...

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The new CEO is on the right track, in my humble opinion. The latest move of giving away Office to iPad users is the perfect indication that he is thinking with a clear head. If Microsoft cannot make money selling tablet hardware, at least try to profit from the tablet market in software. Many users, especially corporate users, will want to pay for Office 365 so they can create Office documents on iPads instead of just reading them. That will provide a steady revenue stream eventually. If Microsoft does not do this, eventually some other office productivity software will take hold on tablet devices and Microsoft will be locked out once again.

I think Microsoft's long term strategy should involving better focus on their core products: operating systems, office productivity and server software. Anything else is a distraction. Microsoft will never beat Twitter and Facebook in social media. Xbox is finally making money, and it should be put on the block for cash. Microsoft needs to stop trying to be everything to everybody. Many of the recent acquisitions are waste of shareholders' money and are merely more distraction to Microsoft's core businesses.

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Office for iPad may be good, but an £80 per year subscription to be able to edit files is way to expensive. If they sold the app for maybe £15 - £20, I might consider buying it if the reviews were good, but I'll stick with Kingsoft Office and Apple's own offering for now.

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Not trying to defend the cost, but...

If you (or your workplace) already has an Office365 subscription for your use, then the iPad apps are included in that. There's no extra fee. And the sub you make for the iPad version includes the desktop versions, likewise.

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