back to article Post-defenestration Microsoft: It's the APIs, stupid. And Metro

"Tiles to the right of them, Tiles to left of them, Tiles in front of them" - Alfred Tennyson, The Charge of the Metro Brigade (1854) The sudden departure of Steve Sinofsky from Microsoft leaves Redmond with its biggest crisis for years - and it needs to assure investors as a matter of urgency. He's achieved a huge amount of …

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

Re: WP8

"when the NT kernel was originally written processor agnostic"

I take your point, but the kernel today is a different beast to the system put together by Cutler et al back in the 90s, right? Plus support for MIPS, Alpha, and PowerPC was dropped after NT 4.0, and the microkernel design is compromised by the placement of drivers - always has been. Prof Tanenbaum would have a fit.

The achievement is porting the core of a modern-day Windows OS to ARM. You may think that's small potatoes in the same way a brain surgeon considers the simplicity of routine operations; if so, I tip my hat to you.

C.

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Stop

Re: WP8

Whilst the the very core of the NT kernel certainly has leanings towards being a Microkernel - particularly in terms of modularity - it's about as monolithic as they come.

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Re: WP8

Porting an well designed and portable kernel to a new platform is a new CPU architecture such that it is functional is relatively straightforward. There is very little platform-specific code in a modern operating system. Go and look at the Linux or *BSD source trees to confirm this.

What will have been a lot of work is cracking the problem of power management - particularly as WIndows 8 is targeted at mobile devices. MS has achieved this for no fewer than 3 ARM SoC platforms - no small achievement.

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

Re: Re: WP8

"no small achievement"

Right, so we're all agreed on one thing, then :-)

C.

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Silver badge

Re: WP8

My 1st NT machine was a 16MHz 386 with 12M bytes RAM. NT3.51

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Bronze badge

<groan>

I feel the need to grab a Microsoft executive by the scruff of the neck and bang their head on a desk while repeating "The OS is not the GUI, the GUI is not the OS. You should be able to design both independently. You should be able to replace both(*) independently."

(*) well... at least the GUI.

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Re: <groan>

So Windows 3.1 was no small achievement.

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Re: <groan>

That argument didn't help Symbian

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Anonymous Coward

Re: <groan>

You can it's called the shell

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Meh

Re: <groan>

You might want to do what I just did. Waffle off to the Classic Shell site and read the "how it works and how I did it" section.

Basically, using the provided hooks to replace MS's shell with your own Just Does Not Fucking Work(tm). It would seem that the OS itself cares deeply about the structure of certain things that should, in any sane world, be entirely internal to the shell implementation, which artificially constrains what can be done in the shell.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: <groan>

You might remember, some years back, all that nonsense about the browser being at the centre of everything. How it could not be removed from the operating system, and how, eventually, everything would run under the browser.

Microsoft loves this sort of stuff. You're going to have to bang a lot of heads on a lot of desks.

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Re: <groan>

The window manager is the shell is the file manager is the browser.

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Silver badge

Between a rock and a hard place

MS' problem is that phones/tablets have taken up a large proportion of the populace's mindset, as well as cash.

Leaving it to apple and google and valve would lead to losing the home market. That means fewer windows devs growing up with windows at home, which is not an option.

Being fourth in the tablet/phone market is hard to fix, so why not leverage the desktop monopoly to accustom users to the phone/tablet OS? That seems reasonable.

However, the tablet/phone market is not like the PC market. Document formats which provide desktop lockin for MS aren't really used there, so loyalty to a brand/vendor is slim beyond the fanbois. The documents of the tablet are in h264, epub and mp3 formats, so even if people become familiar with the GUI (whether they like it or not) there's little to hold them there unless it is actually "better."

What MS should have done is build a private cloud server for the home. Make information available online/offline and sync'ing brilliant. They should have paired a very low power server with their phone. They should have built a private cloud and phone with no advertising or data slurping. Produce something better, not just rely on leverage or monopoly to work for you. Got a hotmail account? Get fast flux DNS too so people can run drop-box or lync from their own homes without needing apple or google's cloud. Don't annoy OEMs with surface, work with them to provide in-box NAS solutions. Put windowsRT on a PCIe card with SATA and NIC ports to convert DAS to NAS so that when you power off your PC, your data is still all available.

Just like the old windows-on-a-phone attempts, MS has just tried to re-skin what they already had, rather than provide something new and better.

MS is providing a solution (OS) for a problem that doesn't exist. How many people are looking around thinking, we really need a windows OS on a phone?

What people might be asking is, "how can I get better privacy while using my phone?"

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Between a rock and a hard place

"so why not leverage the desktop monopoly to accustom users to the phone/tablet OS? That seems reasonable"

so why not leverage the desktop monopoly to brainwash users to the phone/tablet OS? - That seems like Microsoft

Fixed

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FAIL

Just wait...

MSFT down 9.28% over the last 5 days. Not what I would want to see as a shareholder after the launch of the "greatest Windows ever". This will get ugly and Ballmer will soon follow Sinofsky.

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STD

The current malaise infecting Microsoft reminds me of an STD. If you have one and get it treated then you may suffer a bit of embarrassment, especially if you have to tell others, but then you'll usually get better with treatment. If you have one but pretend it doesn't exist to the extent that you're beating up those who'd normally support you just to pretend that you're better than ever then eventually you'll either fall over dead or become the social equivalent of Abu Qatada at BNP rally.

Admit Win8's broken, take the hit for a year in developing an SP1 that creates a proper desktop GUI while actively promoting in the short terms that Win7 is actually a very good, stable and quick OS with massive compatibility and consumer user adoption.

Managing the user change process from XP to Win7 is hard enough for most businesses but, as mentioned above, the change from Win7 to Win8 is large enough that most companies just won't bother. Keep them sweet with Win7 until there's an OS capable of being business-friendly.

As an off-topic aside, the company I'm working at now would happily go to a full Apple rollout rather than Win8 if only they could get a Citrix desktop to match.

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Bronze badge
IT Angle

I realise the horde of anti-MS downvoters will hit this hard...

Use W8 with a touchscreen laptop (which I did at an HP store in Johannesburg) and it's actually pretty slick. Bear in mind every time Facebook gets a slightly new look everyone's up in arms defending the previous look...which they also hated when it came around.

Maybe many years of software development have made me a bit immune to worrying about UI changes, I dunno. I totally don't see the problem. I certainly don't see the problem for El Reg users (hence the icon). The day I start complaining about the fact that everything's changing very slightly is hopefully the day I'm in an old people's home :)

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Bronze badge

Re: I realise the horde of anti-MS downvoters will hit this hard...

No-one denies that Win8's touchscreen support is superb and it comes into it's own with a touchscreen. One of the major complaints about TIFKAM and Windows 8 is that it can feel like a touchscreen OS with mouse & keyboard support tacked on as afterthought.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "with a touchscreen laptop"

with a touchscreen laptop Is the salient bit of your comment. What about the millions who will be using Windows without such a thing?

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Silver badge
WTF?

Re: "with a touchscreen laptop"

Over three quarters of ALL computers sold over the last five years or so are laptops. With trackpads. They are only occasionally supplied with that god-awful RSI-inducing 1960s-era design that is the plastic rat.

The desktop PC so beloved of the more vocal elements of El Reg's commentariat has been dying since before the release of Microsoft Vista for f*ck's sake. Stop banging on about it as if it's some sacred beast: it's dead. It has ceased to be. It is an ex-form-factor. Certainly nobody's selling them in any great numbers today.

Note that OS X's last two incarnations have also favoured the (multi-)touch trackpad, to the extent that Apple are even offering a separate multi-touch trackpad for their iMac, Mac mini and Mac Pro users.

And, yes, there are plenty of whiners from amateurs who only think they're good with computers, but who really aren't anywhere near as expert as they think they are.

Incidentally, professionals who are actually worthy of that name learn the bloody keyboard shortcuts, which – surprise, surprise – tend to stay much the same even across major releases. (Graphic artists are one of the few exceptions.) That mouse pointer, the icons, and so on are only there for the newbies. This is very basic GUI design stuff: You're only supposed use the mouse, pull-down menus, and icons to explore and learn the system. All those keyboard shortcuts in the menus and tool-tips? They're not there for decoration.

Windows 8 is a transitional product. It is most emphatically NOT change for its own sake: Microsoft can't just ditch the old WIMP GUI overnight; they need to allow developers and enterprises time to adapt, and we're likely to see that old desktop stick around for a few release cycles yet. But it will be killed off eventually. Any applications that rely on that environment are on notice.

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Bronze badge

@ Sean Timarco Baggaley

Yup, but a laptop with a touchpad is a slightly different beast from a laptop with a touchscreen. One could also point out that Apple closely evaluated going the touchscreen route with their laptops, but rejected it in favour of improving the touchpads

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Gold badge

Sinofski.

So to summarise; he's screwed it up good 'n proper, leaving a right old mess of half-finished bits 'n pieces lying around. Then buggered off with a fat severance package before the shit really hits the fan.

Sounds like all the right qualifications to be an "energetic and capable executive" to me.

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Silver badge
Windows

The sheer arrogance is baffling...

"A new unified API would be the means to do it: developers would write a Metro app and it would run across a range of Microsoft devices. So although Microsoft was non-existent in tablets and barely visible in smartphones, developers would be obliged to make it their third choice.."

And of course these developers would have to pay to even get the opportunity to actually develop applications for their smartphone (without any option to try on the real thing, even if you want to use your own phone, before you buy).

And once you have your killer application ready then best prepare yourself to pay Microsoft again because while you now can place your application on the marketplace; Microsoft wants to have their cut of the deal as well (which in all honesty is fair since you're using their infrastructure, but within the context of already having to purchase an expensive subscription in order to actually being able to develop something...).

Then there's of course the tie-in with Windows 8 for some development environments. I would have to purchase Windows 8, invest hours in setting the whole thing up on my PC and require a steady dose of medicine to keep my blood pressure low as I actually try to work with this monstrosity.

Are we there yet? Not quite... Paid apps. on the MS marketplace can't be submitted to all markets. Cyprus? Forget about payouts, even though its a European country (part of the European Union). WTF?

Greenland? Nope. Iceland? Nope. Iraq (wasn't that liberated according to the media?)? Nope.

Here's a really funny one: Liechtenstein? Monaco? Can't target those, check out the List of regional info for Winphone development.

"developers would be obliged", well, you don't say....

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Bronze badge

Re: The sheer arrogance is baffling...

Here's a really funny one: Liechtenstein? Monaco? Can't target those, check out the List of regional info for Winphone development.

It gets worse when you look at the payouts minus sales tax. See Tax details for paid apps

Looking at the EU countries there, the lucky developer sees the VAT applicable for each country subtracted from the payout.

Oh, you have to fill out tax forms too

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Happy

Windows 8 learning curve

I installed windows 8 and was quickly frustrated by it. Then I searched around for a bit and got used to it. All you have to do is hit the windows key on the keyboard or hover around the corners of the screen. Now I'm used to it's super quick boot time and tiles that tell me the weather and things without having to do anything, I like it. I don't like the new IE app, as I find it fiddly with a mouse to open up a favourite, but I understand with a touch screen it would be a more pleasant experience. Want to open word? Go to the metro interface (hit the windows key) and hit W. Oh look there it is. Yes, it took me a few days of getting used to, but I would feel robbed if I went back to Windows 7. All that for £25. Not bad at all.

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Meh

What nobody has contemplated is...

...what's going to happen to Microsoft when Google make a play for the desktop market?

Microsoft has the desktop market, sure, and is trying to get a foothold in the mobile market. We all know that.

However, Google owns the mobile market. Android is *firmly* entrenched and is not going to go away. What is to stop Google taking the Android way of doing things to the desktop, and releasing a full blown Android OS for desktop/laptop? It's only a small leap from the very sophisticated system that they *already* have running on very capable tablet hardware. Some Android systems even support a bluetooth mouse for goodness sakes!

It's not as bonkers as it sounds. Sure, they would have to ground to make up in terms of providing quality production-grade applications (OpenOffice for Android, anyone?) but there are millions of experienced Android Devs out there who would *flock* to write the next killer office apps for Android Desktop if it were to become a reality. It might not set the enterprise sector of the OS market on fire (Windows firmly entrenched) but average Joe, who uses his home PC/Laptop/Tablet for Gmail, FB and Twitter and FF would be very comfortable using Android on a laptop with a real mouse and keyboard.

I'd like to see a cogent "what if" analysis of this by Andrew or one of our other esteemed journalists at the 'Reg. The way I see it is this:

Microsoft is trying to increase the coverage area of Windows by increasing it's 'width' to encompass tablet/mobile systems. Fine. But Android is already in the Mobile/Tablet market, and I personally believe that it would be far easier for Google to come at Microsoft's desktop end of the market from their mobile end, than it is for Microsoft to break into Google's market share from Windows.

Microsoft are simply lucky (IMHO) that Google hasn't come after their lunch.

Yet.

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Bronze badge

Ignorance Is An Excuse

I hope that Windows 8 isn't as bad as some find it. But while the world still has no choice but to take the operating system Microsoft gives it, forcing computer users to relearn so much not for their benefit but for Microsoft's is unconscionable.

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Holmes

why so many appstores?

The author raised a valid point, which none of the commentors have touched upon till now. Why have separate apps and/or appstores for PC/Tablet/Phone/Xbox etc?

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Paris Hilton

Parlez-vous?

Did the new Windows dominatrix decree we must all say 'Metro' again??

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