HTML5 Isn't Replacing the Windows Client Any Time Soon

Thursday Aug 18th 2011 by Paul Ferrill

Early previews of Windows 8 have caused quite a stir in the developer community due to the emphasis on HTML5 and JavaScript as the "primary" way for building new apps for the Windows 8 platform. At the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference there was a slightly different picture presented.

Early previews of Windows 8 have caused quite the stir in the developer community. The uproar is mainly due to the emphasis on HTML5 and JavaScript as the "primary" way for building new applications for the Windows 8 platform. At the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference there was at least one session painting a slightly different picture.
"How to benefit from custom development on the Microsoft Platform" was the session title, and the speaker was Doug Seven, Director of Product Management for Visual Studio. In his talk, Doug made it very clear that the client was not going away any time soon as it is the primary platform in every enterprise. They do recognize the browser and the mobile device as target platforms and have tools to let developers target their applications for all three.
There were a few statements made in this session that should get developers' attention. First is that Microsoft is changing the way they approach developers. They see two separate groups as targets for their developer's tools: those that build consumer applications and those primarily involved in enterprise development. The motivations of these two groups are different and require different tools to help them do their job better.
For the enterprise developer they recognize the need for process and rigorous testing to support line-of-business applications. This has been addressed to a large part with Microsoft's Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) offerings. The next version of Visual Studio will have even more tools to help better manage "real-world" work scenarios such as when a new high priority task comes down causing one or more developers to stop working on the current project and deal with the new task.

This type of crisis management happens all the time and makes estimating and tracking of projects difficult. Visual Studio V.Next will have new tools to help with this scenario from both a management perspective in terms of scheduling and planning the actual work, and with a "pause and resume" feature for the developer to make it easier to pick back up where you left off once the crisis has been handled.
Microsoft sees the consumer focused developer in terms of the applications they develop and their target market. This is the group developing primarily for iOS and Android devices today. According to Doug Seven, "we are not relevant to these developers today". This group is one of the focus areas for the next release of Visual Studio and will include tools specifically targeted at building applications using HTML5 and JavaScript. These tools will be shown for the first time at the Microsoft Build conference in September.
The biggest takeaway from this session was Microsoft's continuing commitment to client-based application development. This means you won't have to give up on your C# or Visual Basic skills any time soon. Windows 8 will still support these applications, and there will still be a need for developers to create them.

At the same time, there will be significant opportunities for developers with HTML5 and JavaScript skills to build a new class of applications that Microsoft envisions running on any of the three platforms. At one time this was the stated goal of Silverlight. At the end of the day Microsoft has to adapt to where the market is headed, and this appears to be their attempt to be more relevant to the exploding mobile device platform.

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