Yesterday I shared my predictions for Windows 8 at the Build conference. Today I can say that the keynote exceeded my expectations. There were a lot of amazing announcements that I’m excited to share with you. First, let’s recap my predictions:

  • Microsoft will focus on Windows 8 as the platform for multiple devices and specifically address the tablet/slate competition space. To be convincing they’ll need to address speed and responsiveness, but likely they’ll focus on:
    • The richness of the OS – it’s not just a big phone, but the full Windows enchilada
    • Security and policies that are lacking in iPad
    • The new HTML5+JavaScript option for development to draw in the developers who traditionally don’t work with the Microsoft stack
    • Some lip service to writing it once and running it everywhere whether it’s the desktop, laptop, or slate
    • The touch-first features of the new OS
  • Microsoft will emphasize that managed code and Silverlight are not dead and will be fully supported on Windows 8. I don’t see the death of Silverlight any time soon (again, these are my predictions … it will be interesting to see what really happens)
  • They almost have to address the community of developers concerned about managed code and emphasize that it is not going away. I’m guessing they’ll talk about how managed code will work with Windows 8 and perhaps reveal some details about Xaml and C# either as Silverlight or something new for developing apps that target Windows 8
  • Microsoft will also address the unmanaged coders and focus on how C++ is coming back to front and center on the new platform, and likely cite some performance examples of why native code is important

I would say I hit the mark fairly close, in fact I underestimated what would be revealed. The main theme for the keynote was bold and re-imagined. While these words were repeated so many times they became a bit cliché, I would say they accomplished both.

The key points the keynote focused on were form factors, mobility, connectivity and sharing, and that services are intrinsic in modern applications. The keynote was divided into four distinct areas, and I’ll cover those each.

The Windows 8 Experience

The new experience boasts a smaller memory foot print “up front” and small goodies like a gesture-based login. The main screen is touch-centric but not touch-specific and works fine with the keyboard and mouse. There is a new format that I’ll call “clipboard plus” for integration between applications. This is incredible because a “photo chooser” can easily take you into Facebook for example to select social media pictures, without you coding a line of integration. The integration points are called “charms” and are consistent between apps. An example of a charm is integrated search that allows you to pass the single search phrase to multiple applications and get results based on Bing, social media, your file system or whatever else you like.

Building the Applications

I was worried we might not hear about the framework today, but I was wrong. The shell has been re-organized to feature a WinRT layer that supplies object-based APIs that are exposed to any language of your choice – C, C++, C#, VB, and of course the much-hyped JavaScript. A Visual Studio 2011 demo showed a photo application built with a few dozen lines of code using a new JavaScript, HTML5-based project. The project was then opened in Expression Blend which has been extended to support HTML5 just as well as it handles XAML. For those who thought it all would become HTML5, they then pulled down a Silverlight application and built it for the new platform. Just a few tweaks turned it into a native Metro application with full integration. XAML is right on top of the stack proving that the core Silverlight technologies are still very much a part of Windows 8.

The new application store is integrated directly into the development platform and allows direct publishing of applications. Sinofsky described as being as simple as “ordering a pizza.” There is a visualization of the steps within the process and developers will have full access to the tools used to analyze and validate the applications that are published.

The most impressive feature I saw was the ability to take one code base and very easily and quickly build to the desktop, to Silverlight, and to the Windows Phone. This is exactly what people have been looking for and what addresses the unfounded fears that Silverlight technology would go away.


I mentioned that one thing Build would need to address is the iPad. I think they did that well by not only showcasing some amazing UI features that make the iPad feel old, but by showcasing the hardware as well. The boot is ultra fast, taking only seconds. The bootstrapper includes malware detection and they showed an infected USB boot drive get halted because it contained a virus. A new “connected standby” mode wakes up periodically to process timer and network based addressed and then idles the power. All applications are hardware accelerated out of the box for the richest possible experience. Devices can be extended with miniature applets that integrate directly into your existing applications – for example, a print dialog that doesn’t require you to “go somewhere else” to set up the printer settings. We saw super-thin laptops that were actually thinner than the legacy CAT-5 and USB connectors.

Integrated into the OS are options to refresh the system and remove malware and adware, as well as a command-line option to create a snapshot of the baseline and use that to restore the machine. There is an improved task manager, improved multi-monitor support, and Hyper-V built into the client. The onscreen keyboard is also very welcome and enables you to use a tablet to remote into a development machine and work (and no, I doubt I would be doing that very often).

Windows Live Integration

I did not expect them to address the iCloud but they did that through Windows LIve. There are settings to automatically synchronize between PCs and cloud-base email that automatically integrates across all devices. There are shared calendars, shared photos, and other repositories that synchronize to the cloud seamlessly from applications. A share charm allows you to integrate all of these items including between applications and to the cloud. You can also use the cloud to remote back to your devices. The key here is using the Live id to integrate all of the devices from your desktop and laptop to your Windows Phone and slate devices. This comes with a new API to make it very easy to integrate into your applications.


I am very excited about what I heard today. We can finally move on with the conversations about Silverlight. We will be able to use our investment in C# and XAML technology moving forward while allowing HTML5 and JavaScript developers to join the platform as well. The new platform looks exciting and responsive with a lot of features that put the customer experience first. I think these new devices and the new OS can absolutely compete with the likes of iPad because they provide an enhanced touch experience while carrying forward all of the security policies and features as well as supporting all of the legacy applications that came with Windows 7 and the 450 million people who have installed it. I believe this is a very exciting time and there is incredible opportunity now to build the next generation of applications using our existing knowledge and investment in Microsoft technologies.

Don’t Forget to Download the Preview!

The preview, including the OS for both 32-bit and 64-bit, along with development tools will be available after 8pm PST on Tuesday, 9/13 at this link:

Jeremy Likness