Recap on my latest training week, opinion on Windows 8 preview.

Every year, I try to follow training, to stay aware of the latest and greatest technologies and to see what’s in the pipeline for us, developers, geeks, in the more or less near future.
Last fall I took up some great Silverlight training while on a project. I couldn't grasp all of it in time to leverage my newly acquired knowledge because I was juggling with too many other things at the same time on that project and in general. But I promised myself to get back to it while on "vacation" (which is actually a pause for self-training in my home office more than a vacation).

Since my vacation-training-time began, not being devoted strictly to the dot net world, I took a class, beginners' class, to learn how to develop applications for the iPhone and iPad. And then, last week, May 31st - June 3rd, I was at DevTeach, a conference held here in Montreal, mostly for the appealing MobileTeach track, finishing my week with a condensed day of code on Windows Phone 7, quite fun!

Most of my sessions were very interesting and stimulating for me, I have learned a new platform (Android); I also have validated my strong interest for the mobile field. The whole week we got to meet great people, some better speakers than others, most of them were very good. I followed sessions about the Windows Phone 7, Android, the iPhone app development, some about the Mono tools, and so on.

I also went to take a peek at the latest technical goodies of Silverlight, got to see what would be the next best things in Silverlight 5. Silverlight is one of the two technical choices to develop applications for the Windows Phone 7 platform, hence my interest; the other choice being XNA (XNA is known for games development on Xbox).

While at DevTeach, I believe it was Wednesday, June 1st, I noticed a buzz in the hallway in-between sessions. People were looking at YouTube, their email, their smart phones. People were chatting about something and they seemed... stressed and unhappy (for lack of a better politically correct word). After reading my Twitter feeds myself, I understood why:

On June 1st, Microsoft published a press release and also a video on YouTube. That was about the future release of Windows, code-named Windows 8. In this video we see a Microsoft guy showing a preview of Windows 8, we got to see a glimpse of the eventual future looks and feel of it, something that is made to be on touch screen or regular platform. Something that takes user experience on the front row, like a gigantic touch-pad, tablet, TV-sized.

What the buzz was about is that Microsoft did mention this:
We introduce a new platform, based on standards Web technologies, so HTML5 and JavaScript, and it allows the millions of developers who know how to use those technologies, to create a new kind of app for Windows 8. These apps are full screen, they’re beautiful, they are designed for touch. But of course, they work great with mouse and keyboard as well, if that’s what you have. And that it could prove to be an exciting opportunity, both for Microsoft and for developers (Ref. forum post on silverlight.net). No word specifically on the state of .NET, WPF, or Silverlight in the Windows 8 world.

The absence of word doesn’t mean it will be obsolete though, but what message exactly my future and current clients perceived?

Did they hear the same thing I heard?

I know I can leverage SL/WPF and .NET for a while in my work. However, did everybody understood that?

Am I too optimistic?

You have to admit, it does send a weird message to us and also to the general public, to business owners and also eventual clients of freelance developers like me. I don’t know about the other developers but I speak for myself and I do have a concern. A concern that the technologies I have been learning, trying to master, investing time and money in (training, books, eventual certifications)  may be tagged as “obsolete” by the very people who were promoting it not too long ago. A little bit too soon for my liking.

Finally, I will quote the same forum post I referenced above:
We do not want Silverlight and WPF apps to be relegated to a "classic" (if even a "legacy") category, while we hope to see a paradigm of "Windows 8 HTML5 Apps" exist alongside of "Windows 8 WPF/Silverlight Apps," both of which will constitute the front-facing, cool new look of Windows 8.” And I will add the same concerns for the Windows Phone platform that is following down my roadmap.

Historically speaking, when Microsoft makes announcements like this one, it takes at least a year and a half to release the thing to the public, after Beta testing. Announcements like this one makes us almost panic. Sure I can calm down. And not think that I may have wasted money and time in SL/WPF. I know I didn’t. Does everybody know that? Do my future clients know that? Do they know that I am not investing in obsolete technologies? Am I?

We sometimes forget that 1 to 2 years is a long way to go in “Software Years”, we have time to use those skills we have acquired and leverage them into great applications, for current, present-day platforms.
To be continued…


Microsoft’s Youtube video about Windows 8: http://youtu.be/p92QfWOw88I
Build Conference: http://www.buildwindows.com/

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