Windows 8 and the deathly XAML

In Microsoft’s history, there have been few announcements that have caused more questions to be raised than Microsoft’s recent news that their new Windows 8 UI would only run application written with HTML 5 and JavaScript!

The confusion in the development community was almost palpable. Almost immediately, the gossip started to spread. Has Microsoft ditched .Net? What about Silverlight? I’ve been learning this stuff for years and you’re telling me it’s all gone? That sort of stuff. Real knee-jerk fear reactions.

When I first viewed the video of the Windows 8, I was thrilled to see the new UI. With elements from Windows Phone 7 and some very nifty gestures, I thought to myself “yes! Microsoft are finally doing something interesting in this space!”. On hearing that HTML 5 and JavaScript would form the basis of the UI, I must admit my first reaction was also “Cool. Something new to learn”. I thought I was the norm in this regards. Most developers are thrilled by new platforms and technologies. It seems that perhaps I’m in the minority.

After the dust settled on this announcement, I knew that there was no way Microsoft would just abandon their other development platforms. Sure, WPF is probably on its way out, by Silverlight is going from strength to strength and Microsoft had also just announced Silverlight 5, so this platform was going nowhere. It made sense to me that Microsoft would continue to use these platforms, whilst also introducing a new one.

Another sticking point is that HTML 5 is still unfinished, so Microsoft wouldn’t really be too wise in throwing away established technologies in favour of something that won’t in all likelihood be fully specified for at least another eighteen months. HTML 5 may be the future, but in the same fashion as Google’s Chrome OS, a move to using only HTML 5 would be ahead of it’s time.

So when the Build conference comes around in September, I think we’ll see a few announcements. Firstly, I think Silverlight 5 will play a big part in the Windows 8 development vision. This makes sense as this platform is replacing WPF. Secondly, I think Microsoft will release a new API that’s based on a new HTML 5 platform. This might be limited to the new Start UI to begin with, but it’s something Microsoft will probably evolve over time.

I, for one, welcome our new HTML 5 overlords.