Windows 8 and the Two Worlds of HTML


It’s a commonplace in literature that different people see the world in remarkably different ways.  North Koreans and South Koreans, big-enders and little-enders, Morlocks and Eloi.

What often gets in the way of realizing this basic characteristic of the world is another — possibly modern and very democratic — tendency to believe that we can understand where anyone is coming from if we just try hard enough.  There’s a brotherhood of man and all that, so if we simply sit down and discuss our differences, we should be able to all get along.  Why can’t we all just get along?

One of the hardest things for Microsoft developers to understand is why everyone not-Microsoft hates Windows and the other MS products.  We naturally assume these members of the web and design community are being irrational and remarkably biased.  If they would just sit down at a Microsoft conference / sales pitch and get themselves educated, then everything would be better and we’d be one step closer to world peace.

This past week I had the opportunity – mostly by accident — to attend An Event Apart when it came through Atlanta – a conference for web designers and developers.  What fascinated me was that all the issues and debates that I thought were important were not important at this conference.

First, I thought the most important thing going on with the web was HTML5.  While HTML5 got some play at An Event Apart, it was basically treated as merely a tool.  The real issue everyone was grappling with was the mobile web – whether it requires forking off of regular websites, or if it can be incorporated into the overall design and development process.  Should there be one web for two windows, or a fractured web to support all the different devices coming to market.

Second, no one asked if Silverlight was dead.  For all the angst expressed over the rise and decline of Silverlight in the Microsoft world, it was clear that, for the people at this conference, Silverlight had never made any inroads.  And why should it – Silverlight was able to deliver content to Macs but never actually had design or development tools that could run on the Mac.  The Silverlight story basically ignored all the designers and developers who had made Flash dominant for so long on the web. 

So what did people want to know about?  Whether Flash was dead.  The answer, apparently, is no.  Flash and HTML5 complement each other and … blah blah vampire emergency blah … you can fill in the blanks from all the things people typically say about Silverlight not being dead or Newt Gingrich’s presidential run not being dead. 

Is IE the best HTML5 compliant browser?  At An Event Apart I saw slide after slide claiming that cool web technique XYZ will not work on IE 7, 8 or 9.  CSS animations, responsive web design, etc. all work great on Chrome, FF5 and Safari.  Just not on IE.  I had my laptop open for most of the conference and after a little time I found myself repeatedly using Firefox or Safari rather than IE to do my browsing – I just didn’t want anyone to know that IE 9 was my default browser.

And Windows 8?  It never came up.  People outside of the Microsoft worldview don’t understand the Win 8 story at all.  For that matter, people inside of the Microsoft worldview also don’t understand it.  All we do know is that HTML5 and Javascript will apparently be the preferred development platform for it.

Here’s the rub.  Where are all these HTML5 and Javascript developers going to come from?  Just as importantly, where are all the HTML5 designers going to come from – assuming that we want Win 8 apps to actually look good?

The HTML5 + jquery goodness story seems to be based on the notion that there is a huge reservoir of web developers out in the world that Microsoft can win over to becoming developers for their new operating system.  Developers, developers, developers, right?

How is Steve Sinofsky and his PR team going to accomplish this?  I’ve been through the looking glass; I’ve seen the other side and, quite frankly, those developers Microsoft wants to woo don’t want to have anything to do with Microsoft.  While there’s an element of irrational contempt in all of this, it is also the result of many years of Microsoft not understanding the concerns of the other web community and even outright ignoring them.

Microsoft is possibly playing the longest game of hard-to-get anyone has ever seen.  If that strategy doesn’t work, though, how is MS going to sex up Windows 8 for the other, non-Microsoft, web community?

Because without that other world of HTML, Windows 8 is going to fail.

Daydreaming about Kinect Fun Labs


While at the CodeStock conference in Knoxville, I had the pleasure of talking with several indie XNA developers about the potential of the Kinect.  They were discouraged, though, at the lack of opportunities for indie developers to create games for the Kinect.  All I knew how to do was create XNA games and put them on a PC with a Kinect hooked up to it – which wasn’t quite what they were looking for.

Then last week at E3 Microsoft announced Kinect Fun Labs.  Currently Fun Labs is a free download for the XBOX with what are basically a few concept apps.  It includes Kinect Me, which scans the player and turns her image into a 3D model (though not, as has been reported, an XBOX avatar that can be used in the rest of the system).  The Kinect then tracks the player and manipulates the model to follow the player’s movements.

Kinect Googly Eyes does basically the same thing with any rectangular object.

And then there are a few additional one-offs that can be downloaded from within the Kinect Fun Labs app.

What is interesting in all this are hints on the official website that we can upload our own apps at some point.  This may be rumor only, of course, and it probably won’t fully satisfy indie developers who would like to make some money off of their games, but once we get past all the ifs and buts …

It would be very cool to have a way to share our Kinect apps – watching demos on Youtube only get us so far.  If the XBOX also supports Silverlight at some point, we will have additionally have a development platform on which to quickly develop Kinect apps.  It’s the stuff dreams are made of.