Windows 10: One Binary to Rule Them All

It’s been a while since I’ve written about Windows. I went from loving it to hating in over the past year. As a developer I was aware Windows 8 and it’s store was still in its infancy and heard the rumors that change was coming. I waited. I wasn’t that impressed with what MS was doing with Windows 10. Sure, the Start Menu and windowed apps are great additions, but I can’t praise them for things like that. It’s not new, and it should’ve been there in Windows 8(.1) in the first place.

After watching this week’s Build conference here are some overal thoughts on things I like

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1 framework, 1 store, 1 app, multiple devices

This still blows my mind a little, but apps developed for Windows 10 run on a wide range of devices, from Raspberry Pi to phones, to phablets, to tablets, notebooks, PCs, large screens and HoloLens.

Phones and PC Windows 10 apps share the same binary, and your UI adapts accordingly to your screen size. MS has been pushing this for a while, but there were always corner cases or controls/APIs that worked on one device group, but not the other.

This is further strengthened by managing your app trough one unified store and the ability to connect a screen/mouse/keyboard to your phone and use that same phone app with an improved UI on a bigger screen.

Additionally Microsoft makes it really easy to port iOS/Android apps to Windows (see below), and offers Windows 10 as a free upgrade for Windows 7 and Windows 8 users.

In conclusion, if you’re a developer the reach of your app just gotten much bigger. And even with Windows Phone doing poorly, there’s no real reason not to release a phone app if all you have to do is adapt your application’s UI.

(It sounds a bit like magic, but responsive UI has been something for a while now. Check out [website] and resize your browser to see how the UI changes)

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(Improved) apps run (again) in a window

I really can’t praise Microsoft for allowing Modern/Tablet apps to run in a window. It’s something they should’ve done in Windows 8 in the first place. Nobody really uses these apps when you were on the desktop, they feel jarring, difficult and out of place because they run fullscreen and are heavily optimized for touch.

In Windows 10 these apps run in a window, fully resizeable and with an evolved UI better optimized for mouse/keyboard. They feel similar to Spotify, Github for Windows or Word. They look and feel modern, can be updated trough the store and use a set of modern APIs in the back. They run on all devices and have great debugging support. And most importantly, they run windowed by default.

I’m pretty certain that Win10 apps are going to eventually become the default framework for creating desktop Windows apps. It started and failed miserably with Windows 8, and finally makes sense with Windows 10. It’s very similar to how Microsoft tried to move developers from Win32 to WPF. They tried to do the same thing with WPF->Windows Runtime several years ago, but failed miserably because desktop app support wasn’t there (You even had to download a different version of Visual Studio just to make desktop apps).

Is this a good thing? Yeah!

It only remains to be seen if developers embrace this platform. Many things from WPF and Windows 8 carry over, but at the same time I feel like there aren’t many examples of Windows 10 applications, neither does Visual Studio have samples installed.

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Satya

I absolutely adore their new CEO. I was rooting for him back when he gave Visual Studio talks at PDC. Being a programmer and former Visual Studio team leader he can lead trough coding presentations with ease and confidence, something Ballmer or another generic CEO could never do. He’s a great and charismatic speaker too. He’s the best Microsoft could come up with as CEO, having both solid business and technical skills.

Win10

People are excited again

Microsoft did some intense restructuring, firing people, hiring new people, promoting Satya to CEO in the past year. The efforts were worth it.  Microsoft has become more open, embracing iOS/Android and trying new fancy dandies such as HoloLens, or Continuum on Phones. They’ve learned from their mistakes and do things better now. Their hardware/software announcements in the last year were always received positively, and people are starting to embrace Microsoft again.

My opinions are a double edged sword. I admire what they did, but I wish some of these things happened sooner. I also understand people’s claims that, on the surface, Windows 10 doesn’t bring anything groundbreaking to the table for Windows 7 users not interested in these new apps. Nevertheless many new little features, codecs and speed/usability improvements  were introduced with Windows 8 and Windows 10 that I feel upgrade can be worth it. And hey, it’s free so why not!

As Satya said, they want to go from people needing Windows, to people choosing Windows and loving Windows.

I’m starting to be a little bit excited for the future. I finally feel like they did things right, for once, and way too late. I’ll just try to forget the debacle that was Windows 8.

 

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