Microsoft's CES Misdirection Depends On Developers To Succeed - InformationWeek

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1/24/2011
10:03 PM
Dave Methvin
Dave Methvin
Commentary
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Microsoft's CES Misdirection Depends On Developers To Succeed

The version of Windows running on the ARM platform that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer showed at Consumer Electronics Show, only hinted at Redmond's four-point plan for the future of its flagship operating system.

Next on the list come corporate developers. Microsoft has been pushing .NET development for most of the past decade, so companies living in this world may find that their investments in learning and using .NET technologies are going to pay off. Since .NET applications compile to a Common Language Runtime (CLR) instead of native x86 code, they should run on an ARM processor with little or no work.

Yet the limitations of mobile devices will require developers to relearn how to build user interfaces. You can't bring over the mouse-centric thinking, for example the idea that the pointing device has the ability to click over a small number of pixels. Even the skinniest fingers are fat compared to a mouse pointer. Expect to see Microsoft create wizards and tools that make it easier for .NET developers with desktop experience to build mobile apps.

The third set of developers are the desktop Windows application software companies. They generally write low-level code that uses the direct Win32 or COM programming interfaces of Windows, so they will definitely need to recompile their code, at minimum. Practically, though, the limitations of smaller screens and touch interfaces will prevent existing Windows applications from simply being ported over.

Does it make sense to simply port an application like Photoshop to a tablet or handheld device, or should the UI be rethought? Most of the big names in Windows desktop applications don't have much of a presence in the mobile world, and I am not convinced that ARM Windows will change that.

Finally come the system software and utility developers. This group will have the hardest time of all with a non-Intel version of Windows, because their world will change the most. Like application developers, they usually deal with the low-level interfaces like Win32 or COM to get their jobs done. It's not even clear whether a category like antivirus software is even needed here, for example.

The x86 viruses won't work on ARM, and if .NET managed code is the primary way of developing for ARM Windows it seems a lot less likely for infection to occur in the first place. Even if it is needed, there doesn't seem to be a lot of leverage from having an x86 version as a starting point.

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