Tuesday, January 08, 2013

The Windows RT desktop. For why?

I still don't understand Windows 8 RT (aka Microsoft Surface, aka Windows on Arm), or more specifically it's desktop mode.

On Windows 8 Pro (the x86 version) it all makes sense: desktop mode opens the door to all the 'legacy' apps you know and love, whilst the device itself weans you onto the world of RT/store apps. As an enterprise developer you can target either, most likely running existing corporate apps on the desktop whilst mulling the trade-offs (and $) involved in rewriting the front end to target Metro.

But on Arm it's crippled: running only Microsoft-sanctioned apps (Office, Notepad and explorer) without jailbreaking. Why?

Clearly you can't expect it to run existing x86 apps, but for enterprise developers working in .Net this is a slap in the face. You're barred from running existing .net 4 desktop apps on the Surface RT desktop, and you can't build desktop apps using the Win RT runtime either.

This is a crazy situation that smacks of half-baked.

If the desktop mode on Arm is useful - and I'd argue it is - it should be possible for more than just Microsoft to write for it. Ideally enterprises could run existing .Net apps unmodified, but there's clearly advantages (re: capability, performance and battery life) in encouraging them to embrace the Win RT APIs.

Conversely if the desktop mode is redundant, Microsoft need to seriously pull their finger out replicating all that functionality in the Metro interface, including a Metro version.

I would like for the former to be the case. I suspect Microsoft's roadmap is the latter, that the desktop's just there till Office gets ported proper. Whichever way, we have a ridiculous situation where if an enterprise developer wants to target Windows 7 and both Windows 8's they have to ... write a web app. Way-to-go Microsoft![1]

I keenly await Xamarin's Mono-Surface[2], which will let you run .Net apps on the Microsoft Platform. Now that would be progress.

[1] Sure they gave the enterprise the finger with the phone too. I guess we shouldn't be surprised. But perhaps this is just Sinofsky's 'my way or the high way' showing through
[2] This is a fictitious product, and any resemblance to actual products planned or otherwise is entirely coincidental

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