Microsoft Leaves Windows Phone Devs Wondering

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2012-04-08

Microsoft Leaves Windows Phone Devs Wondering

In a post aimed at informing Windows Phone developers about developing on Windows Phone 8, it appears Microsoft has managed to raise more questions and concerns, rather than simply reaching out to developers starved for information.

The post on the Windows Phone Developer Blog by Larry Lieberman, a senior product manager at Microsoft, was meant to shed a little light on the direction and allay developer concerns about the future of the development platform by ensuring them that their existing skills will be usable on the platform of the future, which will be Windows 8-based.

In short, Lieberman said:

"With regard to existing applications: today€™s Windows Phone applications and games will run on the next major version of Windows Phone. Driving application compatibility is a function of Microsoft€™s commitment to its developers. Regardless of what we release in terms of new developer features and functionality, we have made a large investment in protecting your existing investments.

"We€™ve also heard some developers express concern about the long-term future of Silverlight for Windows Phone. Please don€™t panic; XAML and C#/VB.NET development in Windows 8 can be viewed as a direct evolution from today€™s Silverlight. All of your managed programming skills are transferrable to building applications for Windows 8, and in many cases, much of your code will be transferrable as well. Note that when targeting a tablet vs. a phone, you do of course, need to design user experiences that are appropriately tailored to each device."

Lieberman added, €œMicrosoft is committed to creating an ecosystem that maximizes your investments.€

However, that was not enough. The mention of an €œevolution€ from Silverlight, Microsoft€™s once popular plug-in for writing and running rich Internet applications seemed to set some developers off.

Some Developers Are Concerned About the Evolution From Silverlight

In an article about Lieberman€™s post, ZDNet blogger Mary Jo Foley said:

€œIn other words, Windows Phone is going the way of Windows 8 on the developer side of the house. As is the case with Windows 8 Metro environment, XAML will be supported. While closely related, XAML is not Silverlight, as Silverlight developers working on Windows 8 apps have discovered.€

And Foley goes further to quote Windows Phone Secrets author Paul Thurrott, who has his own definitive view on Silverlight and Windows Phone 8:

€œThe Silverlight-based Windows Phone developer environment is going away in Windows Phone 8, and is being replaced by WinRT-based APIs like those in Windows 8. Why? Two reasons. First, Silverlight is dead, cancelled internally by Microsoft. And second, Windows Phone 8 is Windows 8 for all intents and purposes.€

The old "Silverlight is dead" debate rages on, not to mention what kind of support for XNA will be included in the future platform. Yet, in the comments to Lieberman€™s post, Cliff Simpkins, another senior product manager at Microsoft, said, €œWhile not explicitly called out, XNA is very much a part of Larry's statement 'today's Windows Phone applications and games will run on the next major version of Windows Phone.' XNA is fully supported in the next major version and remains part of the Windows Phone family. We remain committed to supporting our developers' existing skills and code as we move ahead€”together.€

Meanwhile, several commenters called out Silverlight.

Kristinpdx said: €œWhat about Silverlight in general? We have already invested quite a bit in Silverlight application on Windows7 targeting IE and Chrome browser. We haven't heard much news on Silverlight support on desktop.€

Morten Nielsen said: "Yeah it€™s great that my skills are transferable to win8 and all, but I hate to say it that that simply isn't good enough. I also have huge investments in Silverlight apps and code, and this needs to transfer, too.

"It€™s really hard to sell this investment to customers with all these rumors floating, and [your] only willing to say that my skill set is preserved is only fuel onto that," he continued. "The fact is that there is no good alternative to Silverlight, and it€™s an awesome solution for distribution LOB [line-of-business] apps, but the experience on win8 is horrible at best..."

And Chance noted: "It's not enough that Windows Phone is already failing, Nokia's efforts having so far done little to turn the tide, given reviews of their latest phone efforts are mediocre at best, but forcing the entire platform down the WinRT path simply guarantees that both Windows Phone and Windows 8 will both fail to a degree that makes the Vista debacle pale in comparison. WinRT remains a pitiful imitation of all that Silverlight became in record time, while Metro continues to get poor reviews, is ill-suited to productivity applications and the desktop overall..."

However, in Microsoft€™s defense, commenters to the ZDNet post argue that the situation with Windows Phone is no worse than the fragmentation situation with Android.

And more specifically, one commenter identified as Maupertuis€”presumably after the noted French mathematician, said WinRT is different from Silverlight, but for the better. €œThe main issue with code portability between Silverlight and WinRT is the evolution of the asynchronous pattern available between both platforms,€ Maupertuis said. €œI recently converted a Silverlight App to WinRT. ... It wasn't painful at all. It required some rework, but for the better. The final code was leaner,€ Maupertuis added.


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