Monday, October 17, 2011

A Fragmented Future United By Web Technologies

This post is in reponse to Peter Bright’s article on arstechnica.

Microsoft shocked many of it’s developer community when at D9 it announced HTML5/JavaScript would form the basis of Window’s 8 developer platform. Peter argues that saying nothing about the future of these technologies can only hurt Microsoft. However, I’m not sure Microsoft has much to lose and quite a bit to gain by spinning it this way. Here’s why.

Microsoft may rule the desktop now, but the future is mobile and they know it. Windows Phone 7 may be great and it’s apps may be excellent but they’re playing some serious catch up to iOS, Android and even Blackberry. Remember, Microsoft makes more off Android royalties than it does on Windows Phone 7. So while it’s true that Microsoft risks alienating their developer community, at present course that community will become smaller and more marginalized as time goes on anyways.

The truth is that if Microsoft wants be more than niche player in the mobile/tablet market, it needs to embrace HTML5. It’s just to far behind to expect to act as if it were Apple and try to force a proprietary platform. You can look towards the Financial Times launch of an HTML5 ‘iPhone’ app as model for the future here. Developing multiple high quality native applications is expensive and becoming increasingly unneccessary.

Now microsoft hasn’t said they won’t support their traditional platforms. No, far from it. Chances are there’ll be support for Silverlight as well. So while windows developers might be afraid right now, they’ve invested too much hold a serious grudge. Once Microsoft finally placates their fears they’ll suck it up and leverage the skills they’ve invested so much in.

By focusing the spotlight on their ‘choice’ of the only truly open cross-device app platform, Microsoft can been seen to be taking Windows in a bold new direction. Perhaps even buying themselves some creditability from the much larger web development community, many of whom still hold a grudge over IE 6. Microsoft has much to gain by spinning this decision as a bold and re-invention rather than reactionary concession. If that means temporarily upsetting their development community. They’ll get over it.

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