What did Microsoft’s BUILD Conference in Anaheim this month mean for developers? No group of developers was cast aside; there is something for everyone in the developer story surrounding Windows 8. There were some clear winners: C++ developers, lovers of HTML5 and JavaScript, those that love the Metro interface provided by Windows Phone 7, and those hoping Microsoft would make a competitive entry into the tablet market.

A lot of the conspiracy theories spawned from the unusually intense level of pre-event secrecy have been put to rest: Windows 8 will not break from the past, and it will support the .NET Framework and its accompanying languages and technologies. But certain questions remain about the technology and the path forward. Before a look ahead, though, it’s good to understand how things got to where they are.

Windows 8

So, how did we get here? The short answer is Steven Sinofsky. Sinofsky, as the president of the Windows division at Microsoft, is by all accounts the champion and the hand behind the push to make Windows 8 what it is, and that includes the shift to the Windows Runtime (WinRT) as the developer framework of the future.

He gave the first-day keynote at BUILD, in which he declared that enabling developers is the goal, and that Microsoft was focused on building on the success of Windows 7. Microsoft claimed that there are more than 440 million copies of Windows 7 sold thus far, and that is a lot of success to build upon.

Other messages from Sinofsky were that touch on a PC is addictive and plays a huge role in the Metro interface, that Windows 8 is “breaking down the connectivity silos for app developers” (note the use of the term “app” rather than application there, more on that later), and that Windows 8 is designed to be service-aware, since services are everywhere.

Reach is a theme that came out early and was a telling hint of why things are shaping up this particular way. Perhaps the most important promise made is that everything that runs on Windows 7 will run on Windows 8. There were no exceptions, which is the one statement that might have been helpful if it were made a couple of months ago.

The only equivocation on this aspect is that the ways they will run are not created equal. Applications not specifically updated for the Metro style are relegated to the desktop interface that supports touch, but is more retro than Metro.

At the heart of things, the Windows 8 experience really was the focus of the entire conference. Even before the conference you could go to the Windows 8 Engineering blog to see how Windows Explorer and many other nuts and bolts of the system will be improved—or in the vernacular of BUILD, re-imagined. But they were not even mentioned at the conference.

About Patrick Hynds

Patrick Hynds is a Regional Director for Microsoft and president of CriticalSites.