Build Day 2: Start menus, DirectX, Cortana and Microsoft's return to relevance

It's been a rough few years for Microsoft. There was a time when it was taken for granted that Microsoft's road maps would be coherent and savvy. But the company that created the NT kernel, DirectX, SQL Server, .NET, NTFS and countless other, genuine and meaningful innovations lost its way.

The last few years have been ugly

Let's consider some of the incompetence we've seen from Microsoft in recent years:

  1. XBox One's name.  Really? Who came up with this name?
  2. Windows 8 with its inconsistent, schizophrenic user experience.
  3. Windows RT and WinRT. One is the name of the ARM based version of Windows; the other is an API
  4. Modern" as the naming convention instead of fighting for "Metro" or coming up with some other distinctive name to distinguish it from Win32 apps.
  5. Building Windows Live and then abandoning it.
  6. Building Windows Presentation Foundation and then largely abandoning it.
  7. Windows Phone series 7

It had gotten to the point where long term ISVs, like myself (when not working on Neowin I am the CEO of Stardock), were becoming concerned that Microsoft had no idea what it was doing.

Microsoft: It's a brand new day

This week at Build, Microsoft leads have made it clear to me through their words and their roadmaps that the new CEO has a message for the world: It's a brand new day for Microsoft.

Let me sum up Build 2014 as succinctly as I can:

  1. The introduction WinU, a single API that developers can use to write apps/games that will run on Windows, Windows Phone and XBox One
  2. An updated Visual Studio that incorporates the necessary SDKs to do #1
  3. A Coherent roadmap for Azure (Microsoft's cloud services) and Bing that will allow all kinds of new things to be developed that can be used by 2 to do 1
  4. A developer friendly personal assistant, Cortana, that is built on top of Azure/Bing (3) that can then be expanded via 2 in order to be used in 1.
  5. A brand new DirectX (DX12) that will be the same API across XBox, Windows Phone and Windows that has been redesigned to be used not just for games but any sort of graphics intensive applications (Microsoft showed videos of surgeons using XBox Kinect, to manipulate high fidelity simulations made via DirectX that could use Cortana as an assistant which could connect to other services via Azure and was made via Visual Studio and the WinU API)
  6. A sane vision of Windows 8 where it can be a good desktop OS or traditional PC users while becoming a better experience for touch users.

Since pictures are worth a thousand words, here are some examples of Microsoft's new direction:

Here Microsoft shows off a future update to Windows 8 where the Start menu returns and a modern app is in a window on the desktop (ala Stardock's Start8 and ModernMix, which will have to find missions).

This was a preview of DirectX 12 where, unlike DirectX 10 and 11, rendering is spread evenly across all CPUs much like AMD's Mantle.  DirectX 12 will run on all Microsoft platforms though it's not confirmed yet whether it'll be back ported to Windows 7 or not.

Cortana is very promising. For one thing, we expect to see Cortona available on XBox One, Windows and Windows Phone. For another, because it leverages Bing and Azure, you will get the kinds of benefits that Google Now gets and performance that Siri can only dream of. In the long run, it's going to be tough for Apple to keep Siri competitive when its rivals have vast information services to leverage.

Being able to compile your Windows app to work on a PC, Windows phone, tablet, or Xbox One makes the platform very interesting to developers. Combine the fact that Microsoft is enhancing its Azure cloud features to make it easy for developers to make their apps usable across many different form factors and you have a pretty coherent and frankly compelling vision for the future. This is a future that Google and Apple are currently not able to match.

It'll come down to execution

Microsoft having a coherent, compelling vision of the future that they are fully capable of executing is one thing. The question is, can Microsoft execute it in detail? Today, Windows 8 and Windows 8 Phone are still vastly inferior from a usability perspective compared to iOS, OS X, and Android (writing this article on a Surface Pro with OneDrive images shared to me by Brad Sams across the desk from me was a pain in the rear).

Similarly, it is not clear if Microsoft has cleaned house in the marketing department. Have the geniuses that decided to use the term "Modern" been sacked? What about the people who named the new XBox "XBox One"?   Even Microsoft doesn't know what to call Metro apps. I've heard Microsoft leads call them RT apps, Store apps, Modern apps, etc. Which is it? You need a name (I suggest "Metro").  All this new momentum could be snuffed out with incompetent marketing and messaging.

As a long time watcher, this is the first time in some years I've felt optimism for Microsoft's future and, to be honest, excitement for how their vision might improve the lives of millions of users.


About Brad Wardell

When not working on Neowin, Wardell is the CEO of Stardock, makers of Fences, WindowBlinds, ObjectDock, DesktopX, Start8, ModernMix, Launch8 as well as PC games such as Galactic Civilizations, Sins of a Solar Empire, Fallen Enchantress and more. Neowin is partially owned by Stardock. His blog is www.littletinyfrogs.com.

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I love how they showed the start menu. In a way sucks seeing Microsoft backpedaling from earlier standpoints/visions. But it looked nice, much better then any of the start menu replacements out there.

And about DX12, first see then believe. If I have to believe the benchmarks they showed, upto and over 100% improvements on the higher end GPU's, would mean the GTX 760 I bought to last me 2-3 years, will last me a decade. As with DX12 it _should_ outperform a Titan on DX11.

I do hope there are more multi-monitor improvements. I remember them stating with Windows 7 "The application will start on the monitor you're active on" and even today 99% of the applications start on your main monitor.

Shadowzz said,
even today 99% of the applications start on your main monitor.
Isn't that an app rather than OS problem?

Yeah the app has to support the API, but no app does, not even Microsoft's own apps.
Office 2013 ignores is, Visual Studio ignores it. IE11 ignores it.

RE: Windows
Maybe its me but whenever MS appears to listen to their consumers they get praised. They then try to innovate, fail and ultimately piss everyone off. They then take in the complains/suggestions and build a great product. In the future, can we skip the Vista and Windows 8 scenarios and work with consumers to provide something great first time round?

From what I've seen in the BUILD keynotes is how its going now for developers will be great.

How they're developing programs for the XBO, WP8 and Windows 8 in just 1 project with the exact same code base... Neither Google or Apple come even close to that.

Converting 1995 programs into the Modern environment with little to no effort and side loading them.

They solved 2 major problems in IT in 1 go.
Took Microsoft a few decades but they're almost ready now for this.

Pretty much one of the most expected news through the whole BUILD keynote. Glad that within the span of one year or so we'll be able to run the same app on Windows Phone 8.1, Windows 8.1 and Xbox One, practically no matter what device you'll use, it'll be at your fingertips.

This is an unusually immature article even for Neowin to publish. The inflammatory rhetoric is bizarre. But considering it is written by someone who profits from perpetuating the perception of dissatisfaction with Windows, that is no surprise. I suppose with this ridiculous piece, Neowin has shown its tagline well - unprofessional journalism.

I know. And Microsoft's relevance to what? Microsoft is a company that lives for tomorrow, of course they are going to try out their own visions for a better computing experience in their perspective. It's their product or service, the relevance to it is within themselves.

I feel that this article is too harsh.

You mention that the new update brings a sane version of windows 8 and that the interfaces where inconsistent.
First off, when using a normal desktop application, it's to the developers choice to have a interface that is consistent the majority off applications available to users. With the modern UI, literally everything is the same, menus on top and bottom, settings are always found in the charms.
As for it being useful for desktop users is for another discussion, but modern's interfaces were not inconsistent.

Secondly, why are previous editions of windows 8 classed as insane?
Am I insane for preferring the lack of start button, or the fact that it has a fullscreen menu? (No, although I'm insane anyway).

first of all, there's no chance directx 12 will be backported to win7, they didn't backport all of directx 11.1 features to win7 and weren't going to backport any until the developer backlash.

You forgot another flop, microsoft's ReFS, the NTFS replacement. It is disabled by default in win8 because it supports only a portion of the features that ntfs has. NTFS is very bad, microsoft needs to add more features to ReFS so that it can fully replace ntfs and be enabled by default in windows9.

ReFS (Resilient File System) is not a desktop file system. It's designed for servers, and primarily designed around RAID even there. The only problem with NTFS (as a file system) is that server RAID arrays are finally starting to bounce off that capacity ceiling - desktops STILL aren't even close to it. I dual-boot Windows 8.1 and Server 2012R2, and even on Server 2012R2, ReFS (for what I use the server for) is pointless - and will largely be pointless for most businesses - even enterprises. Where enterprises will have a use for ReFS is for very large RAID arrays, such as SANs. NTFS - on desktops, mind you - is still plenty relevant, and especially if you dual-boot/multiboot with a non-Windows OS, let alone another Windows OS (either desktop or server). It's relevant there BECAUSE it's read-only to non-Windows operating systems by default (such as OS X) - that means you can read an NTFS partition or drive in Mavericks; you just can't WRITE to it. (This is something that I actually do, as Mavericks is my third OS that I run on the same desktop-formfactor PC.) ReFS is no flop - it just has no use on desktops - and only at the extreme end (SANs) even on servers. Look at the maximum partition size for NTFS - no desktop drive extant has gotten there yet! Heck, few RAID arrays - even on servers - bounce off the NTFS partition ceiling. The ReFS issue is a non-issue, as NTFS is far from irrelevant yet.

Can't see how big noting Cortana helps anything, at the end of the day "Coming soon, US only." Big one finger salute WP8 users everywhere. They also showed off WP8.1 but none of us are using it are we!

I'd rather wait till they get it right than release it to other parts of the world buggy and everyone complaining about how much of a bad experience it is.

trip21 said,
Can't see how big noting Cortana helps anything, at the end of the day "Coming soon, US only." Big one finger salute WP8 users everywhere. They also showed off WP8.1 but none of us are using it are we!

Yeah, again. Just read about the "Surface 2 with xbox controller and games".
U.S only again, of course

"Similarly, it is not clear if Microsoft has cleaned house in the marketing department. Have the geniuses that decided to use the term "Modern" been sacked? What about the people who named the new XBox "XBox One"? Even Microsoft doesn't know what to call Metro apps. I've heard Microsoft leads call them RT apps, Store apps, Modern apps, etc. Which is it? You need a name (I suggest "Metro"). All this new momentum could be snuffed out with incompetent marketing and messaging."

This. THIS. A thousand times THIS.

Not knowing what to call those stupid Metro/Windows8/Store/Modern/Immersive apps is a huge HUGE problem. It makes every conversation about them awkward at best. And of those names? "Windows Store Apps" has got to be the worst, yet this seems to be what they're pushing lately.

METRO. Buy the rights, pay what you have to, and use METRO. And if you can't or won't do that, at least settle on "MODERN" then. Not "Immersive Windows 8 Store Apps For Windows RT Professional 2014" for chrissakes.

But freakin' decide on something, and then make the naming, branding, documentation, and development all consistent with that name.

Please ensure whomever in market came up with the Surface ads where everyone dances around with the covers is sacked and encourage them in a career change!

pmbAustin said,
METRO. Buy the rights, pay what you have to, and use METRO.
The only reason I've heard for dropping Metro is Metro AG protesting, and since they are apparently a huge customer Microsoft obliged. I don't understand why they couldn't have negotiated, besides the fact that Metro AG would probably have lost if the matter went to court because there is no chance of consumer confusion.

But even more so than the whole Metro/Modern saga is the WinRT/Windows RT fiasco. I hope whoever came up with that has been fired. The next version when Windows RT is merged with Windows Phone should offer the perfect opportunity to get rid of the former name and come up with something better that works for all mobile devices.

"Even Microsoft doesn't know what to call Metro apps. I've heard Microsoft leads call them RT apps, Store apps, Modern apps, etc. Which is it?"

According to MSDN, these are the names:
Metro apps are called officially "Windows Store apps"
Phone apps are called officially "Windows Phone apps"
Desktop apps are called officially "Desktop apps"

Maybe you should read MSDN before blaming MS on not knowing the official names.

Except they frequently refer to "Windows Store Apps" as "Immersive" apps, "Windows 8 Apps", "Metro Apps", "Modern Apps", etc.

Never mind that "Windows Store Apps" is a horrible name, very awkward to use, even embarrassing to use. Ugh.

The biggest mistake they made with Metro is not fighting for the name Metro (or paying what needed to be paid to use the name).

Maybe you should pay attention more because the author was exactly right about this, and your defense is weak at best.

pmbAustin said,
Except they frequently refer to "Windows Store Apps" as "Immersive" apps, "Windows 8 Apps", "Metro Apps", "Modern Apps", etc.

Never mind that "Windows Store Apps" is a horrible name, very awkward to use, even embarrassing to use. Ugh.

The biggest mistake they made with Metro is not fighting for the name Metro (or paying what needed to be paid to use the name).

Maybe you should pay attention more because the author was exactly right about this, and your defense is weak at best.

Fact remains that they cannot call them metro apps. They could have opened their wallet and pay some silly sum just for the privilege to call them metro apps.

If I had to make the call, I would have done the same, give up the metro name, it is unfortunate but it's just a name.

All that matters here is that people find their way to the store and get apps, these apps all have names of their own, so nobody really cares about how they are collectively named.

Windows store apps is actually a name that accurately describes these apps.

If you insist, you could continue calling them metro apps, it's not like anyone cares, as long as Microsoft doesn't market them using this name, because then the metro company might get passed.

You're clearly just wrong. IT's VERY important that they have a collective name. You need to be able to talk about the platform. You can talk about iOS and Android and OS X ... but how the heck do you talk about Windows apps now? It's confusing, it's awkward, and it makes the entire platform less viable.

I guess I just disagree with you completely, and I think I have a lot more evidence to back up my side than you do to back up yours.

pmbAustin said,
You're clearly just wrong. IT's VERY important that they have a collective name. You need to be able to talk about the platform. You can talk about iOS and Android and OS X ... but how the heck do you talk about Windows apps now? It's confusing, it's awkward, and it makes the entire platform less viable.

I guess I just disagree with you completely, and I think I have a lot more evidence to back up my side than you do to back up yours.

Evidence ? How do you present evidence regarding a clearly subjective proposition ?

The platform name is Windows Runtime or WinRT.

What does "WinRT apps" mean to a common consumer? You're not thinking about this at all. You're not paying attention to the argument at all. You're just being contradictory.

Think about those adds that say "Check out our apps on iOS and Android". Nice. Simple. Evocative. Now, they have to add "and Windows Phone and Windows Store Apps"? Ugh. How much nicer to just say "On iOS, Android, and Metro".

Are you *getting* it yet? Because it really seems like you're not getting it at all.

Wait a minute, wasn't the surgeon using Kinect for Windows? i'm sure that's what was said in the video. Surely the author of this article knows this or at least watched the video

I never understood why Windows Live was abandoned after the purchase of Skype.

So $20 billion a quarter and growing is irrelevant huh? Everything announced at build is the natural progression of everything they've been doing over the last 3+ years when metro was introduced. Microsoft has a history of making decisions with the bigger picture in mind and going for it, and this whole train of events over the last few years is nothing different. It's funny how easy people seem to forget these things.

I think he meant to say irrelevant in the sense that they are no longer a leader thus as far as the general consumer cares, they are gone. Just like IBM. yeah they make money. I'd gladly make that much. But you know what? IBM is as exciting as a rock.

neonspark said,
I think he meant to say irrelevant in the sense that they are no longer a leader thus as far as the general consumer cares, they are gone.

Microsoft has a very powerful brand name. Working in retail, I still get a lot of people who hate Apple and will buy a Windows PC no matter what. Microsoft have lost a lot of consumer faith over the past few years but I wouldn't discount them yet, they seem to do their best when they're down.

neonspark said,
I think he meant to say irrelevant in the sense that they are no longer a leader thus as far as the general consumer cares, they are gone. Just like IBM. yeah they make money. I'd gladly make that much. But you know what? IBM is as exciting as a rock.

As scorpian alludes to, I find that to not actually be particularly accurate in the real world. Everywhere I go I see more and more people with Windows Phones (up from seeing nobody with them even just a year ago). Windows PC marketshare isn't particularly decreasing overall much even if 8 isn't taking off quickly. I think people write MS off because they just tune them out as they're so pervasive in the world. But it's not like people are switching to Linux and Apple in droves (or really much at all) in the PC world and in the mobile world, they're switching to Windows Phone from others, even if slowly, so I think the idea that they're irrelevant is rather close-minded.

I still see Win 8 as the pain point that had to be navigated to get to Win 9. Lesson's learned, and lot's of hard ones. It would be nicer to be able to get to the Win 7's with no Vista's but, MS seems incapable of that. Sometimes they learn by shipping beta at retail.

I have no problem with the Xbox One name not sure why that is such a problem, but your other points are well made. Curious to know what was such a pain about sharing photos on OneDrive, was it just not working?

I've used Windows 8 on a desktop without touch for 2 years with no problem. Itrequires a modification in your workflow, but once you adapt, you'll be able to complete tasks as fast or faster than you did in Windows 7. The old Start Menu is necessary to appease stubborn users. MS should've left it as an option once they saw how mad people were during the Beta period.

rorrr said,
I've used Windows 8 on a desktop without touch for 2 years with no problem. Itrequires a modification in your workflow, but once you adapt, you'll be able to complete tasks as fast or faster than you did in Windows 7. The old Start Menu is necessary to appease stubborn users. MS should've left it as an option once they saw how mad people were during the Beta period.
Asking the majority of people in this world to try and do something in a different way is like asking them to gut themselves. I don't get it. I've been working on a Surface Pro 2 now exclusively as my work/home/mobile workstation + tablet experience and it has a few shortcomings but nothing that isn't being addressed.

XBOX ONE name is a great name.

2.Windows 8 with its inconsistent, schizophrenic user experience.
Only to close minded people.

3.Windows RT and WinRT. One is the name of the ARM based version of Windows; the other is an API
For tech people, it is just fine. And for regular users, they are not suppose to know about "WinRT"


4.Modern" as the naming convention instead of fighting for "Metro" or coming up with some other distinctive name to distinguish it from Win32 apps.
May be they did fight (just not in the court)?

5.Building Windows Live and then abandoning it.
The didn't abandon it. They adopted it so a greater service. Better than google's random service kills.

6.Building Windows Presentation Foundation and then largely abandoning it.
Because it doesn't support the needs of recent times/future?

7.Windows Phone series 7
It was just fine except being based on win mobile; which I do agree.

Crimson Rain said,
6.Building Windows Presentation Foundation and then largely abandoning it.
Because it doesn't support the needs of recent times/future?
TBH. It doesn't need much more. It was so versatile it really fits the bill no matter what. It's for desktop applications and also works in modern. It's not abandoned.

I meant to say: talk of the end of Microsoft above.

Also the headline is wrong, Microsoft never was irrelevant. There is therefore no return of relevance.

Silly headline.

They can't use 'Metro' to describe these things, I'm not sure why anyone writing an article here would not be aware of why MS was forced to abandon that name. So really, anyone bringing this up is missing out on the reality, it will never be Metro.

I think Modern or Store apps is the best choice left.

As far as the X1 name, I'm not sure why that is such a terrible choice. In fact, the more we see MS' 'One Microsoft' idea laid out in the form of their software/hardware road maps, the more I feel like Xbox One is a fitting name. Like other devices for MS, the Xbox One will represent their idea of creating devices that tap into what MS is building in a fundamental way, allowing the Xbox to grow in many ways.

Also, I guess it wouldn't be a good MS article like some good old fashioned shots at Win 8 and WP8 even though they actually have a positive outlook thanks to coming updates.

As for the rest of the article, good points are made, its ultimately up to the execution of MS to make all of this work. Some assume MS will fail and some are optimistic. I would like to see them succeed and maybe we could finally start to hear more positive things about MS then the near constant round of 'the end of MS' talk.

Fully agree with this.

The end of Microsoft will continue, of course if we take into account their actual financial performance over the last three to five years, that end is further away from reality then ever before.

Ballmer has managed to outdo Gates on that front in a massive way, although he is generally seen as a bad CEO, while in fact he has been racking in the money.

Edited by Andre S., Apr 4 2014, 1:49am :

forget it. I've been hearing Microsoft is dead back when I was getting my CS degree and windows was all there was while apple being a worm crawling on the ground.

Not sure about the naming complaint. What is wrong with Xbox one ? And more importantly why should anyone care. As far as I'm concerned they could name it anything, as long as I know what it is.

By the way, didn't you curse when Myerson showed the redundant start menu and metro apps running windowed. That might cost you quite a bit of revenue once they are included.

Why ? The second Xbox was called Xbox 360, and I don't think that name has prevented anyone from purchasing one, the same holds true for Xbox one.

People have short memories. I distinctly remember multiple discussions around the interwebs about how "stupid" the 360 name was. As will be the case with the Xbox One, people got used to it.

sjaak327 said,
Why ? The second Xbox was called Xbox 360, and I don't think that name has prevented anyone from purchasing one, the same holds true for Xbox one.
Ask anyone before the new Xbox was announced what "Xbox One" meant to them and they would have said the original Xbox

ObiWanToby said,
They need to execute quickly, and well. How long before we have that 8 update with the windowed modern apps?

April 8th apparently.

MSDN/Technet subs already have their hands on it, so release is sooner then later.

He said windowed modern apps, That's not coming in 8.1 Update 1, my guess is 8.1 Update 2(or whatever) could be around this coming Nov/December or very shortly into the 2015 new year, If I were them I'd be shooting for just before the new year

dingl_ said,
He said windowed modern apps, That's not coming in 8.1 Update 1, my guess is 8.1 Update 2(or whatever) could be around this coming Nov/December or very shortly into the 2015 new year, If I were them I'd be shooting for just before the new year

Again a good point to consider windows naming conventions: 8.2 and 8.3 would be a logic step.

Borix said,

Again a good point to consider windows naming conventions: 8.2 and 8.3 would be a logic step.


But Update 1 does not bring a new Kernel version. Naming scheme makes sense if you understand it.

sagum said,

April 8th apparently.

MSDN/Technet subs already have their hands on it, so release is sooner then later.

Windowed Modern apps and the Start menu aren't a part of this update (Update 1). They will be a part of the Fall Update, or Update 2.

Enron said,
What's wrong with the name Xbox One, besides childish people calling it Xbone?
The meaning behind the name is obvious. It's the one device you need in the living room. I don't understand what people would have been happy with.

XBox 3? Xbox 720?

Enron said,
What's wrong with the name Xbox One, besides childish people calling it Xbone?

Well because Xbox One means the same thing in the English language as Xbox 1, and it clearly isn't the first Xbox, it's the third. And yes I know they are using the word one as a word and not a numeral, to indicate it's "all in one" status, but still... the instant comparison is there for everybody who doesn't know better to make.

MrHumpty said,
Xbox 720?

At least they could then live up to the name... :laugh:

I kidd, I kidd.

Also, Xbone is an awesome name; the only people that think it's childish are the ones who get upset over the use of the term really. (I preferred XBO though, if only because it reminded me of a "crossbow")

TCLN Ryster said,
Well because Xbox One means the same thing in the English language as Xbox 1

But the first Xbox was just called Xbox...

Who cares what they all it? I don't understand this issue. And what's wrong with Xbox One as a name? Siri means Ass in Japanese, or the name "the new iPad", people and tech sites didn't get stuck on that. But Microsoft names need to be up for discussion even when more then a year has passed.

Wall-swe said,
Who cares what they all it? I don't understand this issue. And what's wrong with Xbox One as a name? Siri means Ass in Japanese, or the name "the new iPad", people and tech sites didn't get stuck on that. But Microsoft names need to be up for discussion even when more then a year has passed.

And ass-backwards it is "Iris" lol

Maybe missing in the story is what are they planning to offer win32/wpf/.net devs to get their desktop apps to enjoy the benefits of touch apps. Sure they showed a way to call into the old core from a modern app, but that is not really what dev wants: they want a version of WPF which is XAML compatible with modern apps and can use the same services and api that winRT users enjoy. This would allow existing LOB apps to just re-skin their WPF ui and maybe call into some apis to better support tablets, without having to take on the huge engineering effort of porting over to winRT.

As most engineers know, some apps aren't really designed by the MVVM principles and it isn't so easy to just rip out the UI wiring from the logic. Many LOB apps just didn't think MSFT would abandon the desktop and now find themselves cornered in a sealed jar that MSFT put a lid on.

I guess I don't understand what you want. You want desktop apps to be able to publish contracts, notification etc? I'm sorry but that just doesn't make sense.

Desktop apps have the full .net framework or the rest of the api stack on Windows. I guess the only thing we don't have is the ability to build apps in html/js for the desktop.

Edited by Andre S., Apr 4 2014, 1:24am :

I'm not sure where you're coming from but my request has been echoed by the .net community ever since we saw windows 8. Basically there is no way to interact with the rich services and winRT apis from the .net side, at least not without some serious win32 and COM knowledge compared to being a winRT app. It seems you're not aware that the winRT stack for the UI runs on direct draw 2D and it is much faster than the stack in WPF. In addition classic win32 apps cannot enjoy the benefits of the resolution independent nature of winRT apps. This is why when you open a win32 app on a surface, it doesn't just work without the developer spending time making it so. For example, adobe PS still unable to support the high ppi of surface. Most old windows forms and win32 apps also fail miserably.

.net desktop apps do not have access whatsoever to the WinRT ui which is the primary way to design touch experiences as there you have by far the best support for touch MSFT offers.

Edited by neonspark, Apr 3 2014, 10:59pm :

I would add that the other problem MSFT didn't address is that while MVC and MVVM architected apps can be more easily used via their new winRT broker control, typical LOB apps hardwire the UI to the logic and the more seamless way out of this would be for MSFT to allow XYZ.windows.controls to be replaced (or the current controls extended) to support touch as a first class citizen like it is on winRT's ui. Add resolution independence. Add maybe even a way to easily call into winRT as easily as calling any other .NET library. Or at least make it pinvoke easy.

Then allow devs of these updated apps to keep their tangled code and just work on supporting the new touch events (while keeping mouse events the same). This is probably an order of magnitude cheaper than basically abstracting away the UI in an app that probably hasn't been touched in a decade and that a typical business won't dedicate a big budget to.

I hope the startmenu is optional, even on desktops. I rather like my large display full of tiles. I organized them in the same way as on my Surface. Only on my desktop PC they fit on one screen without scrolling. I myself had hoped that one day the UI could sync across devices.

In my opinion what Windows 8 needs more than a startmenu is a smart way to restructure all the modern UI elements on-screen. Like the charms, appbars and appswitcher. Just bring all those elements to a taskbar that appears the moment you move a mouse. For me it would fix all the issues I have with Windows 8.

Although since Surface is my primary PC I'm more familiar with the modern environment. So I continue using modern apps even on PC. Like modern IE that I'm using right now. I can understand that those who prefer the desktop environment see things differently. I just hope MS can find a way to accommodate both of these types of PC users. I believe the future of the PC is in touch and mobility. I want to continue to use the operating environment I use on my primary PC (Surface) when I get behind my desktop. To me, that is the main appeal of Windows 8 over iPad/Mac.

I've been running the leaked 8.1U1 and while I've figured out how to turn off almost all of the user interface junk Microsoft added because of complaints, there are two big ones I've not been able to kill yet---and if someone finds the registry entries to do so, I'll be eternally grateful. First, that stupid title bar on Metro apps. It just gets in my way. Second, revert the right-click to bring up the bottom bar instead of puking legacy context menus on the Metro side. You can't multi-select anymore because of this--unless you hit the space bar, which does bring up that bar. But now I have to do two steps instead of one. Just another example of regressing just to appease those who can't keep up.

Do you also see the title bar when using touch? Because I wouldnt mind a title bar when using mouse.

The context menu is definately not something I'm looking forward to. They couldn't even be bothered to make it look like a modern dropdown menu. There is a chrome effect in the menu that just clashes with the modern UI.

But I can understand wanting to replace the appbar with something next to the cursor. But then they should be consistent and create some sort of modern menu that transforms any appbar into a menu for mouse users. Now its half-baked as you still have an appbar within all apps. So why only change things for the startscreen? To me their quickfixes seem bad for Windows in the longterm.

Robert Wade said,
I've been running the leaked 8.1U1 and while I've figured out how to turn off almost all of the user interface junk Microsoft added because of complaints, there are two big ones I've not been able to kill yet---and if someone finds the registry entries to do so, I'll be eternally grateful. First, that stupid title bar on Metro apps. It just gets in my way. Second, revert the right-click to bring up the bottom bar instead of puking legacy context menus on the Metro side. You can't multi-select anymore because of this--unless you hit the space bar, which does bring up that bar. But now I have to do two steps instead of one. Just another example of regressing just to appease those who can't keep up.

You can use the start menu as if it were an Explorer folder.

Hold CTRL to select multiple ;)

Shadowzz said,

You can use the start menu as if it were an Explorer folder.

Hold CTRL to select multiple ;)

That's the trick Robert's looking for, though I'll admit, I never considered trying it until recently when someone else mentioned it to me.

The desktop interaction that Update 1 brings is good I believe (and that's coming from someone who likes Metro). When you right-click a single icon in File Explorer, you get the context menu for that item. To select multiple items, you hold Control. The Start Screen works the same way, so in essence, it's not so much going backward, as it is promoting desktop contexts into Metro, which is good because you're increasing the synergy of Metro to work effectively in both contexts.

On a Surface Pro this is perfectly evident. You touch the tile and you get the Metro selection behaviour, but if you click in a keyboard and right-click, you get the Desktop selection behaviour. It may appear clunky on a device like this that encompasses both environments nicely in the same device, but when you compare it to the experience of devices that don't combine both (i.e. pure desktop and pure touch), then it works just fine in those environments too, and it feels natural for those environments.

In essence, it's bridging the gap to make the adjustment more acceptable. The Start Screen is good and I love it. Personally, I believe the Start Menu to be a backwards step, but the Start Button to be key to discoverability, as well as a key part of Windows' identity (Like Windows 95's Start me up campaign). If you can make the Start Screen not as foreign in a desktop environment (Which this update is working towards), then you help push it as the viable successor that it is.

This is a good thing, IMO.

Not only WPF but also XNA, which had a thriving developer community; and with all the new native APIs and focus on HTML5/Javascript, for a while we thought .NET itself was dead. It's been hard keeping faith in Microsoft over the past years and they're slowly beginning to rebuild trust again.

SikSlayer said,
But this is how it starts. You have to have your fundamental ducks in a row first.

The problem is, Microsoft has been telling us the same lines year after year now.

The same things happen; they scrap the old tech, tell us they're going to re-create it so it's cross platform and better for everyone. It starts out well, then the different departments flake off and do their own thing anyway.

Now, while the pretty picture Microsoft is painting at Build, in the past they failed to listen to users feed back. They failed to produce what they said they were going to provide. They failed to maintain product and services.

Personally, I'm not holding my breath, but I'll keep watching.

This time, its clearly different. The people who made those sorts of moves that splintered off and kept Microsoft from being a cohesive unit, are mostly all gone. It's pretty clear they understand the individual parts of Microsoft need to work together more instead of compete with each other. The new products and services they are offering are examples of this, they could have never done any of this before.

you realize there sort of things were being handled by Balmer? this is the roadmap they had for a while now, its not the new CEO, its been the plan for a while now!

For some of us, it's a lot less of a struggle to win back our confidence. I'm not happy with a number of the aspects of Windows 8 going backward to appease the slow people who refuse to move forward and now have muddied the Metro experience, but the overall picture is precisely where I've been hoping Microsoft would go all along. NOBODY else is sincerely moving this direction, which just adds to why I don't support Apple or Google. I think the biggest jump is the universal app. I certainly wouldn't call myself a dev, but I did work with the App Studio and was reasonably pleased with the end result on my Windows Phone. When they released the updated App Studio, supporting universal apps, it was so amazingly easy to re-gen my app to Win8.1. Obviously, the result invites digging deeper and fine-tuning the Win8.1 app to better exploit the form factor, and perhaps I'll begin acquainting myself with VS to do it. But as a first-effort, I can imagine this making the whole ecosystem very attractive. I'm anxious to see the App Studio expand to the Xbox.

erikpienk said,
you realize there sort of things were being handled by Balmer? this is the roadmap they had for a while now, its not the new CEO, its been the plan for a while now!

I don't know if you were responding to me, but this is another point I've seen elsewhere that instantly negates all these complaints about him. All of this stuff was coming anyway, had he left or not, and Ballmer would have redeemed himself in the eyes of everyone.