Updates from QA Training

The revolution starts with live tiles

Windows 8 is just about here and I don’t get why Microsoft aren’t shouting it from the rooftops because Windows 8 is amazing. It is incredibly daring and bold that stuffy old Microsoft has decided to do something unthinkable: change the way we have used windows since the early 1990s!

David Walker | 14 September 2012

Windows 8 is just about here and I don’t get why Microsoft aren’t shouting it from the rooftops because Windows 8 is amazing. It is incredibly daring and bold that stuffy old Microsoft has decided to do something unthinkable: Change the way we have used windows since the early 1990’s!

Thank god for that because the start button was frankly doing my head in! Why do I need to start up my computer, wait up for the OS to boot and then launch all my applications? It just crazy talk! The new start screen for Windows 8 is the antidote to banality and live tiles are the little rectangles of joy that will allow you to prioritise your life.

Windows want in on the app model and who can blame them frankly? Content delivery is something that turned Apple from zero to hero in a few short years and Microsoft want to take that idea and place it front and centre in their new OS. The most important thing about the Windows 8 development model is that it changes the way you can think about the typical app experience.  Apple and Android primarily utilise the in and out approach. You launch an App work with it, close it or move on. You have little things that tell you its time to go back in via badges and push notifications but it is not really 'live'.  Live tiles are different, they make you think about how your experience and how the user wants to interact with the things that interest them and inform them when things change.

In Windows 8 desktop this is exceptionally good on dual monitors but even on the laptop I find it amazing. Just hit the Windows button and up comes the home screen with my news, twitter, facebook and email apps. I can see if anything exciting has happened and tootle off to review it.  Not via a little red badge telling me there is a message by the way, more likely a picture of my lovely wife and thought about home brewing or the zany adventures of my madcap friends.

Now this next bit is going to sound strange, so sit down and prepare yourself.  The result of Live Tiles is that Windows is now personal and this is amazing! Stuffy old Microsoft with its legacy of boring beige computers and endless spread sheets has tried to do something really different. If they can educate their user base it's a real winner.

Microsoft, and Apple have been trying to master this experience in the last few releases of their OS. It is clear that the terrible Vista widgets experience is the origin of this attempt. Widgets were and are awful but the idea of a long poll and not HTML5 WebSocket based communication is a good one as in essence it takes the tasks most useful to us out of the browser and into the desktop.

For the consumer and home user the benefit is clear. Choose your background, sort out your tile colours and size, prioritise your screen to the things that matter to you. In business apps the logical jump has not yet been made to how this can benefit them and the resistance to Windows 8 is huge.

Over the years I  people have ask how they build ASP.NET applications to:

  • Log error messages
  • Report when the server is down or deadlocked
  • Create a ticketing system for help desks

Stick those ideas front and centre as a developer and think how a beautiful clean start screen sitting on your dual monitor gets a message from your SQL Server warning you the backup has failed. Or a helpdesk message that comes in, you open the Win8 App and see the error, the log details and the Employee info as well. All running quietly in the background and waiting to tell you something you need to know.

Well of course I could have a web browser open, but asynchronous thread management in background tabs is to say the least a precarious issue. I could start up a WPF or WinForms  exe when I start up the machine (but the starting up is the extra issue). Or I could boot up Windows 8 and it could be waiting for me. I honestly know what I would prefer and as users, developers and managers the always on intermingled lifecycle of the Windows 8 architecture should be appealing.

So the application model (of which I shall speak of in greater depth in my next blog) is revolutionary. You can tell when it is revolutionary because it scares people. Well it scares people until they see the advantages, ask any WPF developer if they ever want to go back to WinForms!

The hardware is also revolutionary because you've not done Windows 8 until you've done it with a touch screen. QA provided me with a touch monitor to get going on Windows 8 development. It works in 7 in a limited way. I booted my laptop onto the Windows 8 partition and it was as smooth and fresh as using my iPad. Winows 8 is built with touch in mind the same app core is going to permeate the Microsoft ecosystem from Desktop to tablet to mobile and they want it to feel that way.

I'm not going to lie without touch the metaphor for the Windows 8 UI can be a bit more muddled. Hot corners don't work as well as I like. What's clear however is the next generation of PC's , desktop and laptops, are going to have touch at their core as well. Some of the designs, concepts and experiences being proposed by HP, Asus, Samsung and Lenovo are doing the unthinkable (sit down again folks)… They are making Window's PC's cool and ground breaking sort of.. Revolutionary!

Some great articles here from digital trendsgeek.com and laptopmag about laptop/tablet hybrids like the Envy.

Microsoft are trying to launch this ground breaking revolution in October. If you want to get a taste download the 90-day trial from MS and give it a whirl. You may not like it, you may even revolt at the revolution. That's OK, there are already fixes out there to make Windows 8 look and feel just like Windows XP. I hope, even implore, you come to love what Microsoft are trying to achieve. I applaud their aim to make Windows more personal whether that be to enhance my productivity in my working day or make it easier to focus on the people and pursuits that matter to me in my personal life. 

Viva la revolution!

Viva it with Server 2012, Windows 8 and Windows 8 application development at QA.


David Walker

Portfolio Director - Digital Transformation and Emerging Technology

David is a change-driven technologist who works closely with organisations and industry experts to understand the opportunities and threats posed by new technology. David has designed multiple learning solutions that have helped organisations redefine their business strategy and culture – creating new business models that view IT as a strategic competency rather than a support function.
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