DecryptedTech

Tuesday29 November 2022

Will There Be Enough Development Support To Make Windows RT Worth It?


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On Saturday we published an editorial about some of the issues with Windows RT. These issues served to highlight why Microsoft might have chosen to build their own tablet. Although we do not agree with the decision and think that it will hurt Microsoft in the long run (with Windows RT) we cans still see how it all unfolded. As you might imagine not everyone saw things the way that we did, but what surprised me was a comment that seemed to indication that the development community was going to HAVE to write for Windows RT.

We thought we might take a look into this and explain why we feel developers might not take to Windows RT as quickly as you might think. The first thing that it is important to cover is that writing for Windows 8 (for x86-64 CPUs) is not the same as writing for Windows RT. The tow operating systems have different architectural requirements and Microsoft has further locked some of these down to push their Metro UI onto developers.

If you have not heard about this already Microsoft has decided to lock down access to the Win32 APIs that allow access to the “classic desktop” in Windows RT to everything but Microsoft applications. This will prevent many internet browsers from running properly (they cannot be the default browser). Both Mozilla and Google have complained about this and as of this writing, unless Microsoft changes its mind, neither will be writing a browser for Windows RT. This means that consumers will be stuck with IE 10. Now Microsoft is free to make this choice as both Android and iOS are locked down to their default browsers as well (in fact most browsers for these two operating systems are little more than shells using the default rendering engine).

With other applications the situation is similar although not exactly the same. Right now many of the developers we have spoken with are not interested in writing a Metro only version of their applications as there is no need. Most applications can run on the classic desktop that is available in Windows 8 (for x86-64) with little or no modification so why bother to code for an OS that is not out and has an uncertain future. This means that Windows RT will have a very limited “App” presence at launch just like both Android and iOS did. Where iOS and Android had help was that before tablets were launched using these operating systems there was already a healthy developer presence thaks to the popularity of their respective phones. Windows RT does not have that just yet as Windows Phone is not a popular target for developer time not to mention that many Windows Phone Apps will not work on Windows RT.

Developing for a new operating system is all about potential return on investment. If there is nothing compelling about the OS the applications will not follow. It is not the other way around. Developers do not have to code for Windows RT as they can leave their existing Apps as they are and most will work on the x86-64 version of Windows 8, why spend the time and money to develop for Windows RT? To help counter the question of money Microsoft has tried to court developers with incentives and rebates but even with these there has only been a handful of developers that have taken up the task. Again this is a financial issue. With most mobile developers already coding for iOS and Android, why add a third platform that you have to worry about?

Now, IF Windows 8/ RT takes off and is a big hit in the market you will see more developers coding for Microsoft’s newest platform including Android and iOS developers; however that is a big if when you look at the current public reaction to the new operating system (which is probably best described as confusion). Right now Microsoft is pushing their vision of Windows onto both the consumer and the developers in a way that is beginning to frustrate both communities. Microsoft wants Metro Only applications and it appears they have only left in access to the desktop in Windows 8 out of necessity for legacy applications (and to prevent more Anti-Trust investigations) , however their insistence on locking down Windows RT means that they might be unintentionally ostracizing the OS before it even hits the shelves. If you need proof of this just look at the developer communities reaction to Microsoft releasing Visual Studio Express with without support for desktop applications (it only had tools to develop for Metro). It was less than a week before Microsoft changed their mind and announced the release of a version with support for the desktop due to developer outcry.

Microsoft’s next OS faces an interesting battle as many news sites are singing its praise, but their coverage is slim at best. We have been attempting to use it as an everyday OS on a tablet (the EEE Slate EP 121 from Asus) and have found it awkward to do many trivial task while you have to take multiple steps just to get all of the drivers working… and many of those drivers will not be updated after the OS is out and in the public’s hands. This is going to make all of those $40 upgrades very, very interesting. We wonder how many people will be asking for their money back after failed upgrades to Windows 8 simply due to a lack of proper driver support simply because of the way the development cycle usually works. Microsoft’s Windows RT faces a similar issue as the hardware is very different, fortunately for the consumer that issue is one that manufacturers will have to deal with, but without proper drivers and application support consumers might not want to invest in Windows RT especially if they can spend a little more and have a full version of Windows. This is also something that developers are looking at when deciding how much time and money to put towards development for Windows RT.

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Last modified on Monday, 09 July 2012 09:08

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