Ahmed Eltawil's Blog

Branding has always been a problem with Microsoft. It’s like they never have meetings over choosing the correct brand name or even did their due diligence before choosing a non-copyrighted name (SkyDrive?). That being said, I was happy to know that Microsoft is rebranding Windows Azure to Microsoft Azure.

The new name will certainly remove any left over confusion around Azure being a cloud service provider instead of a standalone over the shelf OS product that average consumers or enterprises can purchase to run on server hardware.

Microsoft Azure is becoming the one stop shop for all subscription based cloud services. I believe that sooner or later Office 365 will also find a home in Azure just like Visual Studio Online did.

Am I the only one who thinks Microsoft’s Windows division has no vision? We all know the mess they put themselves in when the premature Windows 8 was released. And then Windows RT was a big failure among hardware manufacturers and caused even more confusion among consumers.

Then came Windows 8.1 that did correct many previous flaws but still faces many challenges. And now Microsoft is about to release a “Windows 8.1 Update 1″. Why not call it 8.2 since this is supposed to be a major update? Some may say this is a bigger update than 8.1.

And Windows Phone is in quite of a mess as well. Microsoft bought Nokia’s mobile division and paid them billions of dollars yet also approached other manufacturers and got a deal with four of them to release Windows Phone devices. Why?

So no one is left making Windows RT devices except Microsoft and we haven’t seen efforts from manufacturers other than Nokia (now Microsoft) in the Windows Phone area for years. Is Microsoft planning on releasing their own Windows RT and Windows Phone devices? Why did Microsoft sign a deal with those hardware manufacturers to make Windows Phones if Nokia owns that market right now?

Lots of unanswered questions in regards to both Windows and Windows Phone which only makes developers hesitate even more before thinking of making apps for those platforms. I can’t even imagine what the average consumer is thinking about when looking at Windows tablets or Windows Phones.

Some say Microsoft should have taken Windows Phone’s OS and slap it on a tablet instead of taking the current Windows RT approach. And some say Microsoft should scrap Windows RT and use Windows 8 on tablets since RT comes with many restrictions, especially in Desktop mode. And then there are those who think completely outside of the box that came up with a different opinion, an opinion that may highly be true.

Windows RT is a massive milestone for Microsoft. Getting Windows running on ARM based devices is a leap in the future of Windows and computing in general. Microsoft was successful in porting and running Windows on thin and low power sipping hardware, making Windows extremely portable and mobile like never before. That’s what makes Windows RT so unique and of high interest to Microsoft, because we all know that the future (and almost the present) is mobile and touch ready devices.

Microsoft knew, a few years back, that they needed to re-enter the mobile market, but Windows wasn’t mobile and touch friendly at the time (Windows 7) and their Windows Mobile OS was outdated and had almost no market share and even that didn’t fit well as a tablet OS when compared to the competition (iOS and Android). They had to start from scratch, but a difficult decision had to be made.

Microsoft always wanted A “Windows Everywhere” world but knew it would take lots of time and money to make it happen. They had to make a choice:

  1. Assemble a team that worked day and night on a single unified Windows experience on both phones and tablets.
  2. Or, assemble two teams. One team worked on creating a “touch first” interface module for Windows to compete in the tablet market. And, another team worked on a brand new lightweight OS that competes in the smartphone market.

They knew the first option will take much longer to execute since they will be targeting a single OS to two markets; tablets and smartphones. But it will certainly allow developers to code once and release to both platforms as well as have a consistent UI experience across all devices.

The second option seemed more feasible in order to act quickly. Both teams have a specific market audience and requirements, and a quick V1 product can be released once those requirements are met. This way, they would still hit both markets but with the burden of having two mobile operating systems with different APIs. So while the Windows team were working on the new modern interface for Windows 8, another team was working on Windows Phone 7/8.

But the reality is that Microsoft never neglected or forgot about their main goal; Windows Everywhere. A unified OS that targeted all desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones. While Windows 8 was considered the OS for desktops & laptops, Windows RT for tablets and Windows Phone for smartphones, Microsoft (in my opinion) still pursued their main goal internally, and that was the reason why Windows RT was born to be Microsoft’s risky attempt to fulfill their “Windows Everywhere” dream.

What made me come to this realization is a comment I read by a user called cool8man on Mary Jo Foley’s article (title: Why Microsoft isn’t going to dump Windows RT):

RT runs across multiple ARM chips, WP8 only runs on Qualcomm. RT runs almost all Windows 8 apps, WP8 runs no Windows 8 apps. RT runs the full versions of Office, WP8 runs mobile versions. RT has advanced print drivers, WP8 can’t print. RT has IE11 with Flash integrated & unlimited tabs, WP8 has IE10 with no Flash and only 6 tabs. RT has side by side multitasking, [WP8] does not. In a few months RT will have more apps than WP8 despite a 2 year head start for Windows Phone. RT has a full suite of Bing service apps while WP8 has a pared down Bing Hub. RT is already in 8.1 preview while WP8.1 is so far behind schedule it is pushed back to 2014.

Windows RT is already ahead of Windows Phone when it comes to delivering the next OS update as well as compatibility with new hardware and screen sizes/resolutions. While Windows Phone serves its purpose (to run on high and low end smartphones), it still just falls in one single market and therefore will always have its own API and associated maintenance and costs. But Windows RT also works on high and low end hardware, on a spectrum of screen sizes, is able to run all Windows Store apps and apparently it can also run the entire Office suite all while managing to stay running on battery for a full day.

So what does all that mean? It means that Microsoft might have already been working on a plan to merge Windows Phone into Windows RT, and therefore have Windows RT act as the core of Windows running on desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones. Windows RT is the “Windows Everywhere” dream becoming a reality. A consistent and unified OS experience across all devices.

There is another point worth mentioning which may act as further proof that Microsoft is indeed moving in that direction. Windows Store apps have a “snap” view mode, where the app can run on either the left or right side of your screen alongside of another Windows Store app (or even Desktop, which is also considered an “app”). If you look into the dimensions of an app in snap view you would realize that it’s the same required (at least width wise) dimensions for apps to run in Windows Phone. In other words, snap view is the view you’d see if the app was running on a Windows Phone screen. Therefore, if Windows Phone OS was to be replaced by Windows RT, current and future Windows Store apps will most likely be compatible with current and future Windows Phone (or Windows RT) smartphone screens and will adjust accordingly based on how the developer programmed it (this is simply managed by the Visual State Manager in Windows RT’s API).

Of course, having a single OS to rule them all is a massive task for Microsoft and may have sounded as a futuristic concept for the average consumer today, and that alone could have been another reason why Microsoft staged the implementation through several OS iterations that individually targeted different markets. But all I can say today is that the time has come for Microsoft to cleanup and consolidate its current three operating systems and make their “Windows Everywhere” dream a reality.

Why can’t you simply play nice? I understand the power and prestige behind being unique but seriously, it’s becoming extremely frustrating.

I want to thank you, IE, for automatically trying to block pop-ups, but when I tell you that it’s OK to allow a pop-up to open please DO NOT refresh the whole page forcing me to redo that whole workflow that lead to opening that pop-up. Chrome simply opens that pop-up instantly when I allow it. Please, do not be different in this case.

The developer tools that you (IE) have built-in are great and very useful, but why should I manually hit the “Debug” button to put you in debugging mode when I already pressed F12. Isn’t hitting F12 enough proof that I want to either inspect or debug something on that page? Chrome automatically puts the page in debugging mode and allows me to make JavaScript and CSS changes without any additional effort.

OK, so let’s assume that it’s fine to hit “Debug” after pressing F12 to debug, why do you still have to refresh the page? Now I have to remember exactly the workflow that lead to the issue that I am trying to debug and hope that I can replicate it because for some twisted odd reason you had to refresh the page to be able to debug any code after I already hit F12 AND clicked on “Debug”. Chrome doesn’t (and never did) refresh the page to allow me to debug.

I understand that you and Visual Studio like one another but sometimes you get too attached. For instance, why is it when Visual Studio is in debugging mode, you can’t go in debug mode as well? I am simply trying to debug JavaScript at this point and not server side code so why should I stop Visual Studio’s server side debugging just to be able to debug JavaScript in your developer tools? Chrome has absolutely no idea what Visual Studio is and doesn’t care if it’s debugging at the same time I am editing and debugging JavaScript in its developer tools.

These are only few reasons why it gets so difficult to defend you, IE. I sure hope by the time you reach version 11 that some of these problems will be cleared, although I won’t be shocked if you stayed the same and insisted on being “unique”.

Today, Microsoft (or the Bing team) released several Bing apps to the Windows Phone Store that debuted in Windows 8. I installed the Bing News app on my Windows Phone and it certainly looks great and intuitive just like the app on Windows 8. It even has breaking news notifications (in case of any). But there was something that it lacked that disappointed me: sharing.
 
While using the Bing News app in Windows 8, we can easily share an interesting article to Facebook or Twitter by simply activating the charms (Windows + C) and hitting the Share charm (or hit Windows + H). In this case, sharing is built into Windows 8 and it wouldn’t make sense to not use it with a news app, also considering that this is a Microsoft app as well.
 
On Windows Phone, sharing to social networks is also built into the OS, but for some odd reason Microsoft decided not to use it in the app’s first release. It might not sound like a big deal but to me it is. For Microsoft to not make full use of their own platform’s features sends a negative message to developers around the world that are or were interested in developing apps for Windows Phone.
 
Microsoft keeps advertising and educating us on how easy it is make use of these so called ‘contracts’ in the Windows Phone SDK, yet they don’t even use it themselves in their own apps(in this case, the Share contract is used to share stuff on Windows Phone)? If I was the lead in developing that Bing News app I would make sure the app acted like a role model for all developers to take cues from that are interested in developing similar news apps. Also, the simple act of sharing a news article is crucial for an app of that nature that it’s quite shocking that it wasn’t part of the first release.
 
On the other hand, I am happy to see Microsoft making their official apps available on both Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 and I am looking forward for more to come (especially a Windows Reading List app for Windows Phone).
 
 

I’ve always been interested in developing for Windows 8 but I also felt that the SDK is still in its infancy. If you look at ASP.NET now and try to partially compare it to Windows 8′s SDK it’s clear than Microsoft still has a long road ahead to make it simpler and faster to develop for.

That being said, I’m currently playing around with the SDK trying to develop an app for a project I’m working on at work. I’d love to be able to test what I have so far on a Windows 8 tablet though. I’m not sure if it’s possible to, for example, deploy the app to a Surface RT/Pro for testing purposes. I’d hate to think that I can only test my Windows 8 app on my non-touch laptop.

I really hope XAML’s syntax gets a lot cleaner in future versions. Currently it just looks like a big pile of confusing XML mess (to the untrained eye I guess).

People who buy a Surface RT or any of the available Windows RT tablets think that it should run and install whatever programs they used before on other Windows devices. But as we all know, this isn’t the case at all. Windows RT only allows Office to run in Desktop which is already preinstalled. Other than that you’re out of luck which clearly adds more confusion to the consumer.

That leads me to ask the following question: Why did Microsoft even slap on a ‘Windows’ label on Windows RT if it’s not the Windows that most people know of? Now, I know exactly what Microsoft is going after with Windows RT tablets, they are mainly consuming devices that are competitors to iPad and Android. That’s the market they’re after.

Windows RT is simply the modern UI with a Desktop ‘app’ that only runs Office. And like I said before in an earlier post, the inclusion of Desktop in Windows RT is one of the main reasons behind the consumer confusion around what exactly does this Windows RT really offer compared to many other Windows 8 hybrids which run the ‘real’ Windows (in the average consumer’s mind). Therefore, the position of Windows RT with what Microsoft advertised it as was awkward, confusing and out of place, not to mention that it costs as much as an iPad (especially Surface RT).

I’m really looking forward to what Microsoft will be doing to clear this mess, especially after their Surface RT was a major flop.

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