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Windows 8 and anxiety over HTML5

Ars Technica says Microsoft's apparent shift of focus toward HTML5 and JavaScript for Windows 8 coding has got Windows developers in an uproar.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
2 min read

By sending signals that it's inclined to move Windows 8 coding toward HTML5 and JavaScript, and away from more familiar programming tools, Microsoft has "horrified" developers, according to a post at Ars Technica.

A look at Windows 8.
A look at Windows 8. Microsoft

Citing a demo of Windows 8 given by Microsoft Vice President Julie Larson-Green at the recent D9 conference, Ars Technica author Peter Bright called attention to a comment several minutes into the video. Pointing to a new app in the upcoming Windows 8, Larson-Green said that "this application is written with our new developer platform, which is based on HTML5 and JavaScript."

Starting from that comment, the Ars Technica post envisions a scenario in which Windows 8 developers would have to give up their usual full-featured coding tools of Visual Basic, .Net, Silverlight, and other environments, and instead rely on HTML5 and JavaScript, which are considered much more limited. That would also mean developers would no longer be able to draw on the time and knowledge and experience that they've put into learning and using their traditional programming tools.

It's understandable why developers might be upset if coding for a new operating system meant renouncing their current platforms for tools considered less capable. But the assertion from Ars Technica that developers are "horrified" seems like a broad generalization at this point, as understandable as that kind of reaction might be given Microsoft's lack of clarity on the subject.

Even the Ars Technica post ultimately acknowledges that Microsoft isn't going to leave the vast number of Windows developers in the lurch.

"Its messaging and PR around this issue may be crazy, and the way developers have responded is rational, but the company isn't going to alienate its enormous base of developers and force them to trash everything they've ever learned," according to Ars Technica. "Windows 8 will offer a new API, and you're not going to have to write webpages to use it."

Microsoft's lack of clarity on the matter has also caught the attention of Mary Jo Foley, writing for CNET sister site ZDNet. Foley confirmed that Microsoft has been talking up HTML5, JavaScript, and some new type of development kit as the tools for Windows 8 programmers, leading many to believe those would be the only tools available.

But Foley's sources said that, among other things, Microsoft will continue to support Silverlight in Windows 8, and not just as a browser plug-in. And support will continue for other traditional tools as well, at least for now.

"It definitely seems Microsoft's ultimate goal is to wean developers off Silverlight and to convince them to use HTML5 and JavaScript to write new apps for Windows, going forward," wrote Foley. "But until there's better tooling for HTML5 (beyond what Microsoft provides via the F12 HTML tools in Internet Explorer), it seems the Softies are going to support .Net and Silverlight via new versions of Visual Studio, the .Net Framework and Expression."