Mark my words: HTML is going to revolutionize the concept of the desktop. Nothing in the history of Windows has been this big, well, at least not since the last time HTML revolutionized the desktop:
Windows Desktop Gadgets contains mini-applications or Gadgets which are based on a combination of Script and HTML. They may be used to display information such as the system time and Internet-powered features such as RSS feeds, and to control external applications such as Windows Media Player. Gadgets can run "docked" in the sidebar or they can "float" anywhere on the desktop. It is also possible to run multiple instances of a gadget simultaneously.
Active Desktop was a feature of Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0's optional Windows Desktop Update that allows the user to add HTML content to the desktop, along with some other features. This function was intended to be installed on the then-current Windows 95 operating system. It was also included in Windows 98 and later Windows operating systems until Windows Vista, where the feature was discontinued. This corresponded to version Internet Explorer 4.0 to 6.x, but not Internet Explorer 7.
Of course those were just interesting widgets, nothing special (I actually once had a 2-day consulting engagement to build a Windows Vista Gadget - it was THAT game changing). The version in Windows 8 is going to be FULL SCREEN and it will be used to build ENTIRE APPLICATIONS:
An HTML Application (HTA) is a Microsoft Windows program whose source code consists of HTML, Dynamic HTML, and one or more scripting languages supported by Internet Explorer, such as VBScript or JScript. The HTML is used to generate the user interface, and the scripting language is used for the program logic. An HTA executes without the constraints of the internet browser security model; in fact, it executes as a "fully trusted" application. The ability to execute HTAs was introduced to Microsoft Windows in 1999, along with the release of Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.
The topic of the month has already become "Is Silverlight/WPF dead?", which, let's face it, has been the topic of the month since .NET 3.0 shipped. It's quite possible that desktop HTML 5 applications could become another decision point on the platform decision flowchart, but will it really change the kinds of applications we're building today? Only time will tell.
(I'm curious to know whether Apple desktop application developers constantly pontificate over the demise of Cocoa since WebKit was open sourced, and whether PhotoShop or Visual Studio will be rewritten as
Vista Gadgets HTML 5 desktop experiences)
Welcome, my name is Paul Stovell. I live in Brisbane and work full time bootstrapping my own product company around Octopus Deploy, an automated deployment tool for .NET applications.
Prior to Octopus Deploy, I worked for an investment bank in London building WPF applications, and before that I worked for Readify, an Australian .NET consulting firm, where I was lucky enough to work with some of the best in the business. I also worked on a number of open source projects and was an active user group presenter. I've been a Microsoft MVP for WPF since 2006.