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Windows 8
2 min read

Windows 8

This is an old post and doesn't necessarily reflect my current thinking on a topic, and some links or images may not work. The text is preserved here for posterity.

So the rumors are true. Windows 8, from the bootloader to the composition engine, is going to be completely rewritten in HTML 5 and JavaScript:

Today, we also talked a bit about how developers will build apps for the new system. Windows 8 apps use the power of HTML5, tapping into the native capabilities of Windows using standard JavaScript and HTML to deliver new kinds of experiences. These new Windows 8 apps are full-screen and touch-optimized, and they easily integrate with the capabilities of the new Windows user interface. There’s much more to the platform, capabilities and tools than we showed today.

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.

Or the time before that:

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)

Paul Stovell's Blog

Hello, I'm Paul Stovell

I'm a Brisbane-based software developer, and founder of Octopus Deploy, a DevOps automation software company. This is my personal blog where I write about my journey with Octopus and software development.

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