Microsoft BUILD – Expectations, intrigues, hopes and outlandish dreams
Tomorrow sees the start of Microsoft’s BUILD conference and as a Windows guy through and through I am excited to see what announcements will be forthcoming about the next version of Windows, codenamed “Windows 8″. Ahead of such events I like to speculate on those announcements and in this blog post I’ll talk about what I am expecting to see, what especially intrigues me from the plethora of rumours that are already out there, what I am hopeful of seeing and also some pie-in-the-sky stuff that I am pretty sure we won’t be seeing but that I’ll cling to some slither of hope for anyway.
Even though it is common knowledge that an app store is coming to Windows 8 I still expect that the feature introduced in Windows 7/IE9 which allows a website to be “pinned” to the user’s Windows 7 taskbar will be massively extended in Windows 8/IE10. The new Windows 8 start screen as shown off at D9 three months ago:
displays links to applications as “live tiles” and with Windows 8 I expect that any website in the world will have the ability to become a live tile on that start screen. Website developers will be able to add simple markup that defines what the site’s live tile should display, exactly the same as how pinning works in IE9 today.
This may sound like a relatively small feature but the ability to become front and centre on hundreds of millions of PCs is an attractive one and I expect many more sites to take advantage of this than have for IE9 pinning. The ability to include images, a not inconsiderable amount of screen real estate and some extra goodies (think of the ability to “flip” a tile on Windows Phone 7 Mango) means designers will have more scope to let their imagination flow – expect many “partners” to announce support for this feature tomorrow.
There has been feverish speculation regarding XBox-branded features coming to Windows and I must say I am very interested to see what this entails. I’m not a big gamer but I AM a big music listener and film watcher so I wonder whether some XBox (or Zune???) branded services will be coming to the desktop OS. Most of all I’m eager to see whether or not we will be able to get access to a plethora of TV channels on our PCs without needing a TV tuner card. Time will tell.
In 2008 Microsoft announced their Live Mesh initiative which promised much (“I say this demonstrates Microsoft has a compelling Internet platform and strategy now”) but so far has delivered precious little. The envisioning video that was released back then imagined a world where all our data was instantly synced between all of our devices and those of our family. Remember this? :
Back then I enthusiastically jumped onto Live Mesh and, moreover, the underlying API platform that was referred to as Live Framework (go and read my many many blog posts on the matter if you want a refresher). About a year later however Live Framework was unceremoniously removed from public view:
This morning, David Treadwell announced that the Live Framework CTP will be unavailable as of September 8. First, a very big thanks to all who tried out our CTP and provided invaluable feedback. All that we learned will be used in future offerings. As David says:
“At the Professional Developer Conference 2008, we gave the developer community access to the technical preview of the Live Framework. The Live Framework is core to our vision of providing you with a consistent programming interface. Now we are working to integrate existing services, controls and the Live Framework into the next release of Windows Live. Your feedback continues to help us build the best possible offerings for Windows Live users, for you and for your customers. “
Many people don’t know this but aspects of the Live Framework do live on today (did you know that Live Mesh in its current incarnation will sync your Office dictionary around different machines) however the ability for 3rd party developers to use the Live Framework API to sync application state to different devices is still not available; that was the promise of the Live Framework and is what got me so interested in it three years ago. My one big hope for BUILD is that the features promised for Live Framework get reintroduced as an API spanning Windows, Windows Phone, XBox and SkyDrive.
“SkyDrive?” I hear you question. Well yes, actually, SkyDrive! One of the other aspects of the aforementioned Live Mesh tech preview back in 2008 was that apps could live both on your devices and on a website that they called Live Desktop, here’s a screenshot from those far off days:
Is this ringing any bells? The premise was that if your data could roam with you via the Live Framework API then why not your apps too?
Windows Phone apps today are all Silverlight-based and the rumour is that Windows 8’s new app platform will be based on HTML5; is it really much of a stretch to think that SkyDrive could be your own personal online application hub where all your apps and their data can be accessed from any computer with an internet connection? I don’t think so.
There you have it. My big hope for Windows 8 is that it brings the promise of Live Mesh and the underlying Live Framework to fruition. Will it happen? We don’t have long to find out.
OK, I’ve covered what I’m pretty sure is going to be announced tomorrow, I’ve talked about one possible announcement that may be coming, how about something totally out of left field?
Microsoft need a big attention grabbing demo, something that will woo the iPad-loving hoards back to the fold, something that no-one else does. How about a tablet that runs Microsoft Surface’s PixelSense?
Hear me out on this one. Earlier this year Microsoft, together with Samsung, showed off the next evolution of Surface – a wall-mountable Surface touchable computer incorporating a technology called PixelSense which, in their own words, “gives LCD panels the power to see without the use of cameras”, in short a screen that can “see” what’s touching it. (Go and read up about it at Microsoft and Samsung Unveil the Next Generation of Surface.)
Rumour has it that Microsoft will be giving away a Samsung laptop tomorrow to all BUILD attendees – how cool would it be if it were running PixelSense?
I don’t think it will happen … but there’s nothing wrong with geeks dreaming, right?
That’s all from me, I’ll be watching the forthcoming revelations with interest. If you want to check out others’ thoughts on what is coming at BUILD hit some of the links below:
- My Predictions for This Week’s PDC 2011… Oops, I mean Build by Robert Mclaws
- My Predictions for Windows 8 & BUILD Conference by Jonathan Marbutt
- What I expect from Windows 8 by Ed Bott
- Ten watchwords for Microsoft’s Windows 8 conference by Mary-Jo Foley
- Birth of the cool by Mark Allan