If you missed all the excitement on the interwebs yesterday, you should know that Windows 8 officially went RTM. My good friend and prolific animated GIF pundit John Bristowe posted this apt metaphor of the frenzy over at MSDN.

You can count me in the pile of chaos trying to get my hands on the latest bits of the new OS. But it got me thinking. Outside of those of us who will download anything that is new and shiny, what does this new version of Windows really mean? It’s different. It’s the style formally known as “metro”, and it has the noticeable absence of a start button. But lets be completely honest. Who cares?

At the end of the day, are actual business users and consumers going to be adopting this operating system? Because if they aren’t, why should I as a developer even bother?

I’m a web developer. I have been since I knew that I wanted to be a developer. Developing for the web is quite simply the easiest way to deploy and maintain an application. Operating systems can come and go. Honestly, I don’t care. Change the way it looks. Make it touch friendly. Give it an app store. What I really care about, is the browser.

Users on the other hand, aren’t quite the same.

A Quick User Study

Study 1

Contrary to what my wife thinks, the internet does not consist of just her iPad. I sometimes get a call from my wife that goes something like this…

  • Wife: “The internet is down.”
  • Me: “You mean you can’t get on Facebook.”
  • Wife: “Yes.”
  • Me: “Are you using the app, or are you using the browser?”
  • Wife: “What’s the difference?!?”

Study 2

My wife works as a nurse. Recently, they began doing electronic charting. She was telling me all about the new software. The first thing I wanted to know is whether or not it was browser based.

  • Me: “Is it a web app?”
  • Wife: “I don’t know.”
  • Me: “Well how do you open it?”
  • Wife: “We click on the blue e.”

Now both of these users studies are based on my wife because she’s kind of an easy target. The thing is, she doesn’t know how the internet works and she doesn’t care. She doesn’t want me to explain it. She’s quite intelligent. If she wanted to know, she would just find out. Apparently, not everyone is as enthralled with and connected to technology as you and I are.

It’s funny, but there is a valuable insight into users minds in the above studies. Most users don’t distinguish between an application on the internet and any other application. If you want to be truly shocked, check out this video where they ask people what a “browser” is.

 

The Web As A Platform

Brandon and I just attended and spoke at ThatConference (which was an amazing event by the way. Make sure you are there next year.) Brandon gave a talk about HTML5 and Windows 8. It was a fantastic hour where Brandon went thru the evolution of the web, interfaces and operating systems.

In this session, he echoed Atwood’s Law:

Any program that can be written in JavaScript will eventually be written in JavaScript

Atwood said that in 2007! Since then we have seen an absolute explosion in JavaScript and what it is used for. We’ve now got it running our applications and powering some of the web.

Brandon took it a step further and proposed a corollary:

Any platform with mainstream adoption will eventually enable applications to be written using web technologies

ORLY?

PhoneGap

In 2009 at an iPhoneDevCamp in San Francisco, PhoneGap was born. When it first hit the scene, it came from so far out of left field that I wasn’t even really sure how that would work or why you would want to do it. 3 years later, its widely considered the way that all applications will be written in the future.

Chrome

Google has been heading in that direction for a while. I have a Chrome Box sitting on my desk where all of the applications are web applications. And you know what? It’s a fantastic operating system. It’s fast, it’s simple, and I honestly don’t care that all application icons essentially just open a web page. It just works.

I actually swapped out the Chrome Box in my living room with the existing Mac Mini and nobody said a word. Why? Because the Chrome icon is there and that’s all my family is looking for when they sit down.

We’re all very familiar with Chrome on our desktops. You probably also know that Chrome has “Applications” in addition to extensions that are wrappers around web sites, but they allow you to list your site in the Chrome Web Store and also mitigate the redundant permissions prompting for certain features (like a user’s location) by having the user “install” the application and grant the permissions just once.

What you may not know as much about, is Chrome Packaged Apps. This type of application runs outside of the browser chrome. This means there is no URL bar. Additionally, they have access to native features of devices that far exceed what can be done with a web application.

Windows 8

At //Build in 2011, Microsoft announced that you would be able to write applications on Windows 8 with either XAML, or HTML and JavaScript - and these two platforms would be separate but equal, both running directly on top of Windows RT. There was in the meantime no mention of .NET and millions of developers said, “Uh WAT!?!”

For the record as we all know now, .NET is of course still there. Telerik’s Doug Seven released a more accurate diagram of the Windows 8 architecture that you should check out here if you’re still a bit fuzzy on this one.

So What?

You can see a clear pattern developing. The reason why we write web applications is that its easy! JavaScript as a language is simple to use and there have been so many libraries created to make it even easier.

So who cares about Windows 8 RTM? I Do. And you should too.

But I don’t think my company will deploy Windows 8 anytime soon.  Maybe not ever.”

Your users may not see Windows 8 on their desktops, but they will almost surely see Windows 9.  Large enterprise and business isn’t usually on the bleeding edge, but they can’t stay too far behind for long.

Microsoft clearly gets it. They have optimized the web code that we write to enable us to do what we are going to do anyway. They are the first major OS vendor to do this and it shouldn’t be glossed over. Regardless of how you feel about the actual operating system itself.

Here at Kendo UI and Telerik, we know and love the power of HTML5 and the web. We created Kendo UI to help you build amazing web and mobile applications. We took that same HTML5 love and create the Windows 8 UI controls.

Download Kendo UI today and get to know a better HTML5 development experience.  The truth is, the more web programming you do today, the more prepared you are going to be to do the next generation of platform development.

Google is in. Adobe is In. Microsoft is in.

Your move Apple.


Burke Holland is the Director of Developer Relations at Telerik
About the Author

Burke Holland

Burke Holland is a web developer living in Nashville, TN and the Director of Developer Relations at Telerik. He enjoys working with and meeting developers who are building mobile apps with jQuery / HTML5 and loves to hack on social API's. Burke works for Telerik as a Developer Advocate focusing on Kendo UI.

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