Foley on Microsoft

Microsoft to Developers: .NET Support Isn't Going Away

Ever since Microsoft first took the wraps off its Windows Runtime (WinRT) programming interface and made it known HTML/JavaScript was an optional -- but preferred -- vehicle for building Windows Store (formerly called "Metro style") apps for Windows 8, many in the .NET development community felt slighted and devalued.

At the recent Microsoft Build 2013 conference in San Francisco, Microsoft officials extended an olive branch to the company's .NET dev base. During the second day keynote, officials actually apologized on stage for .NET confusion that the company may have created. A subsequent blog post from Corporate Vice President Soma Somasegar echoed that message. From that post:

"Given the huge impact that .NET has for companies, including both the expertise and assets created while developing their applications, and given Microsoft's recent focus on talking about the newest platforms and the increased openness of those platforms, it makes sense that many of you have been asking Microsoft about our commitment to .NET. So, let me be very clear: Microsoft is fully committed to helping you use .NET in your existing applications, as well as being fully committed to helping you extend those applications and building new ones to the emerging patterns users are demanding. This includes (but is certainly not limited to) your desktop applications and your client/server applications running on-premises."

C# Alive and Well
Though it never actually was the case thanks to the inclusion of XAML and .NET language support in the Windows 8 development platform, Microsoft is trying to make sure its developers know it's not HTML or the highway. (The not-so-secret fact is most of the Windows Store apps that have been built to date were built with C#.) Redmond's developer team wants it officially known that Microsoft .NET languages are still very much part of the picture, as are desktop apps.

So now the big question is: Apology accepted? Or has the .NET damage already been done, resulting in longtime Microsoft developers -- a group Microsoft really needs to help build apps, especially line-of-business (LOB) ones, for Windows 8 -- moving away from the platform?

Rockford Lhotka, CTO of Microsoft partner Magenic, was upbeat about Microsoft's apparent change of heart, as well as some of the under-the-cover changes it's making to the WinRT XAML stack as part of Windows 8.1. Lhotka blogged:

"[At Build 2013,] there was a serious emphasis on XAML, and most of the JavaScript content was Web-focused, not [Windows Runtime]-focused -- and I think this is good because it reflects the reality of the Microsoft developer community. Most of us are .NET/XAML developers and if we're going to shift to [the Windows Runtime] someday in the future it'll be via .NET/XAML. For my part, if I'm forced to abandon .NET for JavaScript I'll learn general JavaScript, not some Microsoft-­specific variation or library -- but if I see a viable future for .NET in the WinRT world, then I'll continue to invest in .NET -- and this conference was a start on Microsoft's part toward rebuilding a little trust in the future of .NET."

Not a Mea Culpa
Microsoft didn't go so far as to do a full 180 turn with its developer message. There were no mea culpas around the company's plan to phase out Silverlight, Windows Forms and Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF). That decision led to some grumbling from various .NET developers who continue to maintain that the Windows Runtime isn't a robust enough platform for building business apps.

It's not clear whether Microsoft ultimately will move the full .NET programming interface to the Windows Runtime at some point in the future, as some of the .NET faithful are hoping. But even if it doesn't, this year's steps toward bringing the .NET devs back into the Windows fold seem like the right move to me. What's your take?

About the Author

Mary Jo Foley is editor of the ZDNet "All About Microsoft" blog and has been covering Microsoft for about two decades. She has a new book out, Microsoft 2.0 (John Wiley & Sons, May 2008), about what's next for Microsoft in the post-Gates era.

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