Microsoft's Extinction Event
Written by Mike James   
Friday, 25 May 2012
Article Index
Microsoft's Extinction Event
The RT boundary


Being a browser plug-in, which are now regarded as only just a little better than a cookie or a virus, Silverlight has no hope of survival.

It is the last of the great .NET adventurers trying to go places that Microsoft technologies never managed to get. Silverlight has to die for so many reasons - but not because it wasn't a great idea.

But wait what about Silverlight on Windows Phone?

Windows Phone 7/7.5

You cannot really expect the non-WinRT/ non-Metro environment of Windows Phone 7.7.5 to survive the great extinction event can you?

Of course not. It makes zero sense to keep Silverlight on a mobile phone when it has been stomped out of existence on tablets.

There is a natural synergy between tablets and phones and not being able to develop one app for both would be crazy. So Windows Phone 8 is going to run WinRT applications. Microsoft promised that WP8 would run old WP7 apps, but so far has said nothing about this being the way forward.

If you read between the lines, it looks as if existing Windows Phone 7/7.5 devices probably won't be getting an upgrade to WP8. This could be because the upgrade is just too tough a task.  WP8 is going to be a new platform and, despite what Microsoft promises, my guess is that it will be as much a new start as Windows 8. Silverlight will almost certainly die.


At last we reach a beast with a chance of survival - but I doubt it.

XNA is an easy to use .NET system for working with DirectX so that you can create apps to run on Windows Phone 7/7.5, the desktop and the Xbox. Of these three environments only the Xbox is looking like a warm and welcoming place.  XNA isn't available under WinRT and if Silverlight isn't going to survive on WP8 don't expect XNA to last any longer.

I can't see a future for XNA other than on the Xbox and so far this seems to be a platform that isn't being squeezed by WinRT. Unless of course the next version of the XBox adopts the same OS as the desktop, tablet and phone. Seems reasonable to me.


The markup language introduced with WPF is one of the few survivors. It now sits alongside HTML as a markup language. This serves two purposes.

The first is that it allows Microsoft to confuse everybody with the idea that WinRT is just like programming in WPF/Silverlight - it isn't because there are too many missing features and odd details of implementation. The second is that C++ really did need a markup language and it might as well be XAML.

HTML5 of course brings in a whole new way to develop apps that is 100% standards-based and Microsoft can make a lot of this goodness. Only it isn't particularly standards-based. If you create an HTML/JavaScript app for WinRT then don't expect it to run anywhere else - unless of course you don't make use of any of the extensions which make it specific to WinRT.




The Unthinkable

There are lots of other technologies that are on the short list for extinction.

Perhaps the most unthinkable is the Win32 API itself - but it is thinkable?

WinRT doesn't support any of the features that made Windows what it is - in other words, overlapping windows and preemptive multitasking. Yes, it could be that if WinRT/Metro is the way of the future then Windows with windows and multitasking  is doomed.

Notice that the demise of the Win32 API wouldn't really be something to cry about. It is old, inefficient and no way to run an operating system. But it has a huge number of facilities that will take a long time to replace in WinRT. The Windows desktop and Win32 are not pretty, but they are mature.

Of course at this point you are probably thinking that WinRT and Metro could never displace the desktop.

This would be true if Microsoft hadn't grafted WinRT/Metro onto the front of the desktop environment. The result being a mutant that doesn't really suit anyone.

At least WinRT manages to get away from the old desktop portion when it runs as Windows RT on ARM-based hardware. Pity the poor desktop portion of the OS having to drag WinRT/Metro around with it on all that other hardware.

If you have tried Windows 8, ask yourself just one question - what does WinRT bring to the desktop?

If you are honest you have to admit that it brings nothing you couldn't have done before and it simply makes what you have done before harder to use.

The crazy part is that WinRT could have been hosted as an application on the desktop under Windows 8 - and under Windows 7 for that matter. It could have been all contained with in a single re-sizable, overlappable window.

But of course Microsoft needs what looks like a new operating system.

If the backlash is big enough, it could just be that the biggest extinction event in software history might just feature WinRT/Metro as its star headline.

Lets just hope that the RT boundary leads to a more sane Windows 9.

Related Articles

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Three Windows 8 Editions Clarify the WinRT Position

How Microsoft Could Have Done Metro

The War At Microsoft - Managed v Unmanaged

Dumping .NET - Microsoft's Madness

Why your next language better be C++

Was .NET all a mistake?

Silverlight is dead, long live Silverlight?

Windows and .NET - the coming storm

WPF & Silverlight at risk from Microsoft's passion for HTML5

Work Starts on Metro Firefox - The Birth of the MetroTop App

Metro Firefox Makes Rapid Progress





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Last Updated ( Monday, 28 May 2012 )