Build 2015 – Impressions so far (Windows and Windows Phone)

6 במאי 2015

4 comments

Look at that, a year has passed since my last blog post. Those last posts were summarizing //Build 2014// and this one will summarize //Build 2015//, so easy for you to follow dear reader. (If you really want to hear more than my blog, I urge you to follow me on twitter, where I tweet my thoughts rather carelessly Winking smile).

This year’s Build was different. Unlike Build 2014 which was a complete continuation of Build 2013.

To give you an example, one of the great introductions of Build 2014 was the “Shared Project” feature, this is no longer needed as the reason it was introduced for, the creation of the universal apps has changed.

Well you can say that Shared Project is a niche feature of Visual Studio, but how about not showing anything new on Windows Phone, almost nothing on new features.

Well beside the smallish notion of being able to run iOS/Android on it, that’s the elephant in the room and I will get on to that.

I’ve been vocal on twitter this week, expressing my thoughts, I’ve been called “The guy who complains”, “Fearful of unknown”, “Resistant to change” and “Politician” (!). Maybe the first is true (Smile) the rest not so much. Actually when reading what I wrote just last year I was surprised how optimistic it was. Well, 2014 was the year I got sober. Windows Phone missed the chance, and what else can I add to what already was said on Windows 8, a complete blow out.

The reason I got sober, I grew tired of waiting for WP to catch up, at Build2014 I saw signs of innovation, of unique features, but it was not enough to make a dent on the public market. I’m not an analyst, I can’t calculate why, maybe it’s the hardware, maybe it’s the PR, maybe it’s the name, maybe  it just not better than Android and iOS. What I do know that as a developer I’ve wished the pace to be much greater, I wanted to see features going into the platform much more quickly, as an example, at Build2014 they showed unique lock screen experience, and the ability for developers to “unlock” (Pun intended) and push unique experiences, this as excited, I always preached that WP should the take the middle road between iOS and Android. Not as open as Android to have the users exposed to any developer whip and not as closed as iOS that the way developer can influence what’s going on inside their apps is almost nothing. In that middle road, developers have controlled and secure way to enhance the experience of the OS via the official SDK. Let the community bridge the gap, if Microsoft can’t keep up, and make some money while doing it. Joe Belfiore as urged me that it was always his intention, but the implementation of this intent is what counts.

Windows

It's apparent that Windows 8 UI/UX is treated at Microsoft as a bad dream it needs to wake up from. Windows 10 undo most of the UX/UI concepts introduced into the system. Say goodbye to the following concepts: “Immersive” experience, “Snapping”, Charms Menu, Horizontal scrolling instead of Vertical scrolling, and “Content over Chrome”. Say hello to the “Hamburger” pattern which will be the main way you navigate and access app-wide operations. Do not get me wrong, I do not mourn this, MS should look forward and fix everything needed fix. Users hated that, it was too drastic a change, and they got lost with hidden “chrome”, didn’t appreciate the clever way you can use the same metaphors for settings and search to provide consistent patterns. That pushed for Windows 8 store apps that looked pretty much the same, resulting in the user growing tired of seeing grids of images with a label underneath them as if every developer used the default Grid App template and injected his domain into it. Almost the first thing that came into my head when I first glanced on Windows 8 was that it’s not windows anymore, really it’s not a window, but now this is ruined as well since during the Keynote they joked about Windows 8 that should have been renamed to Window 8. To make things worse, Windows 8 came as two distinct OS baked into one, however baking stopped prematurely and we ended with two systems to could hardly interact with each other. Consider the share contract, it worked only with other Windows Store apps, as a developer I understand perfectly how it came to be, but as a user, I can’t tolerate why I can share to the horrible store “Mail” app and not to Outlook, or notepad. So all resulted in most users to just ignore the platform that just couldn’t get and gave them no value at all since, unlike in tablets, they have the browser not so far away from them to give them any need.

It reminds me an anecdote, I tried purchasing movie tickets on the same time using iPad’s Safari and Surface RT’s IE. The experience of the iPad was so much superior. I actually got a migraine trying really hard to accomplish the same on the Surface. Well enough with the past.

I believe Windows 10 is a much better OS, it’s consistent, and brings in an experience, users will find friendly and yet helpful. If we ignore the pressing concern of privacy, Cortana on the PC can actually find much love with PC users.

I also want to appreciate the way the feedback system of the #WindowsInsider feature in baked in the OS, Microsoft is working hard to get the feedback early as possible, just imagine this being done with Windows 8!

Windows 10 is full of new features for power users as well such as multiple desktops and notification center. They are on the right way.

On the development side things looks rather nice, introducing a new App-Model (now without ARM, life is so much easier) that allows .NET/Win32 a way to participate with Store apps in interactions. And the Universal story looks much better, but I still need to get my hands dirty on that one in order to fully share my thought on that. However it looks promising with compiled bindings, new animation system and responsive layouts (copying the good things from Android for example).

The only problem I’ve is again, Microsoft horridly changes direction, without taking into account that their developers lose their integrity whenever they are selling the newest and greatest and a year later change direction as well. (Silverlight, WinJS, StoreApps come into mind). A company that invested in the platform a year ago, need to actually rewrite their stuff again.

Windows Phone

The new way universal apps are made, should make it easier for you to support Windows Phone. Nice. Thank you.

We are done.

Come back one year.

Well hold on not so quickly.

Oh hello Mr. Elephant, I promised we will meet.

Visual Studio 2015 now enables you to take your existing Android and iOS apps and package them as Windows Phone apps. Microsoft will try to make this as frictionless as possible and maps everything on those platform to Windows Phone. (And I only can guess to Tablets as well in the future).

The incentive for Microsoft is pretty obvious, they need to break the vicious App-User cycle (No apps cause there are not enough users, users lacks important apps they need) that exist in most markets.

For example in Israel, if I’m a big bank, building a native app costs too much to make it worthwhile to build it for such a small user base. The way Microsoft handled it before was to actually pay companies to support WP, that’s also backfired as smaller companies didn’t support the platform unless they got something from MS. But now, it’s a different story, that Bank can take either his iOS app or Android and push it the WP store almost “free”. And who doesn’t want to say it now can support all of his users right? (Edit: as of now Android apps are supported on Windows 10 "Mobile", and iOS apps on Windows 10. However I believe it's a matter of time till they have complete coverage).

Assuming MS will do their job right and make it as frictionless as possible, we are about to see influx of apps with contradicting UI/UX brought in into the platform. If that sounds familiar Blackberry tried to do the same supporting Android apps.

So Microsoft positioned themselves to forever catch up with API changes made by Apple and Google so they can support all the apps out there. Exactly what Xamarin is doing.

Fine for them, but what this means to the platform? Microsoft thinks that when those apps are finally on the platform, they will have no choice but to adapt and listen to users as reviews and requests will start hitting their ears.

Conclusion:

WP users win, they could finally join the millions that played Candy Crush 2 years ago and mostly grew tired and stopped a year ago now, and have, that app and others like it on the platform. I am guessing that most of them will find the UI/UX irritating, but they will swallow it, better this than nothing right?

MS wins, the platform lives yet another day.

Windows Phone developers lose. Especially Rudy Huyn who had  made a business creating clones Smile. (Edit: This was made as a joke. I'd not imagine a gifted developer such as Rudy to stay without anything to do. Further more, you can read Rudy's take here.)

One can argue if there was ever an incentive on targeting WP first, but MS developers found themselves in familiar place with C# and XAML so it was nice, safe, place to prototype and get to the market quickly. Now while this still true, you could do better with Xamarin (assuming you can pay for it), or just learn some Java for gods sake, it’s not as good as C#, but not so bad. And hey you can still push to WP if that what really kicks you.

Sure the developers will have to help out “porting” the new way. But most of them will just move on.

As the dust settles a mere week after the first keynote. What do you think?

Ariel

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4 comments

  1. Tomer6 במאי 2015 ב 21:05

    Great summary Ariel, really liked the humoristic way you shed some light on WP.

    I'm am a WP user and wondering what will be my next phone, Galaxy S6, HTC M9 or LG G4.
    What do you say? 🙂

    Reply
    1. Ariel Ben Horesh
      Ariel Ben Horesh7 במאי 2015 ב 11:16

      Hi Tomer. Thank you for your kind words.
      Personally I use all 3 platforms: iOS, Windows Phone and Android, and mostly enjoy them from the user side.
      My personal preference if I'd to choose one will be an iPhone.
      For the Android devices, not really had the chance to try them out, but I heard very good things about the LG one.

      Reply
    2. Tzurie8 במאי 2015 ב 13:27

      Go for the Lumia 840 when it out

      Reply
  2. Mateusz9 במאי 2015 ב 20:31

    I agree, really great article. I am Windows Phone developer with 3 years experience and the announcement is really bad. I think that in the future most of apps in Windows store will be ported from Android. No one will hire us. Cheaper and better is to hire another/first Android developer. I am tired and have to take care of my future/life so probably will make decision to switch to iOS development. It's really payable job, will be missed for visual studio.

    Reply