Developers, here’s your true place in the hierarchy

Former Microsoft Distinguished Engineer Hal Berenson has some advice for developers.

Dear Developer, excuse me while I slap you silly

You can whine all you want about Tablets being only (and barely suitable) for consumers, but when the VP of Retail decides she’s handing all 10,000 store associates Tablets you are going to be writing Tablet apps.  I don’t care if you are working in IT, or for a retail system software supplier, you will write Tablet apps or be out looking for a job.


For the 20-something and under crowd the current Windows desktop experience is about as attractive as the thought of visiting a 19th century dentist. It isn’t a fad, as many business app developers are praying for. There is no “Ah Ha” moment that will cause the world to abandon these trends and return to a world of cascading menus and mice.

And guess what folks, if Windows 8 and Metro fail the world you will be left in is not a Windows Desktop world. Even if Microsoft does offer a fallback to the classic desktop, that will be the OS/360 of the client world. It will be an IOS, or IOS-like, enterprise computing world.

The whole thing is worth reading.

11 thoughts on “Developers, here’s your true place in the hierarchy

  1. “Even if Microsoft does offer a fallback to the classic desktop, that will be the OS/360 of the client world. It will be an IOS, or IOS-like, enterprise computing world.”

    lol but it will be iOS with a mouse and a keyboard which essentially is just windows with a desktop. and you think all businesses will re-write every app just for the fun of it? try again.

  2. Neither I, nor I suspect anyone at Microsoft, think mice should go away. The overhaul of the shell isn’t meant to exclude the use of mice, it is meant to modernize the overall user experience. Mice are going to work perfectly well with both the new Metro shell and apps. It’s just that the user experience will be different from what we’ve gotten used to over the last 17 years.

    I can tell you how much better the TOPS-20 user experience was in the 1970s than anything we have today. And I can talk about some of the architectural features that no operating system since has gotten right. And I’d be 100% correct. And no one on the planet except historians and others who are nostalgic about that era will give a damn. Forty years from now that’s how people will look back on arguments about cascading start menus and overlapping windows vs start screens and tiled windows. Odds are I won’t be around to verify that, but if I am I’ll post an “I told you so” message.

  3. The article is based on the fantasy that everyone has tablets, and nobody has laptop or desktop computers. That’s not going to happen any decade soon. That’s not the reality that Win8 is being released into.

    1. Nope, not based on that at all. It is based on the fact that Tablets are becoming a PART OF the landscape, and that both they and some of the characteristics they embody are driving a new generation of applications.

      But its real point is that as developers we exist to serve business unit requirements within the context of organizational IT policies. And if the business units want Tablets we are going to be forced into the new reality.

  4. Oh my. And for those of us who support Windows PCs – our place in the hierarchy is, I suspect, a step or so below the developers. 😉 Sigh… time to work up a new profession!

  5. I’m just ill by the developers thoughts on what they think end users want. When I first saw Windows 8, I was very impressed and anticipating it’s arrival. As each day moves on, I see more and more that it just flat won’t work as expected. Not that it won’t work, it will to some extent and I hope it does. But with the style of “take it or leave it” from not just developers, but MS and others there is bound to be a drastic backlash from the end users. As a IT professional, I’m not looking foward to dealing with that backlash and the endless hours of try to console users on what they thought they got and what they didn’t. I got enough of that from Vista! Don’t get me wrong, I liked Vista, still think it was a fantastic move for MS. But the end users did not. They hated it. I worked my ass off trying to fill in the details that MS forgot, and that developers ignored. Hal, with all due respect from another developer by training (though I gave up the development side of IT to work closer with people on their IT needs) you don’t have a crystal ball. Don’t act like you do.

  6. A friend of mine is a young person and carried on and on about tablets and the like, until I showed him my gamer/primary ws. I needed a beach towel to sop up the dribble…

    1. What did that baby cost you, and can you take it with you to Starbucks?

      But the point of that blog posting was not to attack desktops, nor the many awesome applications for same, nor the many scenarios in which keyboard and mouse are the best solution, nor many other things.

  7. Scott,

    Keep in mind that I explicitly introduced the blog entry by saying I was playing Devil’s Adocate, That implies it is a position I don’t completely believe in, particularly in terms of making it more extreme than the typical reality. If you read my other blog entries you’ll see my position is far more balanced and generally more conservative on how transitions like this happen.

    Second, I have either been in all of the roles discussed and/or spent a great deal of time working with people in those roles. Usually both. I think I accurately represent their core desires, though I may have exaggerated the compression of time in which they will impose their will on things.

    Third, there is just tons of data out there, as well as historical precendent, to support everything I wrote. You just have to either be familiar with it or go looking for it.

    Fourth, indeed a good part of my career has been built around seeing where technology and customer (primarily enterprise customer) requirements are going and creating long term technical strategies. In other words people paid me to look into the crystal ball. I have a pretty good track record.

    People hate being forced to change. Change on their own terms is ok, but imposing a change is hard. So a new app, like giving a retail sales associate a modern tablet swith modern apps o they can do a better job out on the sales floor instead of being stuck behind a counter using crusty tools (or no tools at all) is relatively low resistance. Changing the user experience for someone sitting in call center taking orders all day, even with just modest tweaks, meets lots of resistance. Microsoft is taking no risk in creating a modern user experience for Tablets and a huge risk in changing the user experience for notebooks and desktops. The mitigation of that risk in the Enterprise is that enterprises are unlikely to adopt Windows 8 for notebooks and desktops, they will stick to (or complete their migration to) Windows 7 for those. By the time Windows 9 comes along and Enterprises start the next migration cycle the new user experience should be well established in the consumer realm and end-users will be asking for it at work. There will be no need to force it on them, nor deal with the resulting backlash. And if the new user experience fails to take hold in the consumer realm then Microsoft is in deep trouble.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s