As I read Mary Jo Foley’s excellent recap of what is to come in Windows 9, I recalled several conversations with customers and New Signature employees who were curious about the direction Microsoft was taking with their operating systems and what it meant for their business.
Thinking back thirty years, the goal Microsoft had seems small: to put a computer in every home. Most individuals encountered computers for the first time in business locations, and they were expensive and difficult to replace. Getting those computers out of the office, and into homes everywhere, seemed audacious. App deployment was similarly immature: many customers purchased boxed software, performed installations themselves, and read product manuals (included in the box) if they ran into issues.
These days, most family households have multiple computing devices, from smartphones to tablets, laptops to entertainment systems. This sea change in the number of computing devices has put a strain on traditional application systems, support systems and IT departments around the world. What would a modern system look like? For starters, it would target the following goals:
- Applications would be safe, secure and isolated to ensure they didn’t conflict with one another; they would roam with customers rather than requiring re-installation on different devices
- The user experience (settings, interface, etc.) when shifting from one device to another would remain consistent, even if the screen sizes were different, from small wearables (watches/phones) up to large wall-mounted displays
- The user experience when offline or online would remain as consistent as possible
- Newer touch-capable devices could be used as well as traditional mouse/keyboard devices
- Data would be centrally stored in the cloud to ensure that customers wouldn’t have to “save” data in multiple locations and could access their data on a variety of devices
These goals are all achievable, and we’ve seen great progress with them on newer platforms, such as smartphones. It has become clear though, that the legacy Win32 world, with a history of applications that aren’t centrally managed, can break other apps, refuse to run on other devices with alternate architectures and whose interface drastically varies from device to device, don’t meet the challenges above.
Enter Windows Modern Apps. First introduced with Windows 8, the concept of a Modern Application had the following characteristics:
- Would run on multiple architectures (Intel /AMD / ARM) without issues
- Enforced a common design language that was touch-friendly by default
- Were curated from a single store, preventing rogue applications from impacting performance/security
- Did not interfere with other applications
- Could roam seamlessly from device to device without reconfiguration; included customer data and settings, stored in the cloud
When Microsoft introduced the original Surface, running Windows RT, it was only capable of running modern applications and eschewed the traditional Win32 world. What’s interesting about this approach is that despite the UI changes, there’s nothing technical that prevents Modern Apps (from the design ideas above) from running in “Desktop Mode”. Microsoft simply chose to incent developers to move to the new platform with the knowledge that Surface devices wouldn’t be able to run legay applications.
With Windows Phone 8.1 supporting Windows 8 apps, and XBox One already built on top of a Windows 8 operating system, the unification of design and technology results in a single vision: develop a modern application, and it will run on devices small and large, from a single curated store. For customers and businesses, the benefits are clear: less money spent maintaining applications, training staff on using new features, or restricting which devices can access which sets of data.
Interested in moving your organization to a modern application platform? New Signature has worked with many groups to help get beyond legacy platforms and to a nimble, customer-experienced driven environment.