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March 12, 2012

Attended the Windows 8 TechConference

I’ve just arrived home from a long day (mainly because of the 4-hour round-trip rail travel) at the Windows TechConference in Baden, Switzerland, focused on Windows 8. It was a pretty interesting day – thankfully, as I’m still a bit jetlagged from my trip to California, and I didn’t want to doze off in the lecture theatre. And yes, I’ve certainly dozed during a few lectures in my time, but not since leaving University.

The main developer-oriented session I attended – which covered writing a WinRT application to pull down Teletext into a XAML + C# application, which was just my kind of demo – taught me a valuable lesson: do not sit up front during a demo focused on Metro UI development – which tends to involve lots and lots of horizontal scrolling – especially when the amphitheatre has cinema-style seating (it was held in a cinema) and you’ve been plied with lots of free food. I nearly had to leave when motion sickness made me feel distinctly nauseous. :-S :-)

But there were some genuinely interesting takeaways from that session: Microsoft are doing a typically pragmatic job of marrying the new with the legacy. Windows 8 will provide an interesting environment for applications, with legacy “desktop” applications (whether using native and/or managed code) will happily co-exist with code running inside the WinRT sandbox. I’m itching to install and play with Windows 8 preview (now that that the Windows 8 consumer preview is available, I expect it’s better to go with that), using the Visual Studio 2011 Beta to build my first Metro-style app.

Another comment on the XAML + C# session: all the coding during that session was performed on a tablet device – albeit one with an external keyboard and mouse – which was pretty cool. A lot of comments were made around the slate’s array of external ports and extensibility options, which was a clear dig at the iPad’s lack of them.

And it was interesting to see every tablet demoed during the day – at least that I saw – had Autodesk SketchBook Express installed (even if it wasn’t shown running), which was either an indication of how cool the app is (and it has been receiving good press, it seems) or how little competition it has on the Windows 8 platform (it is early days, after all). All hot on the heels of SketchBook Ink’s coverage during the iPad 3 launch last week, which came as a surprise to lots of us at Autodesk, too.

There was a fun session talking about the Metro design language, and how it was inspired by bauhaus (being reductionist and functionality-focused), Swiss typography (clearly a crowd-pleaser, here) and motion design.

The other interesting developer-oriented session was a deep dive into WinRT, which showed some of what was going on under the hood in Windows 8. I have a better understanding of the Windows 8 architecture, at this stage, but still need to look into it more deeply (which I expect to share via this blog).

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