Windows Ate.

Microsoft revealed the developer preview of Windows 8 today at the Build conference in Anaheim (which I attended via webcast–there’s no way I’m getting near Disneyland without them going after me for trademark infringement over my anthropomorphized rodent). And based on the demos, Windows 8 appears to amount to two admissions by Microsoft:

1) Wow, the iPad is kicking our ass. We better copy that.
2) The cloud and Web have won, so let’s make Windows the best way to hook into them.

First, the iPad. Windows 8 is totally designed to go after the iPad, using the Metro interface of the Windows 7 Phone and multitouch to create semi-original riffs plus some wholesale photocopying of iOS and Android functionality. It was demoed running on ARM and Intel based hardware, and it looked kind of slick in its side-scrolling 2-dimensional way. Maybe Microsoft should drop “Windows” and just call it “Tiles”.

But what really is intriguing from a developer standpoint, and probably from an corporate IT standpoint in the long run, is the way that Microsoft has turned web development standards into nearly full citizens of the Windows development world. XAML (and Silverlight) are one thing–that Windows 8 supports those for native apps is hardly a shocker. But JavaScript and HTML5 native support through the Windows Runtime (WinRT) API is a whole other thing, as is the fairly seamless support for discovery of both local and cloud-based services–developers don’t even need to know about them at coding time for users to leverage them.

One look at Windows 8 on ARM starts to explain why HP turned the other way and ran on the TouchPad. It looks fairly trivial to port JavaScript apps written for Mojo over (at least the core logic, with some rip-and-replace of some local calls with WinRT calls). I suspect it’s just a matter of time before there’s a PhoneGap plug in for Visual Studio as well and people start porting their apps written for iPhone and Android to get a shot at the Windows space. On the enterprise side, Office 365 and Azure get a leg up as well.

This is not as radical a departure as it might have been for Microsoft. There’s still that other interface they’re supporting — the Windows interface that got its last major update in 1995 (aside from the crazy stuff they’ve done with Start buttons and the Office UI). But it’s clear that the “legacy” UI will quickly become the ghetto UI, reserved for people who can’t convert their apps to cloud/web/Metro friendly ones quickly to start jamming them into Microsoft’s Windows 8 App Store.