Windows 8 was supposed bring with it the platform by which developers could produce applications that would have consistent experiences across platforms. This came in the form of Metro (and now Modern) apps which would be powered by the WinRT framework, something which had all the right technological bells and whistles to make such a thing possible. However with the much maligned desktop experience, most of which was focused specifically at the Metro apps, the platform unification dream died a quick death. Microsoft hasn’t left that dream behind though and their latest attempt to revive it comes to us in the form of Universal Applications. This time around however they’re taking a slightly different approach: letting the developers build what they want and giving them the option of porting it directly across to the Windows platform.
Under the hood the architecture of Universal Apps is similar to that of their Metro predecessors, providing a core common set of functionality across platforms, however the difference comes in the form of developers being able to create their own platform specific code on top of the core binary. This alleviates the main issue which most people had with Metro apps of the past (I.E. they felt out of place pretty much everywhere) and allows developers to create their own UX for each platform they want to target. This coupled with the new “4 bridges” strategy, which defines a workflow for each major platform to come into the Universal App fold, means that Microsoft has a very compelling case for developers to spend time on bringing their code across.
As I talked about previously the two major smartphone platforms get their own bridge: Project Islandwood (iOS) and Project Astoria (Android). Since the first announcement it doesn’t seem that much has changed with this particular strategy however one key detail I didn’t know at the time was that you’d be able to directly import your Xcode project into Visual Studio, greatly reducing the effort required to get going. What kind of support they’ll have for Android applications, like whether or not they’ll let you import Eclipse projects, still remains to be seen unfortunately. They’ve also announced the bridge for web applications (Project Westminster) although that’s looking more and more like a modern version of ActiveX rather than something that web developers will be actually interested in pursuing.
The latest bridge to be announced is Project Centennial, a framework that will allow developers to port current Win32 based applications to the Universal platform. Whilst this likely won’t be the end game to solving everyone’s woes with migrating poorly coded applications onto a more modern OS (App-V and other app virtualization technologies are the only real treatments for that) it does provide an avenue for potentially aging code bases to be revamped for a new platform without a herculean amount of effort. Of course this means that you’ll need both the original codebase and a willingness to rework it, both things which seem to be rare for old corporate applications that can’t seem to die gracefully. Still another option is always welcome, especially if it drives further adoption of the Universal Platform.
Universal apps seem to have all the right makings for a revolutionary platform however I can’t help but take a reserved position after what happened with WinRT and Modern Apps. Sure, Windows 10 is likely shaping up to be the Windows 7 to the ills of Windows 8, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that all the technological innovations that come along with it will be welcomed with open arms. At least now the focus is off building a tablet/mobile like experience and attempting to shoehorn it in everywhere, something which I believe is behind much of the angst with Windows 8. It’ll likely be another year before we’ll know one way or the other and I’m very keen to see how this pans out.
This morning greeted me gently, with the warm Miami sun peeking around the small crack I had left in the blinds. I had done that deliberately as I have a horrible tendency to oversleep when I don’t see any natural sunlight. It worked a charm and I was up early enough to make a trip down to Key West viable. Packing up everything I’d need for the day I called the desk to have the valet bring my car around and set about planning the last few details of the trip. I had a couple sites in mind but mostly I was just hoping for a scenic route and maybe a decent beach to have a dip in. This heat was starting to take its toll.
After quickly refuelling I punched in one of the street addresses down in Key West and started following the route. Initially the drive was a bit disappointing as it was basically just a road through the mangroves but I about 30 minutes after getting out of the city limits I was greeted with my first long bridge spanning about half a mile. I was pretty impressive how it rose up from basically nothing but it wasn’t anything to write home about. Along the way though there were some very impressive examples of both past and present, piquing my curiosity. I went to explore a few of them.
This was one of two massive bridges that hasn’t been in use for quite some time. The first section on either side had been removed probably to stop people from trying to use them. Interestingly though not one other sections had fallen into the ocean below signalling that apart from the fact that it’s made of wood it was a pretty stable structure. The other one of these also had 2 sections removed but not at both ends, just at one and another towards the middle. Just before that removed section was a small island with about 5 houses on it. I haven’t had the chance to look it up but it might be some kind of attraction as there were several people walking to and from that little place on that old bridge. I gave it a pass as it was a good 2 mile walk to it and I had a total of 7 hours of driving to do today, not a lot of time for lolly-gagging.
As for Key West itself? Well there wasn’t a heck of a lot to it at first glance, just a bunch of resorts and the shops that would go along with them. It felt a lot like Bateman’s Bay sprawling out in all directions with a good population calling the place home. I headed down to South Beach to see the southern most point of the United States. The beaches were unfortunately nothing amazing and my adventures on the way down had chewed up a lot of daylight so I decided to leg it back to the hotel. Winding my way out I came across the main street that I had managed to somehow miss on my in and it was alive with people. All the shops were decked out in Halloween decorations and it seemed like everyone had somewhere to be. Had I had more time I would’ve spent a couple hours there but my previous adventures had left me tired and wanting for a good sleep, so I headed off back home.
Overall today was pretty uneventful when you compare it to my last few days here in the US. Still it was nice to take the Corvette for a drive and explore some of the relics of days gone by, even if the heat sapped every bit of my strength when I dared to step out of my air conditioned heaven. I’m not entirely sure what I’ll do tomorrow, but since my camera died before taking a single picture today I’m probably going to spend tomorrow indulging my photographic nerd. There’s no lack for subjects here either so it could be quite the day.
I did get to enjoy a sunset though 🙂