For Microsoft, the traditional desktop is old news. It’s on its way out, it’s legacy, and the harder they claim the desktop has equal rights, the sillier it becomes. With companies, words are meaningless, it’s actions that matter, and here Microsoft’s actions tell the real story. The company has announced the product line-up for Visual Studio 11, and the free Express can no longer be used to create desktop applications. Message is clear.
Other than the structure of Windows 8 itself – focus on Metro, desktop as an isolated application – this is probably the biggest plain clue yet that yes, people, the desktop is windows 8’s Classic. It’s there now because Windows 8 is a transitory release, and like the first versions of Mac OS X, users will still need the ‘old’ applications. Metro is the future, and the only thing Microsoft really cares about.
The product line up for Visual Studio 11 confirms this. Like before, the line up is split between Visual Studio Express editions, which are free, and Visual Studio Professional and Ultimate editions, which are not. Starting with Visual Studio 11, the free Express editions can no longer be used to develop desktop applications. In order to write desktop applications, you’re going to need to move to one of the paid editions, starting at $499 retail, or $1199 (renewal $799 per year) if you want an MSDN subscription with your purchase.
The message is clear: investing in the desktop is pointless. Microsoft wants to push people towards developing for Metro, abandoning the desktop in the process. Normally, I would applaud such a move (Microsoft has been notoriously bad at getting developers to use new stuff), but in the case of Metro, the situation is different. Metro and its applications are effectively toys compared to traditional desktop applications, so pushing developers towards something that is barely 25% as powerful and functional as what it is supposed to replace doesn’t look like a good idea.
It’s a shame really. Metro is really fun. Just not for people who do more than check the weather and read Twitter.