Early this month, Microsoft dropped something of a bombshell on Windows developers: the new Windows 8 touch-friendly immersive style would use a developer platform not based on .NET, which Microsoft has been championing for the past decade. Instead, it would use HTML5 and JavaScript. Since then, the company has refrained from making any further comment on the issue. In particular, the question that has many Windows developers particularly concerned—how can I make use of my existing skills and experience when developing these new applications?—remains unanswered; the company plans to reveal nothing until its BUILD conference in September.

But the situation probably won't be as grim as many developers fear. Early milestone builds of Windows 8 have leaked onto the Internet, and considerable effort has been put into figuring out how they work. Though officially tight-lipped, snippets of information have escaped Redmond's walls. So far, it appears that Windows 8 development doesn't just look not bad—there are signs that it will actually resolve many long-standing annoyances with writing Windows software. If Microsoft can pull off everything it's hoping to achieve with the platform, Windows 8 will be as important and radical a release as Windows Longhorn was going to be.

A Guy