Tuesday, January 11, 2011

"Microsoft has completely lost the web development community."

Last year Mark Pilgrim released a free e-book/site called “Dive Into Html5” (  The site/book has served as a valuable resource on a recent Html5 project we’re working on here at AIS, and I have frequently gone back for details on topics such as local storage and canvas.  It is an excellent book for any bleeding edge web developer.  It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.

This week, Mark posted his observations on how publishing a free e-book (which is also purchasable in print format) works well for him, and that it gives great insight into what parts of the book are being read, and by whom. He then makes the following observation:

6% of visitors used some version of Internet Explorer. That is not a typo. The site works fine in Internet Explorer — the site practices what it preaches, and the live examples use a variety of fallbacks for legacy browsers — so this is entirely due to the subject matter. Microsoft has completely lost the web development community. (emphasis mine)

I forwarded this internally within AIS, and a nice debate ensued.  One common complaint was the hyperbole of the statement, and I agree; a more accurate line would likely be "Microsoft as a browser vendor has lost significant mindshare in the bleeding edge web development community."

Personally one of the things I love about Html5 (using the term the way the hypers would – to mean modern web development with client-driven UI interactions using JavaScript, CSS(3) and some HTML5 semantics) is that it has in some ways unified the web development community:  The debate a few years ago was about JSP vs .NET vs PHP vs Python vs Rails vs someotherservertechnology.  Folks from different camps seldom interacted and learned from each other.  With Html5, the backend processes are completely irrelevant, as long as they don’t muck with the Html (ASP.NET webforms is still a major sinner here, unfortunately) and developers using all sorts of backend software and operating systems are now adding to the collective knowledge, mostly working towards the common goal of getting as much functionality as possible, pushed to end users through mostly standards compliant browsers. 

For instance, our Html5 app is backed by ASP.NET MVC 2 and SQL server.  We do all our development on Windows, in Visual Studio – we’re looking to deploy to Azure.  Clearly we’re MS developers.  But we could just as well have done the app in Php against MySql running on linux and apache, and we’re taking cues from folks using python, java, Rails, Node.js, php and God knows what on the backend.

At the same time I haven’t used IE by choice for about 5 years, maybe more…

I was asked what I thought MS could do to gain back some developer mindshare – so here goes:

  • My thoughts are that if Html5 and the set of bleeding edge technologists that go with it are any kind of priority for MS,  they need to do some or all of the following:
  • Find a way to upgrade the legions of IE 6, 7  and 8 users to IE9.  This will obviously not be easy,  but they could do something similar to what Google did with Chrome frame (i.e. make IE9 a plugin for the older browsers),  or they could do something like the makers of the “IE Tab” Chrome and Firefox extensions do,  allow IE to be hosted inside Chrome,  and only activate it for certain sites.  Or let users install IE9 side by side with the older versions.   All of these would have as goal to encourage end users to use the latest possible browser for the task they need it for,  and to make them install IE9 instead of Chrome or Firefox.
  • Make IE9 the paragon of standards compliance.   (They are actually getting close to this...)
  • Bring IE9 to WP7 and whatever tablet software they're coming out with.
  • Reduce the focus of Silverlight as a browser plugin,  and make it more about web-deployed desktop apps.
  • Drastically improve the support for css and javascript in Visual Studio, including debugging and unit testing.   And give this toolset away in the form of VS Express.
  • Evolve the Dev tools in IE9 to become better than Chrome's inspector and the Firebug plugin.
  • Separate the IE development from Windows to allow quicker iterations
  • Do more things like the jQuery deal. The world of CSS is a mess (we desperately need mixins and code forks like those provided by media queries), MS could take the lead here…

The point is, whether Mark’s browser percentages are statistically valid as an indication of web developer’s preferences, or to what degree Microsoft is lagging/losing developer mindshare; these are not the pertinent questions.  The fact is that Microsoft is now not a leader in emerging web development areas – maybe they never were – but should they want to be, they need to take action. IE9 is shaping up to be a great browser, and they need to push it aggressively.

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

iPad Mockups To Go

After using the heck out of Peldi’s (here and here) and Simon Herd’s (here) original templates for Balsamiq iPad mockups, I decided to give back to the community by creating some templates that I found were missing:

The iPad Portrait and iPad Landscape templates are 1:1 scale iPad mockups, with an inner frame with 1024x768 resolution.  I assembled the frame of the iPad piecemeal, so as to leave a “hole” in the middle, for your content to shine through.  This is something I sorely missed with Peldi’s templates, forcing me to do far too much work in Paint.Net, manipulating my images to fit his frame exactly.

Complementing these is my iPad Keyboards template.  If you’re already using one of the above templates, this one isn’t necessary, but if you want to use Peldi’s templates, my template will come in handy.  It's simply the iPad keyboard as Simon Herd originally created it, but in 4 different resolutions, with minor corrections:


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Sunday, June 13, 2010

IE 9 HTML5 Testing: “Works on My Machine”

One of my esteemed colleagues on an internal forum posted about how great IE 9’s HTML5 support was, based on the result of Microsoft’s test pages.  MS’s tests are sadly self-selective however: meaning they only seem to test for elements that IE9 supports:

“Cross-browser Test Results Summary:
W3C Web Standards Number of Submitted Tests Internet Explorer 9
Platform Preview
Mozilla Firefox 3.6.3 Opera 10.52 Apple Safari 4.05 Google Chrome 4.1
HTML5 40 78% 63% 48% 43% 43%

Compare that to my own results running on the 6(!) browsers I have installed:


Html5 is the first time in a decade that the browser vendors have had a new major standard to fight over; I’m just grateful that this time around we’ll have an army of frameworks such as jQuery that can level the development playing field for us.

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Uh Huh - iPad Ad Coordination FAIL

There’s a new iPad print ad campaign out, obviously (?) as a reaction to the whole Flash controversy.  It shows a hip (?) young(?) female (I hope) watching a Juliette Lewis video on vimeo.  Too bad the rest of us can’t….


AdFail2 AdFail3

PS! Interesting to see the lag between the ad creation and the release date

PPS! vimeo uses a mainframe?

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Thursday, July 31, 2008

iPhone Business Card Scanner Software

Ok, this is partly an experiment to see if putting a sexy title on the blog will result in additional hits, and partly stating yet another pre-stolen idea (not necessarily restricted to an iPhone):  Use a client-server model mobile app that lets you take a picture of a business card, email/MMS it to the server and have the server respond with a contact file.

Turns out scanR already does exactly this, but I think their monetization scheme is all wrong - they have a free trial that allows 1 - ONE - upload, and then they jump straight to 2.50 quid ($5) per month or 15 quid per year.  Seems this could be monetized quite easily through targeted ads accompanying the business card.

Mistake number two is that they haven't taken advantage of the hype and made an iPhone app that does the picture taking, server log in, image and contact file transport (and ad display)...

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Friday, April 25, 2008

Apple: Crappy Windows Software

I have as much of a geek crush on Apple's hardware as the next guy, but man does their software for Windows blow

The below is, of course, just a minor bug - a larger complaint is that Apple tries to shove Safari down my throat every week.  I finally just let it install it - now it wants to update, though I've never used it, nor am I likely to ever do. 



How about this for a strategy, Apple?  If you want to win converts to Apple, create BETTER software than is available on Windows.

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