Volume 26 Number 11
Editor's Note - A Game of Risk
By Michael Desmond | November 2011
When Microsoft announced the Windows Runtime (WinRT) stack at the heart of Windows 8 during the BUILD conference keynote in September, everyone in the room knew the game had changed.
In the decade since Microsoft launched the Microsoft .NET Framework and transitioned many developers to managed languages like C# and Visual Basic .NET, the company has adroitly leveraged its vast developer community. Every step along the way, Microsoft ushered its incumbent programmers forward with the promise of reusing existing code, working with familiar tools and exercising well-honed skills.
The strategy is both brilliant and obvious, and strangely mimics the late rounds of the board game Risk, when players inevitably spill enormous piles of armies onto the board. I’ve played my share of Risk and know well the incalculable glee that comes from cashing in a trifecta of cards for 60-plus armies. When you show up with numbers like that, things get done(yeah, I’m looking at you, Irkutsk).
The Trouble with Asia
The problem facing Microsoft, as any Risk player knows, is that even the massed armies of .NET developers couldn’t, metaphorically speaking, hold Asia—that vast and vulnerable continent on the Risk board that has been the undoing of so many players. Smartphones, tablets and the emergence of HTML5 as a development target have created huge new frontiers—frontiers the Microsoft .NET strategy was simply not designed to address.
WinRT, however, is.
That noise you just heard was the sound of Microsoft slapping another set of Risk cards onto the board. That’ll be 90 more armies, please.
Taking the Board
Microsoft is articulating a path to extend WinRT even further.
“The beauty of the solution here is twofold,” the WinRT team member said. “One is that the architecture easily allows for additional languages to be supported in the future, where that environment would again have immediate and direct access to native APIs. Two is that developers can also create their own APIs in this model—what we call WinRT components—such that they can plug into the language projections just as the native APIs do.”
Will Microsoft’s bold strategy attract enough developers to help it win the board? As any Risk player knows, a lot depends on the roll of the dice. But it’s clear that Microsoft is in a far better position today to address the challenge than it was just a few months ago.