Microsoft: Shunning Flash and Pushing Standards?

Windows 8 looks fairly awesome, a definite advancement in the user interface work at Microsoft. I’ve always been a fan of Metro on Windows Phone 7, and can’t wait to get a chance to install the Windows 8 developer preview on my MacBook Air to check out the Metro UI on a traditional computing machine. While it’s still a Microsoft product, Windows 8 is something radically different and is only helping the web standards cause.

Microsoft is using a “new application model” for Windows 8, which includes powering apps with standards-compliant HTML and Javascript. Plus, they’re ditching Flash.

I’ve had some trouble understanding exactly how Windows 8 works, but from what I interpret, there is two versions of Internet Explorer in Windows 8: a conventional mouse-and-keyboard desktop browser and a touch-based one within the Metro UI. We’ll be focusing on the Metro version today.

All About the Standards

The Metro version of Internet Explorer is focusing all it’s power on HTML for functionality, which is a very nice step forward, especially for when Windows 8 hits tablets. From day one of having my iPad with Mobile Safari back on launch day 2010, I could use a ton of HTML web apps like BBC iPlayer even though the tablet lacked plugins like Flash.

Essentially, Windows 8 is taking very favourable steps to narrow the gap between the web on a desktop and the web on tablets. The iPad has certainly changed the web – especially in the removal of plugins like Flash – and the fact that a major desktop operating system is edging away from it suggests the change is going to become a lot more drastic.

Bye Bye, Flash!

Importantly, helping push forward the use of HTML5 in favour of plugins, Internet Explorer will not be capable of running the Flash plugin. No Flash in Windows has the same downsides as no Flash on iOS, and represents that Microsoft is committed to killing off Adobe’s popular plugin.

Additionally, Microsoft is even shunning it’s own Silverlight plugin in Windows 8, and instead focusing their efforts on the universal HTML.

Flash won't run in the Metro version of Internet Explorer.

Web Apps in Windows 8

Not only is Microsoft making commitments to pushing web standards in their browser, but they’re using HTML5 as the powering force for Metro apps in Windows 8. Microsoft doesn’t want developers to learn a complex language with a “big fat book” in order to produce apps in Windows 8. The use of HTML5 is a major focus in Metro apps which means they’re effectively all web apps.

Microsoft is introducing a bunch of additional APIs with Windows 8 too, allowing Metro web apps to communicate with each other and have additional benefits that will allow them to somewhat simulate the advantages of using a native app.

Hopefully, Windows 8 will inspire web developers to jump ship and start developing these almost “virtual” native apps that require a very small learning curve to develop. I’d even go as far to say that Microsoft has a better chance with their app store than the highly-popular Mac App Store because of the number of developers it’s accessible to.

The Windows 8 app store, as shown at Build 2011.

Windows 8: Microsoft’s Biggest Leap Since Windows

Windows 8 is an amazing step forward for Microsoft. Stepping back from the web theme of this site, looking at the OS as a user offers a very pleasing opinion. The UI looks great, and I wouldn’t mind swapping out my iPad for a Windows 8 tablet. It looks awesome and I’m hating not being able to try it out yet until I pick up a DVD to install it through Bootcamp.

The only people who might shed a tear at Windows 8 is Adobe who are observing the sinking of their Flash ship. With Microsoft being such a big player in the technology industry, users of any platform should benefit from Microsoft’s commitment to web standards as Flash becomes increasingly undesirable.

While Windows 8 is far from being an internet-only OS like Google’s Chrome OS, it’s showing a higher dependence on standards-compliant web tech than any previous version of Windows. And even in native Metro apps, it’s easy to see that the internet is front and center the most important thing. Mail, weather, stocks, news, social network apps, and more are all updated from web apps, showing another link between native apps and the cloud. And when the native apps are built with web tech themselves, it’s definitely an interesting day for web apps. Truly, it seems that the definition of web apps becomes more ambiguous every day.

Do you fancy giving Windows 8 a whirl? Have you already done so? What do you think? Let us know in the comments.