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An Accurate Windows 8 Platform Architecture Diagram?

Since Microsoft unveiled details of Windows 8 to the world during the //BUILD conference in September 2011, there has been some confusion about where and how the new WinRT API sits in relation to .NET and Win32.

Part of this confusion is due to the oversimplified, ambiguous and misleading platform architecture diagram unveiled during the conference (click image for un-obscured version):


In this diagram, it appears as though there is no more .NET & CLR, it looks like Silverlight doesn’t exist and, worse, makes it look as though WinRT is an entirely new Windows subsystem that sits alongside Win32!

I spent a lot of my career at Microsoft building and presenting architectural diagrams to explain the relationships between the various technologies I worked on and other current and new technologies. But I don’t think I ever created something as confusing, misleading and ambiguous as the diagram above!

A tip for whoever designed the above diagram: If you’re going to unveil your brand new OS & app platform architecture to your developer community, make sure your architecture diagram is clear and accurate.

Win32 & .NET are NOT “going away”!

During and since the //BUILD conference I’ve had MANY conversations (and overheard many more) with people expressing concern that .NET and Win32 are “going away”! I’ve seen people state that WinRT doesn’t utilize Win32 API’s and that it “resides directly on top of the kernel just like the Win32 API”!! Nothing could be further from the truth!

The reality is that Win32 and .NET are not going away! WinRT is not magic – it’s simply a collection of native COM objects that are exposed to the outside world using .NET/ECMA-335 compatible metadata (rather than the traditional IDL metadata format employed by all COM objects in the past). This allows WinRT objects to be consumed by native C/C++, managed C#, Visual Basic, etc. and Javascript via Microsoft’s Chakra Javascript engine.

Several other people have attempted to provide a more accurate diagram with varying levels of success. Fellow ex-Microsoftie Doug Seven posted his re-rendering of the Win8 architecture, and MVP & author Shawn Wildermuth recently posted his perspective while explaining how Silverlight sits in this architecture.  Famed Microsoft-watcher Mary Jo Foley also has a post discussing the angst caused by the poorly designed Windows 8 architecture diagram above.

While these newer attempts to describe the new architecture are increasingly accurate, they don’t deal with the issue of the relationship between WinRT and Win32. Nor do they clarify the position of .NET & CLR.

To clarify reality:

Because of the continuing confusion I thought I would offer-up what I believe to be a pretty accurate diagram summarizing the Windows 8 platform architecture:

Windows 8 Platform Architecture

Hopefully, this new architecture diagram should make things a lot clearer. This new diagram is by no means perfect, but I believe it accurately expresses the major components of the existing and the new OS components. Let me know if you think it needs any further changes in the comments below.

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Internet Explorer 9 released into the wild


As of 21:00 PST (9:00pm PST), Internet Explorer 9 is now available for you to download and enjoy.

Over the last year, Microsoft has been releasing previews of some of the features destined for its next browser release, Internet Explorer 9. In September 2010 Microsoft then released a fully usable beta followed in February 2011 by a near-final “Release Candidate”.

Tonight’s release of IE9 marks Microsoft’s return as a true competitor in the browser marketplace – something that many thought would never happen. And not only has Microsoft released a truly competitive browser, but they’ve actually leapfrogged Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Apple’s Safari and Opera’s browsers.More...

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Still cannot buy Azure using IE9


I’ve written about this issue before, but what’s wrong with this picture?

Today … the launch-day for IE9 … the Azure team STILL haven’t updated their site to allow one to purchase Azure services using IE9.

C’mon Microsoft, this is now far-beyond embarrassing.

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Which browser is top of the class for HTML5 support?

HTML5 pictureIt’s gotta be Google’s Chrome, right?


Okay, so it must be Mozilla’s Firefox?


Ooh ooh, I know, Apple’s Safari – yayyyyy … Apple FTW!

Nuh huh! Wrong again.

Erm … Opera?


I give up. Who is it?

Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 9!!

[cue sound of chins hitting the floor echoing all across the internet!]

The W3C publishes the latest HTML5 test results across the most prevalent browsers. Top of the stack right now is IE9. Of course, the browser at the top of the stack is likely to change over time the browser vendors continue to improve their browsers and (hopefully) converge on 100% test coverage and compliance.

But what these results show VERY clearly is that Microsoft is absolutely dead serious about its commitment to making IE9 the premier web browser for Windows.

Long gone are the days of browser vendor lock-in. Today’s web browser market is all about nose-to-nose open and direct competition with one another and rigid compliance to published and developing standards.

We’re about to enter a whole new era of web development. Not only will browser compatibility issues largely cease to be an issue, but we’ll have at our disposal the kinds of markup, scripting and support features that we’d only have been able to dream of just 5-6 years ago.

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Internet Explorer 9 Beta1– Download Now!

Internet Explorer 9 Beta1 has just been released for download

To summarize: WOW!

Performance & standards

IE9 is quick. Not just a bit quicker than IE7/8. I mean “Holy cow, Batman, you just shredded the tires on the Batmobile” quick. It is as quick as IE7 is not.

I’ve been testing the tech previews of the new IE9 rendering and Javascript engines for a while now and have been much impressed with the sheer raw speed, quality, stability and power.

IE7 and IE8 were both good releases that focused on users’ safety and security, stability, but they only made minor improvements to IE’s performance and standards compliance. And all the while, Firefox, Chrome and Safari continued to make rapid progress in making their browsers markedly faster and more standards compliant.

However, it looks like with Internet Explorer 9, Microsoft might not just have caught up with the competition, but it might actually leapfrog them!

I’ve been testing the tech previews of the new IE9 rendering and Javascript engines for a while now. I have been mightily impressed with how jaw-droppingly quick IE9’s rendering is. But perhaps even more important is IE9’s enormous improvements in standards compliance. Make no mistake – not only is IE9 now blindingly fast, but it is now a leader in support of web standards.

But a tech preview of the rendering & script execution capabilities of a new browser are only part of the story: The browser’s user interface and features are just as important.

As Ed Bott said – I’ll leave it to others with the time and tools to generate the inevitable perf comparisons, but I can honestly state that IE9’s performance surprised me - in my testing, IE9 is easily as fast as Chrome and markedly faster than Chrome, Firefox or Safari on graphically-intensive sites.

Less is more - the new IE9 User Experience

Let’s face it, IE has been looking a little tired and dated ever since Google out-Apple’d Apple and released Chrome with its minimalistic … well … “chrome”. Out went the toolbars, search boxes and UI gadgets and in came the single combined address & search box:


Here’s IE9: You have to squint to see the difference between Google (above) and IE9 (below)!


I love the fact that Microsoft appear to be following Google’s lead and reducing the IE shell to the minimum “chrome” necessary for most users. Many of IE’s traditional features are still there if you want to turn them on, but Microsoft is opting for simplicity and cleanliness by default.


IE9 is also littered with a number of important features that I encourage you to explore:

Tear-off Tabs

Navigate to a page. Any page. Now open another page in a different tab. Now open a new tab, go to YouTube and play a video. Decide that you want to watch the video while you’re reading one of your other pages.

Now click the YouTube tab and drag it off to a different portion of your screen (or different screen if you have more than one monitor). Notice that your page drags smoothly, the video continues uninterrupted and doesn’t miss a beat.



It still amazes me how few people know how to do this: Open a page. Any page. Now press and hold your CTRL key while you scroll your mouse wheel backwards and forwards. Notice that your page zooms smoothly in and out, all elements remain where they should be. All text renders properly …


… even when you zoom all the way in:


Look at how clean that text is even zoomed in THAT far!

Aside: Hey, Amazon, you DO know that you don’t need to use bitmaps for your headings, right? I mean, the <hn> tags are there for a reason, render more cleanly and require less bandwidth for you and your customers. Just sayin’ Winking smile

Internet Explorer 8 introduced full-page zoom, but it didn’t work as well as this, many controls didn’t render properly when you zoomed in, etc. It’s flawless in IE9 Smile

Site Pinning

Storing and managing browser Favorites can be a real pain. Over time you just end up collecting a huge catalog of links which, if you’re anything like me, you often forget about and rarely use. I tend to use a small number of sites very frequently. Wouldn’t it be great if you could pin your favorite sites to your Task Bar? Now you can:

Open a page. Click and drag the page’s icon in the left of the address bar …


… and drop it into your taskbar:


Now your pinned website will appear in its own icon on your taskbar …


… and IE9 will reopen your new pinned web page in its own IE9 browser window color coded to the primary color of your pinned site’s icon – red in this case:


If you’re a site owner, you can add metadata to your site that IE9 uses to not only name your site and its hover-over tooltip, but also provides you a way to specify any number of site-specific “tasks” that appear as shortcuts in your pinned site’s context window (right click on your pinned site):



Further Reading

If you’d like to delve further, I can recommend reading the following:

User Experiences: Site-Centric Browsing on Windows

IE9’s Page Content Hardware Acceleration

Putting sites at the center of the browsing experience

For some great in-depth reviews of IE9, go see what Ed Bott @ ZDNet, Joanna Stern @ Engadget and Paul Thurrott have to say about IE9 Beta1.

This is only Beta1. Can’t wait to see how

Post Feedback

Post feedback on what you think of IE9 so far. Do you like it? Do you think MS have simplified IE9 too much? Is IE9 fast enough for you? If not – where is IE9 too slow?

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