Windows 11 is coming. It’s a fact – and it’s the gorgeous visual tweaking of the Windows desktop, start menu, taskbar, and even the rendering of things like your application’s window borders and “non-client area”. It’s Microsoft’s new glorious shooting star launching itself at the unwary peoples of the world from out of the clouds… and it’s going to wipe out the dinosaurs. However, do you think Windows 11 can support Windows tools for developers? Let’s find it out!
Are you one of the technology dinosaurs?
Microsoft’s beautiful unfurling flower of Windows 11 wowed those of us watching that slightly shaky live Windows 11 launch video feed. It had lots of eye candy. Hidden among the schmoozing of rounded corners for all apps and semi-transparent acrylic everywhere were a few signs that Windows 11 is going to also be a coming Armageddon for lots of older PC hardware and a good few existing applications too.
Windows 11 is visually stunning
I’ve been waving the Fluent UI flag at anyone who would listen for a few years now. We’ve talked about Project Reunion and UI 3 in a few places. Well, with this latest announcement, Project Reunion gets renamed to the slightly less inspiring “Windows App SDK”. There’s a name produced by a group-think committee if I ever saw one. Apart from being about as exciting as an Arizona weather forecast it’s also unhelpfully close to the existing “Windows SDK”. There’s going to be some great moments in podcasts and webinars where presenters discuss “using the Windows SDK” and then having to clarify they actually meant “Windows App SDK which used to be Project Reunion”.
LOTS of semi-transparent acrylic in Windows 11 along with a centered task bar (I’m not a fan of this I have to say) as well as a much less cluttered look which is an achievement since that was one of the key selling points of Windows 10.
Windows 11 has a new app store – how will that affect my Windows and mobile apps?
Tucked in between the massive amounts of semi-transparent acrylic “widget” panels that replace the existing Windows Live Tiles – which were almost entirely shunned by all developers not directly employed by Microsoft – there was an announcement more directly affecting developers using RAD Studio Delphi and C++ Builder. Microsoft are launching a completely re-vamped Windows App Store.
The new Windows 11 App Store appears to be a total re-think on Microsoft’s original aims for the Windows Store when it first debuted. In the past the old Microsoft Store had fairly limited success. It’s possible this was due to the way apps had to be packaged for it, the technology your apps needed to employ and the whole delivery mechanism. This new app store is going to be a real game-changer. Microsoft are allowing virtually all packaging mechanisms and, boldest of all, it will contain Android apps which will run natively in Windows 11 without any apparent changes. This new “Windows Subsystem for Android” seems to borrow from the lessons learned with the astounding success of WSL, the Windows Subsystem for Linux.
Amazon, your new Microsoft Windows 11 app store
The Amazon App store is coming to the Windows 11 App store. This will launch initially with a specially curated range of Android apps originally designed and known to work on Amazon-friendly devices like the Amazon Fire Tablet. The suggestion is that, in time, this initial catalog will be greatly expanded. What’s not clear are the kind of restrictions Windows 11 will put on Android apps and how any sandboxing will work. That said, it’s normal for Android apps to run in a heavily constrained environment and the lessons learned with WSL will also likely mean that security and operating system integrity is forefront of Microsoft’s efforts. Nobody at Microsoft or Amazon will want to be the Product Manager blame vector in the hot seat if a huge swathe of new Windows 11 users suddenly get swatted by a brand-new form of cryptolocker virus embedded in an Android application running on their shiny new PC.
Android Apps on Windows – it’s been done before
If, like me, you have a relatively recent Samsung cell phone then this whole idea of running Android apps on Windows doesn’t sound at all like a new thing. We’ve been blessed with the Windows 10 “My Phone” app surfacing our Android app notifications in the Windows notification area and have been able to run Android-only apps in a window for quite some time. Also Samsung Galaxy owners have access to an app called Dex which converts their mobile device’s apps and ‘desktop’ into a kind of pseudo additional full-sized Windowed system on their PC. Personally, I never used it because Dex used to make my Galaxy Note+ heat up faster than the brake pads on a speeding getaway car.
Your RAD Studio Delphi app probably works with the new Amazon Windows 11 Android store
Weirdly enough I have actually used a Kindle Fire 10 inch tablet as a test rig for Android tablets. I can tell you that it works perfectly and has done for several years, which it should given that the Kindle Fire OS is really just a heavily-tweaked version of Android. If this holds true for the new Amazon-flavored store then we should be fine.
Will my Windows apps work in the new Windows 11 App store?
Well, yes, they should be fine too – as pointed out by Senior PM Marcu Cantu in a recent tweet:
Will my Delphi app be compatible with the new Windows App SDK?
That question is a little harder to answer. The great thing about the VCL is that it really is natively interacting with the Windows API and SDKs at a very close to the metal level. Historically, you could – and still can – take a Delphi app written on Windows XP using a version of Delphi such as the much-loved Delphi 7 and, as long as you didn’t do anything daft like make assumptions about folders and screen sizes, it would run absolutely fine on the very latest version of Windows 10. This is still true today.
This is the real strength of Delphi over almost any other programming language or development system; apps written using Delphi run solidly and keep running for many years and due to the lack of dependencies on things like Dot Net runtimes and so on they are unfazed by the changes in the surrounding eco-system of operating system window compositors, SDKs and the like. Not so for Dot Net where it’s almost impossible to get a C# program written more than a few years back working with the newer Windows versions without installing around 1 gigabyte of ‘legacy’ Dot Not runtimes. I do like C# and Dot Net is, in principle, a great idea but when I’ve deployed apps written using it in the past it has been a major headache compared to the simple, understated robustness and longevity of my Delphi programs. How will the older Dot Net programs fare with Windows 11 and Project Reunion… um I mean Windows App SDK? It’s not clear but if they’re more than a few years old it could be a bleak Winter of discontent for them.
Windows 11 hates your old PC – here’s why
I have some bad news for you. Windows 11 is going to be much safer from viruses and trojan horse programs. The reason for this is that Windows 11 enforces the presence and use of a piece of hardware called a “trusted platform module” or TPM.
If your PC is no more than five years old then it probably has a TPM capability built into it. If your PC doesn’t have a TPM capability then Windows 11 will be the falling rock which wipes out your beloved dinosaur hardware. A friend of mine who is a Microsoft MVP and Windows Insider has just found out that he will not be able to run the Windows 11 insider preview on his favorite machine since it uses an Intel i5-4460 Haswell chip. Five years ago his PC was a great new Windows 10 machine at a fairly cost-effective price; now it’s consigned to the bottom of the crater left behind by Windows 11’s “health check” which validates if your PC is able to run Windows 11.
But my machine is only a year old, why can’t it run Windows 11?
Even on my own PC which is a beast of an MSI machine with a graphics card and CPU which could put an NSA spy’s workstation to shame I found I had to perform a BIOS update and then change the TPM setting to ”PTT” AND make the TPM detectable (an additional setting) before it would pass the Windows 11 readiness check. If that’s my experience then I am pretty sure there are going to be MILLIONS of users out there who are surprised to find they are the proud owners of a newly-minted dinosaur PC. I predict a riot. I get why Microsoft are enforcing this change; TPM makes the operating system more secure and with the new Wild West of the Amazon store ushering in hundreds of Android apps it’s going to be an interesting time to work in the antivirus sector; but it’s also going to be an uphill struggle to gain the kind of traction in existing consumer adoption Windows 10 had. Windows 11 is a free update but it might cost you the price of a new machine to get it.
The Windows 11 meteor is coming soon to an update near you
Windows 11 drops into the laps of Microsoft Windows Insiders on the Dev track next week. The rest of the waiting world will have to sit it out until around September time or later to get the gorgeousness.
What can I do in my apps to get ready for Windows 11?
First of all – and this is perhaps non-obvious – start learning how to use and interface with Microsoft Teams. A new version of Teams comes baked-in with Windows 11. Everyone will have this new rewritten consumer-friendly Microsoft Teams. Amusingly Microsoft have produced this new Teams version using the kind of advice we’ve been giving out for years: it’s a native app (using React Native JS) rather than using the Electron system which has well-documented problems of massive memory bloat.
Teams is going to be on EVERY Windows 11 machine baked into Windows 11. I strongly suggest you embrace it because it is likely to become the de facto way to deliver all sorts of messages, alerts and interactions with support and sales teams with customers. I’m pretty certain there’s an as-yet unrevealed reason why Teams is being included with Windows 11 – but I know it’s more important than the willowy concept of “making it easier for us all to interact with each other” which is plausible but ultimately specious. Call me a skeptic but I’m often right. Only time will tell.
Say goodbye to Skype
If you currently interface with Skype you’re going to need to have a rethink of that strategy. Skype is going away and Teams is stepping into its shoes. I’m not sure how that’s going to play out overall but Microsoft have said so publicly during the stream.
Take a look at MSIX
The new app store, like its predecessor, uses the MSIX installation package format. The good news is RAD Studio can package your apps as MSIX bundles so it’s full steam ahead for us RAD Studio users. If you currently don’t use MSIX then it might be worth taking a look at what it can do for you.
Learn about Fluent UI and Project Reunion
I know I’ve said it before but you really MUST learn about the Fluent UI and Project Reunion. Windows 11 has a new concept of a widget pane which is the total embodiment of The Fluent UI principles: transparency, motion and depth. Windows will have rounded corners and semi-transparent acrylic form backgrounds will become the norm for your apps. VCL controls such as buttons, edit boxes and lists will take on a new look – I am guessing this will be handled again by a flag in an embedded manifest in the same way “per monitor v2” was. FireMonkey FMX apps will need to look into new themes that match the Windows 11 design aesthetic. Oh, and your Android apps might be able to run on a Windows 11 machine – that’s going to be an interesting voyage of discovery!
What is Embarcadero doing to work with Windows 11
Although I’m an MVP I don’t speak officially on behalf of Embarcadero but during some discussions which were not NDA I know that the PM team are looking at the overall impact of the announced changes. In some way the Microsoft Windows 11 launch event was a little like the old style vapor-ware events in the sense that this was a “we’re going to be ready soon” kind of thing rather than “and you can download it now from the following link” affair. Yes there was a leak of a functioning early version of Windows 11 but nobody can derive serious and involved development decisions based on that. Overall, your apps are going to be fine for now anyway; that’s why we choose RAD Studio isn’t it?
The Windows 11 images in this article were sourced from Microsoft and are used with permission.