@BitFlipper: I am using this and the free version works fine for my project! There are some caveats, like no custom install experience (picture) and some things like COM registration missing in the free version -- so for some requirements, yes, you will have to pay. I would also choose the paid version if this was for a non-free project - but it isn't, at the moment. I'd rather they had bundled Advanced Installer free than this Install Shield CE.
@chb: You are posting your doubts as to the trustworthiness and transparency of a Microsoft statement on a forum part of a Microsoft site dedicated to transparency and dialogue - and in the context of an official rebuttal. But as users, we hunger for more transparency, don't we.
You mean like XAML?
Obviously the browser was not invented as an application platform, it just grew into one, with the whole world hacking away on it, trying to solve its deficiencies with libraries, new standards and super-performant implementations.
Whenever you think "surely the browser is not suited for this", just wait a couple of months and a demo will pop up.
It's impressive really. I have to agree with the sentiment of your post though.
I think perhaps a lot of people at Microsoft forget that 99.999999% of users turn on their laptop in order to get to the app that they want to use.
The job of the OS is not to be shiny. It is not to be clever. It is not to come with a whole ton of preinstalled apps. It is not (!) even to be secure, or power efficient or fast or nice.
The job of the OS is to get the hell out of the way of the user, who is trying to use their app. Everything else is gravy.
And I think this is what Microsoft forget all too often. Windows does not make money from being a great OS. It makes money by being a great platform.
The success of a platform is not defined by the people that build the platform. It's defined by the people that build apps that users want on the platform.
So when Microsoft forgets to include third-party developers right at the very heart of their Windows strategy, they are forgetting the only party in the Windows ecosystem that actually determines whether or not Windows lives or dies.
If Windows8 fails - it is not because the OS itself is bad. It is because it has failed to attract the third-party developers to make the killer-apps exclusively for Windows8 that the platform needs.
Or to put it another way, for a downpayment of a small number of millions of dollars to keep the developer community right at the heart of Windows' strategy, they could have made large numbers of millions of dollars by getting developers excited to develop killer apps for Windows8 that would have got users excited to buy Windows8.
That's perhaps a little simplistic; after all, what is a great platform anyway? Certainly a lot of factors play a role. The UI, the battery life, boot time, performance, latency, security, etc. If the platform has issues, so too will the applications.
The end user often attributes flaws in third party drivers to the operating system itself, "there Windows goes again, crashing" - but is it far fetched to believe that a consistently positive UX across multiple design aspects will lead end users to implicitly attribute this to the platform itself? And certainly developers can pick that up. Another thing developers can pick up is language- and platform-assisted support for things like asynchrony. Something which doesn't have a good story on other platforms.
Also, chicken and egg...
Now about the UX. The very purpose of the Microsoft Design Language (MDL) is to get out of the users way, or so it seems. It's about the (almost) chromeless UX which is superbly well-suited for touch-enabled devices, possibly with limited screen real-estate.
Many ordinary people first and foremost do appear to judge operating systems on their surface - how the user experience is, the chrome - all the rest is black magic - and why shouldn't it be. But that does stress the extraordinary importance of the UI/UX and how that plays a key role in the success of a product. It also means that big UX changes are very risky, of course.
To be honest, when looking at apps, I also judge them by their design - and many apps appear to use not only the MDL but simplistic templates which give them a very similar look. Maybe that's me not spending enough time with Windows 8 apps though but my first impresssions were of RSS reader-like applications with a cookie-cutter design. I think that kind of "everything looks the same" experience can be detrimental to a platform.