October 11, 2011
When to ship docs, Part 2
Just a quick addendum to the most recent post about when you really need to release your documentation. I attended a user-group meeting last night at which Doug Seven showed the basics of creating a Metro-style app for Windows vNext, aka Windows 8.
His presentation reminded me that there's actually an important category of documentation that needs to be available well before a product release. The recent //build/ conference was all about that. Windows 8 is still a ways from release (I assume it's safe to say it's no earlier than 2012). But the conference was all about getting Windows developers launched — now, early, ASAP — with learning how to create new apps so that when Windows 8 does appear, there will be all sorts of things for customers to play with.
This is true for any platform-type product — an operating system, obviously, but anything where you want other developers to build stuff on top of your product. You need to make sure that those developers have access as early as possible to the programming documentation. And well before the product makes its way out to users ... even those early adopters.
Anecdote: many years (decades) ago, I casually knew some people who worked at pre-IPO Aldus on the program that became PageMaker. This was the product that would usher us all into the age of desktop publishing. It was the mid-80s, when the character-based IBM-PC was still conquering Business America and we were all using WordPerfect. But PageMaker required a bitmapped graphical display, which was not available at the time; as it turned out, these Aldus programmers were working with prototypes of the Apple Macintosh. When the Mac finally launched, PageMaker was one of the killer apps for that machine. It had been well worth Apple's investment to make big resources — docs, prototype computers, and even engineers — available way early to Aldus to help them complete their product.
Back to Doug's presentation. After walking us through various ways to create a Metro app, he said something interesting that sort of addressed the point I made earlier about product adoption. There's some concern that existing application technologies will not be relevant for creating Windows 8 applications. If you're using these technologies now, he said, you don't need to be too concerned, he said. It will be years before everyone will have switched over to Windows 8, and there's plenty of life left in the old ways of app development. Pretty much what I said in my blog post, it seems.