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rwandering.net

The blogged wandering of Robert W. Anderson

Silverlight and Ajax

I’m glad to see that the CLR story for Silverlight (aka WPF/E) has made it out.  There was much discussion about this at the recent Microsoft ISV CTO Summit.  Scott Guthrie let us know at the time that there would be announcements at MIX07 as there have been.

Silverlight really is a game changer.  It pushes the very compelling managed code and XAML stories into the browser.

At the Summit someone asked how Ajax (and ASP.NET AJAX Extensions) fits in with the WPF/E strategy.  The answer (from the ASP.NET AJAX guy) was something to the effect of “they are solutions to two different problems”.

Certainly this is true.  I put it a little differently:

  • Silverlight is a new way of deploying apps on the Web while leveraging the existing .NET tooling and languages.  It is an entire development platform and strategy for building rich applications in a browser.  It provides an OS and browser independent story (albeit limited on day one).
  • Ajax is a set of techniques to create dynamic HTML.  Basically this is to force dynamic Web applications into the browser.  Ajax (and HTML/XHTML/CSS for that matter) is notoriously browser dependent.  Much Ajax work is made more painful because of browser-specific hacks.  In addition, building extensible and maintainable Ajax is extremeley difficult.

So, one is a new way of building web apps with killer toolking.

The other is a way of building web apps with killer hacks.

Which would you rather build, deploy, support, and maintain?

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2nd Microsoft ISV CTO Summit

I’m coming back from the 2nd Microsoft ISV CTO Summit up in Redmond (I blogged about the first one here).  A good trip with worthwhile content.  I’m not sure any of it was really new, but I did see some cool stuff:

Expression Blend

The tool for designers to design and build WPF projects.  Definitely cool. 

I had two questions for one of the presenters (Eric Zocher) afterwards: when will Visual Studio look as good as blend (e.g., Blend uses WPF and allows smooth scaling of its own UI).  Answer: um, maybe never. 

Since Blend is basically a developer tool (for designers) that can create and edit Visual Studio, does it integrate with TFS?  Not yet.

Of course, these answers don’t take away from Blend at all (and certainly TFS will eventually come even though outsourced designers may get little value from that). 

I’m no designer, but I’m  looking forward to playing with it.  Though they haven’t announced this part yet, I expect it will be made available through MSDN Maximal (or whatever they are calling it now) or through our Gold Certified ISV Competency.

WPF/E

This stuff is very cool.  Actually, Scott Guthrie demoed the WPF/E Vista emulator that Savas recently linked to.  The great thing here is the unification of the presentation story here.  I won’t go further into the roadmap because it is never clear to me at these NDA events what is open knowledge and what requires the secret-squirrel decoder ring.

AJAX ASP.NET

I tracked this as a really good thing (to greatly simplify AJAX for .NET devs), but I hadn’t taken the time to look at it or the demos.  It is really cool.  Aside from all it can do, the coolest thing is how easy you can enable it for existing ASP.NET applications.  I would have tried it out already (i.e., in our Digipede product), but I stayed out too late last night to get into it.

WinFx dead?

I had a chance to ask Scott Guthrie directly about whether the WinFx name change was an indication of the death of the managed Windows API (as I argued here).  His response, basically, naaah.  Just a marketing change.  I still disagree, as long as the managed API rides atop Win32, it isn’t the actual Windows API.  In this case the managed API is either dead or were waiting for Singularity.

Swag

These events always come with some swag.  This time we got a strange floppy neoprene folder (for small laptops here) and what I think is a screen cleaning cloth (though looks like a compressible handkerchief). 

Cheers, though, to Microsoft for not giving us a bunch of junk for the landfill — I include in this: lamps, USB speakers, travel clocks.  Also, I think it is great that they didn’t give us a whole bunch of resource CDs, trials, betas, etc.  Last time they did and these are mostly useless.  Not for the content, but because we all already have this content in MSDN or available through other partner programs.

They did give us one useful thing, though: a Vista Ultimate DVD/license.  Frankly, that is my kind of swag.

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Don Box and Dave Winer agree

Two guys who know a thing or two about web services and APIs think the new Google Search API is a step backwards.  I agree.

My guess is that some high up at Google thinks of it as a step forwards.  Perhaps someone asked the question:

Why are we providing search results into arbitrary applications, when in fact, we are in the business of serving ads on Web pages?

An AJAX-only API is a fine way to do just that; but like Don Box says:

No matter how you define “web service,” I don’t think this newest offering qualifies.

I’m hoping this is just an anomaly and not a trend, lest we all fall back into the world of opaque/closed protocols.

Google doesn’t have to provide open and interoperable APIs to the world; but, I bet others will. 

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Dave Winer’s Geek Dinner for Scoble

Last night, Dan and I went to the geek dinner Dave Winer hosted for Robert Scoble. While I’ve been to many parties and dinners full of geeks, this was my first “geek dinner.”

There was an interesting mix of people: entrepreneurs from Web 2.0 startups, various software developers, many bloggers, and other assorted geeks.

The highlight of the evening for me was the discussion that started just before the restaurant closed. We adjourned to the parking lot to continue until it became too cold and too late (although, apparently Robert and Steve Gillmor kept it going for another hour and a half, see Geek dinner Gillmortastic). It was a little challenging to get Steve Gillmor’s entire point, although I guess Robert finally got it after we all left.

The conversation was, I think, a typical one: why Microsoft doesn’t get Web 2.0 (i.e., how Google will beat Microsoft). Steve Gillmor has some pretty strong views about the mind share that Google has regarding applications. Yet he believes that Office will lose (or has lost) the battle. It appears that he wants to see AJAX-enabled interfaces to everything. All browser-based, all thin-client.

I think the major point of disagreement between Gillmor and many others in the crowd had to do with the utility of browser-based software models. For example:

  • Gillmor wants to do all of his RSS reading on the Web. I don’t. I prefer a model with the advantages of a smart client (rich UI and disconnected operation) that also allows me a surely Web-based interface. Newsgator is a perfect example of this. Both Robert and I use NewsGator in Outlook and from the Web. I also use it from my WM5 device. Even better, they are all synchronized.
  • Gillmor wants to write all his articles in e-mail. He said something to the effect of “e-mail will supplant the use of Word in the next six months”. This comment nearly resulted in a wager. I believe he is talking about a very small group of technologically-savvy early-adopters.

If Gillmor prefers Web-only, then more power to him. And he is right, there are many like him who feel the same way. But there are also a huge number of people (and these are not just corporate users) that prefer the installed-software model.

Google has enjoyed a great deal of popularity as an answer to Microsoft’s dominance. They have a stockpile of goodwill and trust from people simply because they are not Microsoft. This is not permanent. The bigger they get, the more profitable they are (if that’s possible), the more people they piss off with their own kind of over-reaching, the more this is going to wane.

And Microsoft is not standing still. Certainly, they’re concerned about Google (and I hope more concerned about supporting different models of user interaction than just Google). Next year is going to be a big year for Microsoft. I am not ready to count them out of this “Web 2.0” market.

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