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The blogged wandering of Robert W. Anderson

IE8 @ MIX08

This is the second of three posts on the MIX08 keynotes.  This is like live blogging without the live, since I’m writing this in Oakland.  You can follow my comments at

IE8, Dean Hachamovitch, GM IEimage

Focus on standards compliance.  This will be a great productivity boost for web-site developers.

1. CSS 2.1. 

  • Good. 

2. CSS cert. 

  • Funny that Microsoft is claiming that ambiguities in the specs make it hard to prove correctness.  They are correct, but it sounds a little like whining.  It also reminds me of the Server 2008 test. 
  • Test cases from Microsoft, good. 
  • IE 8 transition might be painful.  For users.

3. Performance.

  • Script performance. 

4. HTML 5.

  • Back button can work with AJAX.  This is a very big deal for improving the consistency of the browser user experience.   
  • Connection events in HTML 5 / DOM storage, re-connect, “make content available” later.  Cool.

5. new dev tools

  • Cool script debugger in IE8.  Looks like the developer toolbar has gotten much better. 

6. Activities

  • User activities added to browser by users (kind of like smart links). 
  • Activities are defined in XML.  Kind of cool, though I can see the browser becoming hard to use as a user adds a bunch of activities; however, that is up to them to manage.   
  • This format is the OpenService Format Specification.  Share/Share-alike spec.

7. WebSlices

  • Users can subscribe to parts of web-pages (driven by sites providing this as a service).  
  • This is the WebSlice Format Specification.  Public domain spec.

8. IE8, Beta 1 for developers

  • Released today.  Cool.  I will be checking this out.  At first in a VM.  I hope IE7 can live along side IE8.  Since they didn’t mention this, my guess is no.

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Ozzie @ MIX08

This is the first of three posts on the MIX08 keynotes.  This is like live blogging without the live, since I’m writing this in Oakland.image  You can follow my comments at

Ray Ozzie

Ray Ozzie opened the MIX08 conference keynotes talking about the overall Microsoft strategy.  He said all the right things about the transition to the cloud.   Talked about three principles (social device mesh, business, fabric of small pieces).  No surprises here. 

In the context of the world of connected systems, he said (paraphrased) . . .

Magic of software to bring them all together into . . .a mesh

I love the expression “the magic of software”.  Of course, we developers are not magicians, but when things are done right there is a real feeling of magic.  This is especially true when disparate systems begin working together through elegant and open standards.

He spent most of his time talking about 5 scenarios . . . here are some thoughts.

1. Connected devices

His vision of bringing your different devices together reminds me of the Blackberry Enterprise Server, but for consumer devices.

2. Connected entertainment

License media / collections (playlists) / subscriptions  once, use any device for playback.  This is kind of a holy grail, I think.  If this is managed through a SilverLight runtime we may have a hope that it is across devices.

3. Connected productivity

Office PC, Office Mobile, Office Live — seamlessly allow users to work across devices, using the right tool at the right time.  No info on licensing costs, or on the details of Office Mobile.  If the Mobile story requires Windows Mobile, then this isn’t so compelling.

4. Connected Business

Exchange in cloud.  Other services too.  Good.  Very good. 

5. Connected Development

Of course, .NET + Silverlight, Expression, . . . Good stuff.

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Microsoft postpones PDC and more

Robert Scoble had a great post on the PDC and what is going on at Microsoft.   I liked it so much I included most of it here with my comments.

The PDC stands for “Professional Developer’s Conference.” It happens only when Microsoft knows it’ll have a major new platform to announce. Usually a new version of Windows or a new Internet strategy.

So, this means a couple of things: no new Windows and no major new Internet strategy this year.

I agree there is no new strategy this year and that is disappointing; however, Silverlight is huge and this year, and if not an Internet strategy it is an Internet developer strategy. 

Cleary Mix07 was the place to be — I would have made sure I went if I had known that PDC was going to be cancelled.

Some other things I’m hearing about the next version of Windows? There still is a ban on .NET code in core parts of Windows. They aren’t getting enough performance yet from .NET to include code written in it inside major parts of Windows. This is a bummer, because .NET is a lot easier to write than C++ and letting Microsoft’s developers write .NET code for Windows would unleash a bunch of innovation.

I fully agree with you here — a definite bummer.  Yet I don’t agree about the performance of .NET.  Certainly there are parts of Windows that need to be unmanaged code; but Digipede has a slew of customers using .NET for computation and getting terrific performance from it.  Face it, this “not performant yet” argument is used by people at Microsoft from kernel / device authors (OK) to the Office team (what?).  It is hard to separate the good arguments here from just plain bias and inertia. 

The person who told me this (who works at Microsoft) told me .NET still takes too long to startup and load into memory and because Windows is now being compared to OSX they can’t afford to ship components that would slow down Windows.

What?  If this were baked into the OS, couldn’t they do a better job of sharing this startup cost (i.e., doing it once with reuse)? 

This gets right back to my posts about how the Windows .NET API is actually dead (see these: WinFx).

It also means that Ray Ozzie’s team probably doesn’t have anything dramatic to announce yet and they aren’t willing to have live within the bounds of a forcing function like the PDC (PDC forces teams to get their acts together and finish off stuff enough to at least get some good demos together).

This is the “no Internet strategy this year” part.  Yup.  Definite bummer.

Some other things I’m hearing from the Windows team? That they are still planning out the next version of Windows. So, I don’t expect to see a beta until 2008 (probably second half of the year, if we see one at all) and I don’t expect to see a major new version of Windows to ship until 2009.

Microsoft says it won’t be as long between releases of the OS now.  I think, though, we won’t see a major new version released until Windows till 2010.

Anyway, this is sad cause I was hoping to see Microsoft make an all out push for developers this year.

Well, I think they have.  Their developer story is getting better and better every quarter.  I think they should have had the PDC anyway and continued to flog the .NET 3.0 and new .NET 3.5 stuff particularly Silverlight. 

What do you think it all means? Am I reading too much in between the lines?

Maybe you are.  I think the timing for the PDC was definitely wrong for Microsoft.  The Microsoft Internet strategy we are really waiting for has to do with Office / other applications and Internet services.  When this is unveiled, I think it will have less to do with developers than warranted at a PDC.  Ironically that should have been announced at Mix, but will have to wait for the next one.

Will Microsoft unveil a new Internet strategy at Mix08?  I bet.

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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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