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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.


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.


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.


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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More on the death of WinFx (Part 3)

Andrew Hilton recently commented on WinFx is Dead Part 2.  I am promoting it to a post so I can better comment on the comments.

Andrew says:

I’m of the opinion that it is not yet the official windows API because it simply wasn’t ready, and using .NET 2 with WinForms would have been too restrictive and no doubt would not have integrated with the subsystems of Vista (such as graphics). The .NET framework 3.0 was not released until almost the final release of Vista. The risk of developing the windows front end under the managed API and still ship on time would have been too great.

I think you are correct regarding the .NET 3.0 components of WinFx: there was an early plan that Vista and Office would take advantage of these technologies, but of course, everything was late.   Using .NET the .NET 2 WinForms really didn’t make sense either.

From what I’ve heard early versions of Vista and Office 2007 did use the managed API (or at least an early version of WPF). My feeling is that the dev teams simply couldn’t cope with a large framework like that shifting beneath their feet causing all manner of chaos. Hence the move by both Vista and Office 2007 back to COM, which also gave leeway to the WinFX teams to change stuff radically if they needed to. My assumption is that given the large technical leap of WPF, WCF etc there would have been many back steps as they were trying to go forward.

Yeah, but I’ll bet the delays of .NET 2 had a bigger impact on the likelihood of managed APIs in Vista than, let’s say, WPF or WCF.

I’ll be very suprised if the consumer version of Vista does not include some managed code WPF apps. All the indications are that WPF will do very well (for example see the recent video of the WPF version of Yahoo messenger), . . .

Yes, I think this is all true, but hold on.

My post wasn’t about .NET 3.0 (or what they were calling WinFx), but of the original idea for WinFx: a full (or fairly full) Windows API.

WPF and WCF have little to do with that, certainly WF has nothing to do with it, and Info Cards, not really either.  Of course, this last one is a part of Vista though as kind of an add on. 

All of this stuff is very cool, but WinFx was supposed to push managed APIs deeper down into the OS, not to be extra layers on top of it.  The internalization of these APIs were to supply a more robust and secure OS. 

And it is that WinFx that appears to be dead.

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A Vista plea to Microsoft

So, Vista is delayed. One must assume that Microsoft has made the best choice with the information at its disposal — certainly better info than the second-guessers who have pounced on Robert Scoble.

I am left with a couple of questions, though:

  1. What does this mean about Vista Server? That was already delayed beyond Vista Client. Can we hope for that in 2007? 2008?
  2. What about WinFx? I can understand why Workflow Foundation may need to track the Office 2007 release, but do Communications Foundation (WCF) and Presentation Foundation (WPF) have to wait for Vista? Do these parts really need 6+ months more work? And what about Atlas?
  3. And, of course, what about IE7? Is IE7 really that far from ready?

On my 2nd and 3rd questions, it is hard to imagine that Microsoft will release final parts early — it would take some of the wind out of the Vista sails — but as a software developer, I hope they do.

It is very difficult for ISVs to incorporate these new technologies into products while the dates keep slipping.
My point here isn’t to jump on the dogpile, but to make a plea to Microsoft:

Please, while retaining focus on quality, release WinFx and IE7 as soon as possible. Please do not wait for Vista’s release to make these components ready in final form.

Can anyone from Microsoft comment?

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Ode to cool names

After my last post on some of the cool Microsoft technologies at PDC05, I started thinking about acronyms and product names, and product positioning. Specifically, I started to miss some of the old Microsoft code names.

Indigo is now WCF.
Avalon is now WPF.
Longhorn is now Vista.

It feels so generic, so corporate, and so stodgy. While never having talked to anyone in Microsoft branding / naming, it seems like this is intentional. Microsoft is making a terrific push into the breadth of the enterprise. No longer is Office the solution to every problem and C++/VB the only tool. Microsoft is serious about serving this market beyond the OS/Office and, I think, the products names reflect this.

Of course, Microsoft doesn’t have an easy job on their hands – I don’t mean to imply that they do.

But, I miss the old names. At the very least, I wish Longhorn had kept its name. Or had taken the name of Indigo. Now that is a cool name.

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