What's Next for Data Dude?

Remember Visual Studio Team System 2008 Database Professional, also known as "Data Dude," which got rolled up in Visual Studio 2010? Microsoft provided an update on the latest evolution of Data Dude at its 2011 SQL PASS Summit last week.

With the release of SQL Server 2012 ("Denali"), Data Dude in Visual Studio 2010 is essentially replaced by SQL Server Developer Tools (codenamed "Juneau"). Microsoft announced last week that SQL Server Developer Tools is now named SQL Server Data Tools (SSDT). SQL Server Data Tools with SQL Server 2012 is integrated with the Visual Studio shell, according to Microsoft, and can function as a standalone environment for DBAs for example, or used with Visual Studio 2010 SP1 Professional. That means that developers can work on database projects alongside application development projects in Visual Studio.

With the upcoming Visual Studio 11, SQL Server Data Tools will replace Visual Studio Database Projects with SQL Server Database Projects. However, some "Data Dude" features such as data generation and database unit testing are not part of SSDT. The tools, at least in the first public preview, also do not support Entity Framework, which is on the product roadmap, according to Microsoft.

Announced in November 2010 at PASS, SQL Server Data Tools is designed to help developers and DBAs migrate schemas and maintain hybrid database environments. The tooling targets on-premise SQL Server 2005 and up, as well as SQL Azure cloud services.

SQL Server Data Tools is expected to ship as a free component alongside SQL Server 2012, which is slated for release in the first half of next year. Microsoft released the first public SSDT Community Technology Preview (CTP3) in July. CTP4 is expected in Q4 2011. After the SQL Server 2012 RTM, the SQL Server Data Tools will be updated in conjunction with SQL Azure services, according to Microsoft, which is roughly every 4 to 6 months.

Factions within Microsoft have toyed with the idea of merging SQL Server Management Studio and Visual Studio over the years, but the management tool will remain separate with the 2012 release. SQL Server Management Studio has been integrated with the Visual Studio shell since the release of SQL Server 2005, and Microsoft introduced more Visual Studio functionality such as IntelliSense for stored procedures in the management tool with SQL Server 2008.

If you haven't checked out the tooling, you can download SQL Server Data Tools CTP3 here. You can also get a glimpse of what's coming in the Visual Studio 11 Developer Preview.

The impact of data and how businesses can leverage it is the major theme of the Web 2.0 Summit 2011 in San Francisco this week. Express your thoughts on Microsoft's approach to SQL Server development. Is this the end of the line for Data Dude? Drop me a line at krichards@1105media.com.

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 10/18/2011 at 12:54 PM1 comments

New Tools for Migrating Databases to Windows Phone

With Windows Phone 7.5 "Mango" starting to reach end users phones, Microsoft is releasing tools and sample code to help developers port their iPhone and Android mobile apps to the updated Microsoft platform.

On Monday, Jean-Christophe Cimetiere of Microsoft, blogged about a new mobile database conversion tool called SQLite2CE. Available on CodePlex, it converts your mobile app database to SQL Server Compact and creates the default classes necessary for running it on Windows Phone, according to Cimetiere. Microsoft is also offering a free utility, SQLiteQuery2LINQ on CodePlex to convert SQL queries into Microsoft's Language Integrated Query (LINQ).

With Steve Jobs's death, interest in Apple products is higher than ever. I was at the Apple store in Boston over the weekend and a sizable crowd was outside the store photographing the memorial of heartfelt notes, bouquets, apples with bites out of them and the like.

Apple didn't create the app store concept but Steve Jobs and company definitely created the consumer market for mobile apps. I covered the launch of the Apple App Store in a Mobile Revolution cover story in Redmond Developer News in the summer of 2008 and asked, "Will a paradigm shift rock the mobile application industry if the iTunes App Store strikes a chord with users?" At the time, many of the Windows Mobile developers I talked to thought that it would, despite comments about the strength of Microsoft's developer tools, including SQL Server Compact versus SQL Lite.

Back then, Apple had about 1,100 apps versus 18,000 Windows Mobile apps but people didn't realize it, said Ellen Craw, the general manager of longtime Windows Mobile app development company Ilium Software. "There were MP3 players way before the iPod, but nobody made it big until Apple," she told me in 2008. "Research in Motion was looking at the PDA market and thinking, 'Yes, this is what it should be,' and then Apple showed people how huge it can be. We always believed it could be huge."

"Nobody made it big until Apple" is an apt description of the company's phenomenal success in the MP3 and music industries, App Store and smartphones, and now tablets. It will be interesting to see what happens with iCloud.

At the end of a commencement speech at Stanford University in 2005, Steve Jobs noted a motto of his that came from the back page of the final issue of The Whole Earth Catalog: "Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish." Thanks for following your dreams Steve.

Express your thoughts below or drop me a line at krichards@1105media.com.

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 10/11/2011 at 12:54 PM1 comments

Can Metro Style Apps Coexist with Classic Windows Software?

Microsoft ruffled more feathers last month when it announced that the Metro style version of Internet Explorer 10 would not support any plug-ins-- its own Silverlight, Adobe Flash, ActiveX and even common add-ins that people use to personalize their browsers. Metro style Internet Explorer 10 is part of the Windows Developer Preview, released at the company's BUILD conference.

The "no plug-ins" approach certainly hasn't hindered sales of the iPad. Apple's iPad has attracted 29 million users in 15 months, according to the New York Times. But Microsoft's story so far, isn't as cut and dry.

As consumers (and business users) flock to simple devices that enable them to consume all kinds of content and download simpler apps designed for specific tasks; Windows 8 devices apparently will offer up a mix of classic Windows apps, touch-first Metro style apps that may not work that well with a mouse and keyboard--and two browser modes.

Will Metro style apps interoperate with classic Windows apps and share data? Or only with other Metro apps using contracts and charms? Who is going to explain all this to end users?

On many form factors, Windows 8 end users will be able to select "Use Desktop Mode" in the Metro style Internet Explorer 10, and switch to desktop IE10, which supports Silverlight and Flash, according to Microsoft. The head of Internet Explorer, Dean Hachamovitch offered some insights into the IE10 code and its behaviors in a recent Build Windows 8 blog, Metro style browsing and plug-in free HTML.

Developers can also migrate their Silverlight apps fairly easily to Metro style apps, which support XAML and C#, according to BUILD keynote demonstrations by Microsoft.

Microsoft developer Robert W. Evans, who specializes in Silverlight blogged about an early workaround for the IE 10 modern browser and Silverlight in his Silverlight Shinobi TechNet blog on Thursday.

"Mitigating factors for existing Silverlight sites are that it is easy to convert Silverlight applications to Metro Applications and visitors to a site using the MoBro [Modern Browser] will get an install indicator if a Metro App is available to install," explained Evans. "For a small percentage of existing Silverlight Apps this may be a viable alternative to forcing the user to switch to Desktop Mode and would not require the more substantial dev investment of redesigning in HTML5."

It's early in the Windows Developer Preview cycle. It's still unclear how everything is going to work together and how the Visual Studio tools are going to support that effort. At BUILD, Microsoft released Visual Studio Express for Windows Developer Preview (Metro Style apps only), Expression Blend 5 Developer Preview (Metro HTML/JavaScript apps only) and Visual Studio 11 Developer Preview (Windows 8 and Windows Azure). Like the new Windows, different flavors support different types of app development.

Jensen Harris, Microsoft director of program management, Windows User Experience, offered an excellent overview of the thinking behind Metro style apps, the new animation libraries, unique touch language and other basic app design principles in his session at BUILD, 8 Traits of Great Metro Style Apps. His explanations are straightforward and offer some insights into Microsoft's reasons for the Metro style design and the company's focus on "fast and fluid" applications.

Early demonstrations of Metro style apps show great promise for a Windows tablet audience. Microsoft's initial story, however, is focused on coexistence with Windows "desktop" apps and how that's going to play out for app developers (and their customers) remains unclear. Express your thoughts on the new Metro style apps and classic Windows "desktop" apps. Have your development plans changed based on Windows 8 announcements? Comment below or drop me a line.

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 10/04/2011 at 12:54 PM3 comments

Windows Phone Mango: Final Tools on the Way, Web Marketplace Opens

Microsoft launched a Web version of its Windows Phone Marketplace on Tuesday as mobile operators started a phased rollout of the first major Windows Phone 7.5 software update for customers.

"Watch for another blog post tomorrow from Cliff Simpkins with an update on the SDK and developer builds of Windows Phone 7.5," advised Todd Brix, senior director of Windows Phone Marketplace, in a Windows Phone Developer blog post on Tuesday.

If you count the initial Windows Phone 7 release and the minor "NoDo" software update, we are unofficially at "version 3." And that's good news because from most accounts, Windows Phone 7.5 "Mango" offers competitive smartphone features. This release could finally create some traction for Windows Phone and its 30,000 plus apps.

Last month Microsoft started to test and certify Windows Phone 7.5 apps/updates. At that time, the company indicated plans to freeze Windows Phone 7.0 apps (no more updates) as soon as the "Mango" versions of the applications were published.

The immediate transition from 7.0 to 7.5 apps caused concern among developers because the release schedule of the Windows Phone updates has varied dramatically by carrier. Microsoft indicated on Tuesday that it is using a phased rollout strategy to prevent any widespread problems with the operating system updates. The Mango update could take four weeks to reach 100 percent of customers, according to the company. (Some Windows Phone customers had still not received "NoDo" months after the initial rollouts started in March.)

Based on developer feedback, Microsoft announced last week that it is changing its initial app update policy in the Windows Phone Marketplace. By the end of October, according to a Sept. 20 blog post by Brix, Microsoft will provide functionality in its App Hub that allows developers to publish updates to 7.0 versions of their apps. The company is also providing "New for 7.5" screenshots and text overlay graphics that developers can use to help consumers identify Mango applications. The graphics and screenshots meet app certification requirements, according to Brix.

Windows Phone "Mango" and the new Web version of the Windows Phone Marketplace look promising for developers. Express your thoughts on the latest developments and what's needed to ramp up the market for devices and applications. Comment below or drop me a line.

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 09/27/2011 at 12:54 PM0 comments

Expression Blend 5 Preview for HTML Only

Last week Microsoft indicated that it was releasing an Expression Blend 5 Developer Preview as part of the tooling for the Windows Developer Preview of Windows 8.

What Microsoft officials forgot to say, at least during the Day 1 keynote, is that the Expression Blend 5 Developer Preview supports HTML only for Windows 8 Metro style apps. The preview does not support XAML, the XML-based declarative language used extensively in Windows Presentation Foundation and Silverlight. The four previous versions of Expression Blend focused on UI design and development with XAML and other .NET technologies.

When a reader of Microsoft Developer Division Senior Vice President S. Somasegar's blog--highlighting many of the exciting CSS3 and client-side JavaScript features in Expression Blend for HTML--asked about a preview of Blend for XAML; Christian Schormann, director of product management for Expression Blend, responded in the comments section:

At this point, we unfortunately cannot talk about any releases or features beyond what we have introduced here at build. Stay tuned for future announcements. A good place to look is our new team blog, where the latest news will be posted: http://www.blendinsider.com.

There is a visual XAML designer for Metro-style apps as part of Visual Studio Express in the Windows Developer Preview. As we unified our designer code bases, this visual designer is now based on the same code as Blend.

Schormann also pointed to several sessions at BUILD including a deep dive session on Visual Studio 11 Express for designing Metro style apps using XAML.

Does this mean that Blend for HTML is replacing Expression Blend for XAML going forward?

Schormann gave a session on Expression Blend for designing Metro style apps using HTML at Build and stressed that the preview tooling supported native HTML; it was not a XAML tool that exports to HTML and CSS. He described Blend for HTML as "a new flavor of Blend." (Expression Blend for Windows Phone, part of the free Windows Phone Developer Tools, is another "flavor" of the tool that supports Windows Phone 7 APIs based on Silverlight and XAML.)

He also acknowledged that the Expression Blend 5 Developer Preview was for HTML only. Schormann is the only person at Microsoft who has actually said that publicly as far as I can tell. "We have not released a preview of Blend 5 for XAML yet," he said.

Why not call it Expression Blend for HTML instead of Expression Blend 5 Developer Preview? It may be a matter of semantics but glossing over the absence of XAML and related .NET technologies in the Expression Blend 5 Developer Preview has resulted in many people, including prominent developers and analysts, mistakenly assuming that HTML and XAML are supported in the preview tools. Was this a slight of hand or another communication blunder by Microsoft?

Tell us what you think. Is Expression Blend for XAML likely to get updated or is XAML now relegated to Visual Studio 11 and the updated XAML visual designer? Does it matter? Express your thoughts below or drop me a line.

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 09/22/2011 at 12:54 PM5 comments

Visual Studio 11 Gets Game, More Agile

Microsoft is releasing the first Developer Previews of Visual Studio 11 and .NET Framework 4.5 in conjunction with its BUILD conference for developers this week. The Visual Studio 11 SDK is included in the Developer Preview.

The IDE adds support for HTML5 and Windows 8, according to Microsoft Corporate Vice President Jason Zander, who highlighted some of the new features outside of what's available in Visual Studio 11 Express during the Day 2 keynote at BUILD on Wednesday.

Zander took a spin through the new visual image editor and graphics tools in the Visual Studio 11 Developer Preview, which include debugging capabilities for 2D and 3D games based on DirectX. He also showcased a new Code-Clone Analysis Tool and explained how it works in his blog:

The Code-Clone Analysis tool in Visual Studio 11 examines your solution looking for logic that is duplicated, enabling you to factor this code out into one or more common methods. The tool does this very intelligently; it does not just search for identical blocks of code, rather it searches for semantically similar constructs using heuristics developed by Microsoft Research.

.According to Zander, .NET 4.5 focused on improvements requested by developers such as state machine support in Windows Workflow and asynchronous programming in C# and Visual Basic, which was previewed in the Async CTPs. He blogged about the key improvements:

Across ASP.NET, the BCL, MEF, WCF, WPF, Windows Workflow, and other key technologies, we’ve listened to developers and added functionality in .NET 4.5. Important examples include state machine support in Windows Workflow, and improved support for SQL Server and Windows Azure in ADO.NET. ASP.NET has increased investments in HTML5, CSS3, device detection, page optimization, and the NuGet package system, as well as introduces new functionality with MVC4.

A Developer Preview of Team Foundation Server 11 is also available this week. Among the highlights, according to Zander, is enhanced unit testing with an agile tool called Exploratory Testing – no formal test planning required. A new workflow feature in TFS saves project state for code reviews with Team Explorer. Microsoft also showcased Team Foundation Services hosted on Azure, and invited BUILD attendees and their co-workers and friends to register for the first public preview of TFS in the cloud, which went live on Wednesday. Outside of 250 first-come first-serve "bharry" code activations, you need to know someone who attended BUILD in order to sign up for the preview.

The Developer Previews are slated to be generally available on Friday at 10 a.m. PDT. MSDN subscribers had access to the previews on Wednesday. You can get the downloads here.

Are you optimistic about developing apps for Windows 8 after all the announcements at BUILD this week? Express your thoughts below or drop me a line.

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 09/15/2011 at 12:54 PM0 comments

First Public Previews: Windows 8 and Metro App Dev Tools

Microsoft is releasing the Windows 8 Developer Preview, which includes the Visual Studio 11 and Expression Blend 5 developer tools (64-bit) for metro style apps for public download today.

The company kicked off its Build conference in Anaheim, CA with a keynote helmed by Steven Sinofsky, president of Windows and Windows Live, and Samsung prototype tablets with the Windows Developer Preview and tools  for attendees.

The new Windows 8 platform for metro style applications gives you access to the new Windows APIs, now called the Windows runtime or WinRT, using the language of your choice – HTML5/JavaScript, C#/VB/XAML or C/C++.

"WinRT gives you more than 1800 objects to build your applications," explained Sinofsky. The application model supports low power, immersive applications, communication and data objects, graphics and media, devices and printing, all of which are natively built into Windows.

"This is all native code built to reflect in different languages," he said. "So, you have the WinRT APIs and objects, and then we reflect those in C and C++ and C# and VB, and you can do your view in XAML if that's what you want to do. You could also see those APIs reflected in JavaScript, and then you could use HTML and CSS to define your view. All of these work together in a unified tool set."

The metro style app project templates and related HTML5 tooling are available in the Visual Studio 11 Express for Windows Developer Preview and the Expression Blend 5 Preview. The previews of the tools are available as part of the Windows 8 Developer Preview download but you can also download Windows 8 (32-bit and 64-bit) without the tools.

The Build conference continues through Friday and will offer more than 100 sessions on Windows 8, according to Microsoft. The sessions will be made available online a day or two after they take place.

Express your thoughts on Windows 8 and the newly revealed metro style app model. Do you like what you've heard so far? Can an "agnostic" app dev model realistically help developers address the differences in the Silverlight/.NET/XAML and HTML5/JavaScript development environments? Drop me a line.

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 09/13/2011 at 12:54 PM1 comments

Windows 8 Previews Missing .NET 3.5

We are about a week away from the "Windows 8" big reveal and, if Microsoft delivers "the goods" at its BUILD conference on September 13 – 16, the first developer previews of the upcoming operating system.

As people headed out to celebrate the last weekend of summer on Friday, Windows division President Steven Sinofsky, revealed some of the features that will not appear in the early Windows 8 previews:

Media Center will not be part of the first pre-release builds. Some other features/capabilities will not be in the first pre-release builds including: Windows 7 games, DVD Creator, upgrade setup, Dot Net 3.5 (Note there are perhaps a couple of other relatively low profile items but just wanted to hit the major ones here). These are engineering decisions as well as business decisions.

Windows 8 will presumably ship with .NET 4 and users will have the option to install older versions of the framework if they are needed for applications. Remember the in-process side-by-side execution model that Microsoft introduced with .NET 4, which supports an application whose components or services require earlier versions of the framework? Mainstream support for .NET 3.0 ends on April 10, 2012.

Windows 8 on ARM devices, which will only support the new HTML5/JavaScript app model, according to Microsoft, is another gray area. Is a lighter version of the framework similar to the subsets of .NET for Silverlight, Windows Phone or Xbox (XNA), likely in this scenario? We want to hear your predictions for BUILD (and .NET). Express your thoughts below or drop me a line.

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 09/06/2011 at 12:54 PM5 comments

Windows Phone "Mango" Marketplace Open for Apps

Starting today Windows Phone app developers can submit Windows Phone 7.5 "Mango" applications to the new App Hub for certification and publish them in the Windows Phone Marketplace, which was updated in anticipation of the Mango release.

Developers can publish apps that take advantage of the new functionality in Mango in the next few days, according to Microsoft, before the Windows Phone OS update reaches retailers' shelves and existing Windows Phone devices. The Mango release is expected on new Windows Phones sometime this fall. Updates from carriers for existing devices are anticipated before the end of the year.

The senior director of Windows Phone Marketplace, Todd Brix, explained the Mango publishing scenario in a Windows Phone Developer blog posting on Tuesday:

This means that new and existing titles optimized for Mango features like fast app switching, background audio, multiple and double sided Live Tiles, better Search integration and more will begin publishing in a matter of days. Now that’s not to say that Mango will arrive on existing devices in the coming days (sorry, not quite yet). It does, however, mean that people running early builds of Mango will see these new apps and games.

In order to submit "Mango" applications, you'll need to download the Release Candidate of the Windows Phone 7.1 SDK, which was released on Tuesday in English and Japanese with a "Go-Live" license.

The Windows Phone 7.1 SDK Release Candidate adds the Marketplace Test Kit for running app certification tests locally, which should increase developers' chances of passing Microsoft's certification process. The final release of the Windows Phone 7.1 SDK, which will be localized for all supported languages according to Microsoft, is expected by the end of September.

Starting on Tuesday, according to Brix, developers can also "cross-submit" games to the Marketplace for newly supported countries and include ratings information via PEGI (Pan-European Game Information) Express. Microsoft announced 19 new consumer markets and 7 new developer markets in July. The addition of developers from China to the Marketplace is expected this fall, according to the company.

As the battle for smartphone dominance heats up, recent developments outside of Microsoft may have created more opportunity for Windows Phone developers. Last week, Google announced its plans to acquire OEM Motorola Mobility in part for its trove of patents to help fend off Android lawsuits. The acquisition puts Google in direct competition with Android OEMs, which may bode well for Windows Phone as handset makers hedge their bets.

Leading PC maker HP announced on Friday that the company is rethinking its consumer strategy and exiting the tablet and device business, leaving mobile developers for webOS, which it acquired from Palm, in limbo. Microsoft actively solicited webOS developers the same day via twitter with offers of free WP7.5 developer phones and development resources.

Express your thoughts on the Mango Marketplace and the game-changing moves in the smartphone industry; what's next for Microsoft? Drop me a line at krichards@1105media.com.

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 08/23/2011 at 12:54 PM0 comments

Changing Requirements: Visual Studio and Agile PM

A decade after the Agile manifesto, iterative development has finally emerged as a mainstream practice in many Microsoft dev shops, and the tooling to support it is not far behind. Reacting to change is good, but effectively managing Agile engineering teams and project requirements can get tricky, which may explain the emergence of tools to help you keep track of your Agile development projects.

Based on the early previews, Visual Studio ALM vNext is heavily focused on Agile development and Scrum-based tooling. Microsoft development tools provider Telerik entered the Agile tools market about a year ago with TeamPulse, a project management suite with a Silverlight client.

TeamPulse provides visual tools to capture app requirements based on user stories and scheduling for iterations and sprints. Agile teams can sync TeamPulse with TFS 2008/2010 but the Agile PM doesn't require TFS. A free Community Edition of TeamPulse is available for up to five users. The Standard Edition is $249 per user and can support multiple teams and projects.

On Monday Telerik released its fourth update to TeamPulse. The 2011 R2 release adds a unified backlog management view, data views and drag-and-drop prioritization, e-mail notifications, tagging and commenting support, new reporting features and lots of bug fixes.

"A lot of organizations are starting to use Agile because most of the time they are able to get good metrics from the team in terms of performance, which helps you with estimation, planning and so forth," says Joel Semeniuk, executive vice president, Agile Project Management Division, Telerik. Agile software engineering practices are well established, according to Semeniuk, but often the project management aspect, which is based on a different paradigm than upfront planning and requirements gathering, is not as well understood.

In the May 2011 R1 release, Telerik added bug, risk and issue tracking capabilities to TeamPulse, and integrated the product with its Test Studio Web and desktop UI suite. A third update, TeamPulse 2011 is planned for later this year.

Developers requested an API for TeamPulse in September 2010 but it is still not part of the 2011 R2 release. For TeamPulse integrations, the company suggests using its TeamPulse data service, which is based on Open Data Protocol (OData). The TeamPulse data service, however, is not officially supported by Telerik.

This fall, Telerik plans to introduce an HTML-based "Feedback Portal" System designed to enable internal and external Agile project stakeholders (customers, for example) to comment on feature requests, bugs and other issues. The Feedback Portal is expected to have a server-license with a one-time activation fee of $3,000, according to Semeniuk. Portal users won't need a license to submit feedback. Telerik is also planning to offer Applied Agile training services starting in the early fall.

One survey showed that 35 percent of developers use Agile development practices, according to Microsoft TFS product lead Brian Harry, who explained the thinking behind Visual Studio ALM vNext in a June blog. Express your thoughts on Agile challenges in Microsoft dev environments. Is the shift towards mobile and cloud development changing the development process? Drop me a line at krichards@1105media.com.

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 08/16/2011 at 12:54 PM1 comments

Did Microsoft's Clean Break Work for Windows Phone?

Microsoft allowed members of the public to play with Windows Phone 'Mango' devices for the first time on Friday at a local event hosted by the gdgt tech blog in Seattle.

'Mango' was released to device manufacturers in late July. The interim release of the Windows Phone 7 OS needs to meet carriers' requirements before existing devices can receive the 'Mango' update. New models of Windows Phone with the 'Mango' release are expected at retail this fall.

On Monday, 21-year Microsoft veteran Charlie Kindel, who most recently served as general manager for Windows Phone Developer Experience, announced in his blog that he is leaving Microsoft at the beginning of next month, to launch his own startup in the Seattle area. He didn't really offer details about the new venture outside of noting that it's related to mobile, cloud, social media and athletics.

At MIX10, when the Windows Phone platform (Silverlight and XNA) and Visual Studio tooling were first unveiled, Kindel had to defend some of the company's decisions to the Windows Mobile base. Windows Phone made a "clean break" from Windows Mobile, and existing applications would not run on the new operating system. Many Windows Mobile users, IT departments and developers were unhappy about the decision.

It's been a crazy ride since then and despite decent OS technology that is getting some accolades, a Nokia deal, and close to 28,000 apps in the Windows Phone marketplace, Microsoft has made blunders and continues to lose market share in the United States. The Windows Phone advertising campaign didn't appear to work and problems plagued the phone updates, which have trickled out at a snail's pace compared to competitive offerings. Windows Phones in the U.S. dropped from 7.5 percent of smartphone subscribers in March, to 5.8 percent in June, according to comScore.

The 'Mango' update could get sales moving in the right direction. According to an AllThingsD report based on an interview with Nokia President Chris Weber on Tuesday, Nokia plans to stop selling its low cost feature-based phones and Symbian smartphones in the United States and Canada. Once its Windows Phones are released, the Finnish company will focus on selling Windows Phones and related accessories through wireless carriers.

Meanwhile, Microsoft faces another technology revolution vs. evolution crossroads, which could leave legacy apps (and their developers) by the wayside, at least as far as tablets are concerned. Windows 8 on ARM devices will not support backwards compatibility for existing Windows applications. According to the early previews, Windows 8 on x86 will run traditional applications and new applications built using the HTML/JavaScript model.

Microsoft is hosting its "Windows 8" BUILD conference in September for developers and the new app dev model is expected to be detailed at the event, along with previews of the Windows 8 bits. Redmond contributor Mary Jo Foley reported on Tuesday that the pre-conference sessions for BUILD have been cancelled.

Microsoft bet on the clean break strategy for Windows Phone. It's hard not to wonder at this juncture if an evolution might have worked better. The company appears ready to make a clean break again with "Windows 8" on ARM devices. Is this the right move? Express your thoughts below or drop me a line at krichards@1105media.com.

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 08/09/2011 at 12:54 PM2 comments

What's Next for ASP.NET and HTML5?

Some developers are worried about Microsoft's HTML5 and JavaScript push while others have embraced any tooling support they can get in the ASP.NET frameworks and Visual Studio.

If you've wondered about the prominence of HTML5 and JavaScript in the Microsoft Web stack (and now Windows) and didn't quite catch the tooling story outside of Internet Explorer, here's a synopsis. Microsoft introduced limited HTML5 support in Visual Studio 2010 Service Pack 1, which was released in March of this year. The company has a longstanding partnership with John Resig, the creator of the popular, open source JavaScript library jQuery, which is integrated into the Visual Studio/ASP.NET development frameworks.

An ASP.NET MVC 3 Tools Update in early May added a project template for HTML5 Semantic Markup to the Model View Controller framework, and included Modernizr, an open source JavaScript library that can be used to fill in the gaps for older Web browsers.

Scott Guthrie blogged about the ASP.NET MVC 3 Tools Update and HTML5 about a week after it was released. He said he would soon write another blog about what's coming in ASP.NET WebForms, in response to a reader's question. That was about three months ago, and to date, no blog. Guthrie has transitioned into a new role as corporate vice president in the Server & Tools Business division, but he is still in charge of ASP.NET and related tooling.

In mid-June, Microsoft program manager Scott Hanselman introduced Microsoft's unofficial Web Standards Update, which enhances the HTML5 support in Visual Studio 2010 Service Pack 1, and adds CSS3 and JavaScript IntelliSense and validation among other features to the VS editor. According to Hanselman's blog at the time of the announcement:

The goal is perhaps an update every quarter or so as new features or elements emerge. We want ASP.NET web developers to always be able to use the latest standards, as well as being able to choose from existing standards.

Developers who have managed to install the Web Standards Update – it apparently had problems recognizing that VS2010 SP1 was already installed in some instances – seem to like it, a lot. Close to 60,000 developers have downloaded the Web Standards Update based on Visual Studio Gallery metrics this month.

If you are trying to get a handle on HTML5 reality versus the hype, Telerik Chief Evangelist Todd Anglin offers a good overview for .NET developers of where things stand in his article, HTML5 Reality Check: Tools and Strategies You can Use Today.

Many developers have wondered about the future of Silverlight but ASP.NET WebForms, whose updates are dependent on the .NET Framework, is another technology that may be falling out of step with emerging Web standards, especially for mobile devices. ASP.NET controls obviously don't yet generate HTML5-compliant code. It remains unclear when the next version of ASP.NET vNext will be released, and exactly what's updated or changed in the foundation framework. Microsoft has indicated the ASP.NET WebForms will support the Task-based asynchronous programming, currently previewed in the Async CTP.

In March, Bartek Marnane of ASP.NET development firm Evonet Consulting blogged about some of what's coming in ASP.NET WebForms. Many of the features he reported, are already available in ASP.NET MVC such as the ModelBinder, described as "code in the middle tier that provides model management based on user input" and unobtrusive validation. The next version of ASP.NET WebForms will also support CSS Sprites, according to Marnane. A CSS Sprite image combines background images on a page into a single file to reduce image requests.

Have you checked out Microsoft's HTML5 tooling? What's needed in ASP.NET WebForms vNext to modernize Microsoft's Web stack? Is ASP.NET MVC the better option going forward? Express your thoughts below or drop me a line at krichards@1105media.com.

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 08/02/2011 at 12:54 PM6 comments

LightSwitch: Turned Off by the Silverlight Client?

Visual Studio LightSwitch 2011 is described by Microsoft as a self-service development tool for non professional programmers who want to build data-centric, line of business applications. In other words, they need access to company data and can't wait for IT to provide it for routine business tasks.

The latest edition to the Visual Studio family of products is available to MSDN subscribers today – probably not many non-professional programmers in that group – and for general purchase on Thursday, July 28th through the Microsoft Store and resellers. A LightSwitch 2011 license is US $299. A free 90-day LightSwitch 2011 trial is available for download starting today, with registration required after a 30-day period.

According to Microsoft, LightSwitch Beta 2 projects should work in the LightSwitch RTM. Microsoft Senior Program Manager Beth Massi has outlined some of the changes in the RTM from Beta 2 in terms of screens, control layouts, collection refresh behavior, multiple column sorting and settings, which are persisted across application launches.

Microsoft has taken many steps to make it possible to create simple applications with little to no coding involved. If more is required, the projects can easily be shifted to Visual Studio 2010 with Service Pack 1 for further work in VB.NET or C#.

The LightSwitch front-end is based on Silverlight 4. A great technology with a black mark next to it based on mixed signals and disastrous communications from Microsoft about the product roadmap – if there is a product roadmap.

LightSwitch v1 requires developers to either write their own code for printing and reporting tasks, or use third-party extensions. Printing and reporting are not remedied in Silverlight until Silverlight 5, which is still in beta. Silverlight 5 supports PostScript vector printing, which according to Microsoft, enables users to create reports. Third-party developers may be able to fill in some of these gaps with extensions to LightSwitch. DevExpress has added LightSwitch support to its XtraReports Suite.

Many companies, and developers, have put the brakes on Silverlight development projects. That may change after more information is revealed about Windows 8 development at the BUILD conference in September, but chances are, people who have moved on, aren't coming back.

OakLeaf Systems principal Roger Jennings, an author and developer who specializes in database development and Windows Azure, doubts that a Silverlight front-end will cause companies and developers to hesitate before using LightSwitch or to consider other options.

"I’m not one of those that believe Silverlight is dead," Jennings said in an email interview. "No more than I believed 'Jet was dead' when Microsoft declared SQL Server its 'strategic database' in the Access 97 timeframe. Jet remains alive and well, but renamed to ACE."

Andrew Brust, founder and CEO of Blue Badge Insights, is another proponent of LightSwitch and the extension opportunities that the technology presents to developers. "The extension ecosystem has impressive momentum already at launch and I think there are good chances that it will grow quickly," he said in an email interview.

Brust also views the Silverlight client as the right choice, at least in LightSwitch v1. "I think the Silverlight client is the right bet for today and that LightSwitch’s model-driven architecture puts it in a good position to target new front-end platforms in future versions," he said. "So in many ways LightSwitch is a safer bet than most other tools."

Express your thoughts on LightSwitch and Silverlight. For developers outside of the departmental realm, is there any benefit to building a LightSwitch app instead of a traditional Silverlight app? Drop me a line at krichards@1105media.com.

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 07/26/2011 at 12:54 PM4 comments

Mono for Mobile Is Back

Just as excitement was building around MonoTouch 4.0 for iOS and Mono for Android 1.0, Attachmate laid-off Novell's Mono development team in May and delivered what many perceived as the death knell for the existing Mono-based mobile SDKs.

MonoTouch and Mono for Droid are commercial toolkits based on the Mono Project, a cross-platform, open source implementation of the .NET Framework. The SDKs enable developers to use C# and .NET Framework technologies to develop native apps for Apple and Android devices in the MonoDevelop IDE and Visual Studio.

Never underestimate Miguel de Icaza. The founder of the Mono Project in June 2001 (prior to the release of .NET in 2002) and the former head of Mono development at Novell, which was acquired by Attachmate in April; de Icaza had to hand out pink slips on his way out in early May. Later that same month, he formed a new company called Xamarin and recruited many of the former Mono developers.

On Monday de Icaza announced a deal with SUSE, a business unit of Attachmate that provides enterprise Linux solutions. The agreement gives Xamarin "broad rights" to a perpetual license for the intellectual property for MonoTouch, Mono for Android, Mono Project and the Mono Tools for Visual Studio. Under the agreement, Xamarin will update and sell the mobile SDKs at its Xamarin store, according to de Icaza, who commented on the immediate product roadmap in his blog about the announcement:

Our immediate plan for both MonoTouch and Mono for Android is to make sure that your critical and major bugs are fixed. We have been listening to the needs of the community and we are working to improve these products to meet your needs. You can expect updates to the products in the next week.

Xamarin had already started to build its own mobile SDKs based on Mono called XTouch and Xdroid. Some of that technology will be introduced into MonoTouch and Mono for Android, initially through beta channels, according to the company's roadmap.

The company will also continue to work on Moonlight, an open source implementation of Silverlight for Linux developed during Novell's technical collaboration with Microsoft. Moonlight 4 was released in April.

The silver lining in this transition may be that de Icaza had wanted to spin off Mono from Novell because the mobile technologies did not fit with the former company's infrastructure strategy. Express your thoughts on the resurrection of MonoTouch and Mono for Android. Is this the best possible outcome for Mono, Moonlight and the mobile SDKs? Drop me a line at krichards@1105media.com.

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 07/19/2011 at 12:54 PM2 comments

Going Native: XAML and Windows 8

The BUILD conference is still about two months out with no clear agenda or sessions but apparently lots of attendees willing to take a leap of faith to find out what's coming from Microsoft. In recent weeks, several theories about some of the anticipated changes in the development model for Windows 8 are gathering steam.

Microsoft's vague references to a new app model based on HTML5 and JavaScript certainly got developers' attention, but what's happening with XAML, Microsoft's Extensible Application Markup Language, introduced alongside Windows Presentation Foundation in 2006, may be more important for line of business developers.

A few people in the industry have already shifted from talking about WPF and Silverlight to focusing on XAML and its associated frameworks and tooling.

Among them is Stephen Forte, chief strategy officer of UI toolset provider Telerik. In a Silverlight is Dead, Long Live XAML blog posting last week, Forte speculated about recent reports on Windows 8 and shared his thoughts on what may be coming in September:

"By putting the XAML runtime team under Windows, Microsoft is making XAML part of the core operating system. This is huge. Anything included as part of the Core OS is treated as royalty inside of Microsoft. It also means that any XAML based application (either in WPF or Silverlight) will run natively as part of Windows, opening up the door to even faster performance."

If the native XAML reports in a popular blog are true, Forte says that he "expects to see one native XAML runtime and development environment ship as part of Windows 8, effectively merging Silverlight and WPF." XAML, more than .NET, will become the common thread in the Microsoft stack for Windows 8, Internet Explorer 10, Windows Phone 7 and Xbox.

Forte explains:

"Since the XAML runtime has moved to Windows core and is no longer part of .NET, a "Silverlight" app that is deployed on the web, can run natively on Windows and take advantage of the local system and hardware, blurring the difference between WPF and Silverlight. It’s a natural evolution since the WPF and Silverlight teams at Microsoft were really one big team at this point."

Telerik is well positioned to help developers take advantage of this evolution if it happens, according to Forte:

"Since the beginning, we have always had only one XAML team with one XAML code base, so our WPF and Silverlight share the exact same codebase and our Windows Phone 7 tools are a subset of that codebase. We see Native XAML as a massive opportunity and will continue to support our XAML tools now and in the future."

Express your thoughts on Native XAML and the evolution of WPF and Silverlight. Are we getting closer to figuring out what's coming for developers in Windows 8? Drop me a line at krichards@1105media.com.

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 07/12/2011 at 12:54 PM2 comments