IIS 7.5 Developer Tool Coming This Month

When the Visual Studio 2010 Service Pack 1 beta was released in early December, outside of a handful of promoted features, it was hard to tell which bugs and issues had actually been addressed. That didn't go over so well.

In case you missed it, Jason Zander, who heads the Visual Studio team, has listened to the negative feedback and provided a partial list of what has been fixed or changed in SP1.

Visual Studio 2010 SP1 also added support for IIS Express, the upcoming IIS 7.5 developer tool that Microsoft describes as a combination of features found in the ASP.NET Development Server (Cassini) in Visual Studio and full blown IIS Web Server.

IIS Express, which is in beta, is expected to ship this month. It is a 5MB download via Web PI and doesn't require administrator privileges for dev/testing purposes, code changes or site registration. It is based on the same usage model as ASP.NET Development Server and will become the default ASP.NET Web Server in Visual Studio going forward, according to Microsoft Corporate VP Scott Guthrie, who introduced the technology in his blog in June 2010 and provided an update in early January. In addition to Visual Studio 2010 SP1, IIS Express can be used with Visual Studio 2008 (launched from the command line and manually configured), Visual Web Developer 2010 Express and Windows XP and higher. According to Microsoft, it supports all versions of ASP.NET. It does not work with Azure development tools.

Did Microsoft address your issues in the Visual Studio 2010 SP1 beta? Express your thoughts below or drop me a line at krichards@1105media.com.

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 01/11/2011 at 12:54 PM1 comments


Windows Phone Development by the Numbers

As people unwrapped iPads, Kindles and smartphones over the holidays, one can only hope that Windows Phone 7 devices represented a noteworthy part of that mix. I got a Kindle and my conversion to digital books was immediate. It's convenient, the books cost less, the possibilities are endless and--outside of keeping some literary classics for nostalgia and my collection of photography books--I foresee a future with a lot less clutter.

The number of Windows Phone 7 activations to date remain unclear. In late December, a Microsoft executive indicated that 1.5 million Windows Phone 7 handsets had been sold to carriers and retailers. During the Microsoft CES keynote on Wednesday night, CEO Steve Ballmer may shed light on actual sales, the first feature update, CDMA support and plans for tablet derivatives of the WP7 platform--if there are any. Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg is scheduled to give the opening keynote on Thursday morning. If a CDMA Windows Phone 7 is announced, developers may have something to cheer about but if the Verizon iPhone release date is announced, watch out for the stampede.

For more on mobile and WP7 in the year ahead, check out our 2011 .NET Survival Guide.

How the Windows Phone 7 story plays out will be based on more than just holiday sales numbers, according to IDC Research. Microsoft's management of its developer ecosystem and the quality of its app portfolio are viewed as early indicators of its success over the long haul. For example, Microsoft has leveraged the platform for gaming and Xbox Live early on, which sets it apart somewhat from Android and the initial iPhones.

Al Hilwa of IDC wrote in a December 29th research note:

"Released in October, WP7 ends 2010 with over 5000 apps in its marketplace, a milestone it reached quicker than the Google Android platform, which took almost three times as long to reach the same level. Of course the circumstances for such comparisons are never identical, and Google followed a more gradual and tentative launch for Android compared to Microsoft’s well-orchestrated bigbang approach, but it is precisely the broad launch and sure-footed execution that allows us to predict long-term success for WP7 at this early stage. Importantly, the WP7 app portfolio exudes a sense of quality by featuring a balanced portfolio of apps across the genres, a much higher percentage of paid apps (over 70% as compared with Android’s under 40%), and a majority of the most widely used marquee apps. One indicator of this quality is the security of the platform which has made it possible for certain apps to come to WP7 even before Android. Microsoft’s aggressive developer management behind the scenes has been visibly effective in producing a compelling smartphone alternative platform in an otherwise crowded space."

Hilwa goes on to say that "While numbers alone do not reflect the whole story, IDC believes that the WP7 developer eco-system is one of the platform’s key assets, and that Microsoft is well positioned to achieve the third largest app portfolio in the smartphone business sometime in 2011."

Apple's App Store offers more than 300,000 apps for its iOS. The Android Market is close to 100,000 apps for Android-based devices. The Windows Phone 7 Marketplace hit the 5000 app mark in December, just a few weeks after it crossed the 4000 app threshold. "Apps are the defining criteria of smartphones today," said Hilwa in an email, "and WP7 appears to be putting on about 2000 apps a month which is a really healthy clip for this stage of the game."

Hilwa summed it up this way in his report last week entitled, Microsoft Gets its Mobile Mojo Back with Windows Phone 7:

"No one expected WP7 to take the market by a storm, and for a company that just a few months ago was nearing also-ran status in mobile, having 5,000 apps, ten devices in 30 countries is by no means a trivial achievement. If Microsoft executes on its mobile strategy with the same competence and dexterity it has executed the launch of WP7, IDC believes that it will have a seat at the small table of the top two or three mobile application platform players in the next five years."

Express your thoughts on IDC's outlook and tell us what mobile platform advances or tools you hope to see from Microsoft in 2011. Should the "Windows" tablet be based on the WP7 platform or a modular version of Windows? Drop me a line at krichards@1105media.com.

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 01/04/2011 at 12:54 PM1 comments


Year of the Platform

This year Microsoft developers faced an embarrassment of riches as the tools from Redmond kept on coming: Windows Azure Platform, Visual Studio 2010 and .NET 4, Expression Studio 4 (Blend, SketchFlow, Web and Encoder), Silverlight 4 and the Windows Phone 7 Developer Toolkit.

Visual Studio 2010, related SDKs and frameworks were designed to target platform introductions and updates: Windows Azure cloud, revamped Windows Phone, Silverlight 4, Office 2010, SharePoint 2010 and SQL Server 2008 R2, among them.

Despite the bumps and bruises along the way, the sheer number of products was impressive. As the momentum behind mobile, Web and the cloud continues, Microsoft may not be able to slow down in 2011—and neither will you.

Expect delivery of some of the functionality promised at PDC for Windows Azure, upgrades to the Windows Phone 7 platform, Silverlight 5 and out-of-band HTML5 support for Visual Studio. Microsoft announced its HTML5 labs for developers this week. Internet Explorer 9 is a major focal point for next year. WebMatrix and LightSwitch (both currently in beta) are also on the docket.

Express your thoughts on the year that was and what you hope to see from Microsoft in 2011. Drop me a line at krichards@1105media.com.

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 12/23/2010 at 12:54 PM0 comments


Major Disconnect: Visual Studio 2010 and .NET Compact Framework

A frequent question surrounding Visual Studio 2010 is, "When will Microsoft provide updated tooling support for .NET Compact Framework?" It was raised again last week by developers when Microsoft released the Visual Studio 2010 Service Pack 1 beta.

Unfortunately, support for .NET CF beyond Windows Phone 7 development didn't materialize in the beta version of the Service Pack. This means that you still can not use Visual Studio 2010 for .NET CF or Visual C++ device projects, Device Emulator, Device Security Manager, or related testing tools. Developers interested in using .NET CF to build applications for devices other than Windows Phone 7 need to use Visual Studio 2008 and the respective SDKs.

The .NET CF is a subset of .NET traditionally used for programming apps for Windows Mobile, Pocket PC and other Windows Embedded CE devices. The last major release, .NET Compact Framework 3.5, shipped alongside Visual Studio 2008.

Visual Studio 2010 does support .NET CF, but only for Windows Phone 7 development. The latest IDE supports .NET CF 3.7 (the Windows Phone 7 update to the framework) via the Windows Phone 7 Developer Tools.

Microsoft's elusive behavior around .NET CF has lead some developers to wonder what the upgrade plans are outside of Windows Phone development. It could be a resource issue, but more likely it's a sign that updated tooling for .NET CF—outside of the Windows Phone 7 platform—is no longer a priority. Windows Embedded Compact 7, which is currently in CTP, uses .NET CF 3.5.

In January at CES, Microsoft is expected to announce another round of tablets. Will the operating systems be based on Windows 7, the Windows Phone 7 platform (.NET Compact Framework, Silverlight and XNA) or some combination of the two as a few early reports suggest?

In addition to Windows tablets and Windows Phones, Silverlight for Windows Embedded may get some play at CES. Last April, Microsoft announced partnerships with Broadcom and Intel. The company also touted Silverlight for Windows Embedded devices at PDC10 and Silverlight Firestarter earlier this month.

A subset of Silverlight 3, Silverlight for Windows Embedded is a native UI framework (C++) supported in Windows Embedded CE 6.0 R3. For a detailed rundown of how Silverlight for Windows Embedded compares to Silverlight for the Web, check out Olivier Boch's MSDN blog .

Mary Jo Foley reported earlier this week that according to her sources, Microsoft plans to update the Windows Phone 7 IE mobile Web browser to support HTML5 and the Silverlight runtime in the 2011 fall timeframe. Silverlight for Windows Phone supports out of browser apps that run on the phone.

The roadmap for .NET CF---and SQL Server Compact Framework--- remains unclear. SQL Server Compact Framework is part of the Windows Phone platform but it is not surfaced for developers, at least not in version 1.0. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is slated to give a keynote (he's back!) at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, and he may offer a roadmap for enterprise developers.

Letting frameworks and support in Visual Studio lag is a real drag when your projects depend on the technology and tooling. What's your take on Microsoft's smart device development strategy and .NET CF? Express your thoughts below or drop me a line at krichards@1105media.com.

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 12/16/2010 at 12:54 PM7 comments


VS2010 SP1 Beta Arrives, Changes Unclear

Microsoft is releasing the public beta of the first Service Pack for Visual Studio 2010 today, 8 months after the product's release in mid-April.

MSDN subscribers had access to the beta on Tuesday.

Service Pack 1 is focused primarily on fixes for issues reported by developers (and partners) through Visual Studio Connect and the October Visual Studio 2010 Survey, in which 1,800 developers offered feedback to Microsoft, according to the company.

"As an engineering team, the goal for this Service Pack was to work hard on releasing a high quality beta with a focus on only fixing the top-set of important issues we heard about from our customers," said Jason Zander, corp. VP for the Visual Studio team, in his blog about the SP1 beta.

A formal list of what has been fixed is not available, however. You actually need to check the status of a reported bug. In general, reported bugs marked "fixed" instead of "active" should show up in this release, explained Zander, in response to several comments requesting a full change list on his blog.

In addition to high priority bug fixes based on developer feedback, the SP1 beta offers some feature improvements around unit testing on .NET 3.5, GPU acceleration for better C++ performance (but still no IntelliSense for C++/CLI), a local help viewer, IntelliTrace F5 for 64-bit and SharePoint, and a VB compiler runtime switch. Silverlight 4 tooling is integrated in the Service Pack, along with a new performance wizard and updated RIA Services.

SP1 beta compatibility issues have surfaced with some Microsoft pre-release tooling. The Visual Studio Async preview is not supported. The SP1 Beta breaks the Razor IntelliSense in the ASP.NET MVC 3 Release Candidate. Microsoft is planning to release an ASP.NET MVC 3 RC2 installer to address this issue next week, according to Zander.

The Web installer for Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 Service Pack 1 Beta works for all versions of Visual Studio 2010 (including Express). The beta has a Go-Live license and can be used in production environments. Get the SP1 Beta general availability download here.

Express your thoughts on what you'd like to see in the Service Pack 1 RTM. Has Microsoft fixed your reported issues in the SP1 Beta? Drop me a line at krichards@1105media.com.

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 12/09/2010 at 12:54 PM6 comments


Microsoft Calls on VB Developers

Microsoft is widening its mobile developer pool just three weeks after the retail launch of Windows Phone 7 in United States. Visual Basic developers can create Silverlight apps and submit them to the Windows Phone Marketplace starting this week.

The final version of Visual Basic for Windows Phone Developer Tools, released to the Web on Nov. 28, comes as Microsoft begins to reset expectations for Silverlight. Scott Guthrie is expected to discuss Silverlight 5 during the Silverlight Firestarter keynote on Thursday. Developers, vendors and analysts offer their take on Silverlight, HTML5 and app development in the Visual Studio December cover story, Silverlight Futures.

The Visual Basic for Windows Phone Developer Tools preview was available for download (English only) in September, a week after the Windows Phone Developer Tools RTW. The VB tools provide Visual Studio 2010 project templates, designer, debugging, IntelliSense, Windows Phone Emulator and device support. The VB tools RTW is available for download in English, French, German, Italian and Spanish.

Visual Basic is not supported in key Windows Phone 7 Developer Tools, however. The WP7 tooling, launched in September, includes Visual Studio 2010 Express for Windows Phone, the Windows Phone Emulator, Expression Blend for Windows Phone, Silverlight 4 Tools for Visual Studio and XNA Game Studio 4.0. The VB tools are targeted at Silverlight for Windows Phone development and can not be used with the XNA gaming framework. Visual Basic does not support XNA. The VB templates will not work in Expression Blend. Microsoft has not commented on a timeline for Blend support.

When the Windows Phone 7 Developer Tools were announced, Microsoft said that all of the tooling was free and would remain that way. However, Visual Basic for Windows Phone Developer Tools require the full blown Visual Studio 2010 Professional, Premium or Ultimate editions. There is a 30-day trial version of Visual Studio 2010 Professional, Premium or Ultimate with 60 days added on after registration, but calling that "free" is a stretch. C# developers have the option to use Visual Studio 2010 Express for Windows Phone at no cost.

That said, Visual Basic developers can create Silverlight apps for Windows Phone and sell them in the Marketplace, which is welcome news for many developers.

Microsoft's Todd Brix offered some stats on mobile developers and apps prior to the start of the holiday shopping season. In a blog posting on November 23, he wrote:

"We're heading into one of the biggest shopping weeks of the year and we're on pace to offer roughly 3,000 apps and games by the end of this week. We've also seen a near 80 [percent] increase in the number of registered developers since September, with more than 15,000 developers already signaling their intent to bring exciting content to Windows Phone. Clearly we're just getting warmed up."

Microsoft is adding apps in the marketplace to Bing Visual Search and plans to heavily promote WP7 apps with an intensive marketing campaign and tie-ins to Xbox 360 (which does not help VB developers).

How many WP7 handsets (online and retail activations) have been sold? This is the-chicken-and-the-egg question for mobile app developers. Despite speculation that puts launch day sales around 40,000 units in the United States, actual sales figures have not been disclosed by market researchers, Microsoft or service providers. That could be a bad sign, but it's also very early in the holiday season.

Heavy duty cross-promotions with can't-ignore-it pricing--Windows notebook and WP7, Xbox 360 and WP7--could actually seed the market. This is well beyond buy one phone, get another one free, a tactic already in use by T-Mobile. Are computer and console bundles realistic? Maybe not, but counting on consumers to pick WP7 over other smart phones--without huge incentives this holiday season--is risky.

What's your take on the momentum behind Windows Phone 7? Will VB developers help to expand app distribution or fragment the Marketplace? Express your thoughts below or drop me a line at krichards@1105media.com.

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 12/01/2010 at 12:54 PM0 comments


Open Source CMS Certified for Windows Server R2

The PHP-based SilverStripe CMS, an open source Web content management system, has received Microsoft certification for Windows Server 2008 R2.

SilverStripe co-founder Sigurd Magnusson said in the project blog on Wednesday:

"We don't know how many exactly, but we're told that Microsoft has certified under 10 web applications irrespective of their licensing model. We also understand only a handful of open source products that are native executables (i.e. not web-based) have ever been certified."

The SilverStripe CMS is available under the BSD license. The third-party testing, done by WiPro Technologies, certifies that SilverStripe meets Microsoft recommended standards in compatibility, stability, security, among other requirements.

"[W]e have done work to ensure SilverStripe CMS runs fast on Windows, through being compatible with the Microsoft WinCache PHP bytecode cache, a free extension to IIS," said Magnusson.

Microsoft has a longstanding partnership with SilverStripe Limited, a New Zealand-based company that went open source in 2006 when it launched the PHP5-based CMS. The Web site for the 2008 National Democratic Convention was built using the SilverStripe CMS and Silverlight.

Created in 2006 as a PHP/MySQL CMS solution, Magnusson saw that many SilverStripe developers would benefit from a reliable Windows environment. Under a Joint Development Program, Microsoft started working with SilverStripe in 2007 to update the CMS technology to work with Windows Server, IIS and SQL Server. That goal was slowly realized with IIS support in February 2009 and SQL Server support in SilverStripe v2.4 in May of this year.

SilverStripe is a participant in Microsoft's BizSpark program. The Sapphire Web Framework, an object-oriented PHP5 framework for extending SilverStripe, can also be used for building other applications.

The SilverStripe CMS was one of the first PHP applications accessible via Microsoft's Web Platform Installer in 2009, which can also be used to install IIS. (Windows Server 2008 R2 does not install IIS 7.5 by default.) SilverStripe has reported 60,000 downloads of the CMS via the Web PI, and about 325,000 downloads across all platforms.

Google has also shown interest in the project. In 2007, SilverStripe was accepted into Google's Summer of Code program, which encourages students through stipends to program for open source projects.

Is certification of an open source Web CMS a milestone for Microsoft? What ranks as the top five in Microsoft's open source history? Express your thoughts below or drop me a line at krichards@1105media.com.

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 11/18/2010 at 12:54 PM0 comments


Microsoft ALM Feature Pack 2 Tests Silverlight and Firefox

Visual Studio 2010 Feature Pack 2 is available for download this week to MSDN subscribers with Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate, Visual Studio 2010 Premium or Visual Studio Test Professional 2010. Among the highlights is better testing for Silverlight 4 applications and limited Firefox 3.x support.

Feature Pack 2, which includes the first feature pack, Visual Studio 2010 Visualization and Modeling, extends the testing capabilities found in Microsoft's Application Lifecycle Management solution.

Silverlight 4 developers can create and edit coded UI tests (automated functional testing and UI control validation) in Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate and Visual Studio 2010 Premium. They can also take advantage of the action recordings and play back tooling in Test Professional 2010, which enables developers to fast forward through coded UI and manual tests, according to Microsoft. Action logs and environmental data are supported for SL apps, but Intellitrace logs are not.

For now, the new testing functionality is limited to SL4 apps that are hosted on IE7 or later. It can not be used for Windows Phone 7 apps. Support for SL desktop apps and LightSwitch apps is on the docket, according to Microsoft's Brian Harry.

Harry described the benefits of the new coded UI test editor in his blog:

"In VS 2010, a coded UI test is generated as an XML description and some code. Neither is particularly easy to approach if you want to make some minor tweaks to your test – like change how a control you are testing is identified or remove a superfluous UI gesture, etc. The new coded UI test editor in Feature Pack 2 makes tweaking and customizing your recorded tests MUCH easier."

Developers with Test Professional 2010 can play back coded UI tests and manual tests on Firefox 3.5 or 3.6. However, UI actions can only be recorded in IE7 or IE8. The Firefox support will facilitate one set of tests for regression testing, according to Harry.

Visual Studio 2010 Feature Pack 2 is cumulative and includes the UML modeling, C++ support and code generation in Feature Pack 1. Feature Packs originated with Visual Studio 2010. As a reminder, the testing of Feature Packs is limited, according to Microsoft, and support is offered through forums only.

When the concept of Feature Packs was first introduced, Microsoft indicated that shipping code in the core Visual Studio 2010 product would not be altered. That apparently didn't happen in Feature Pack 2, which requires a hot fix.

Even so, FP2 sounds like a positive development for Silverlight 4 developers. Express your thoughts on the new Feature Pack. Drop me a line at krichards@1105media.com.

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 11/16/2010 at 12:54 PM0 comments


Microsoft under Fire: Silverlight Missteps as Windows Phone Debuts

Windows Phone 7 devices reached retailers' shelves in the United States on Monday. Developers' excitement about the U.S. rollout may have waned somewhat after the recent confusion over the future of Silverlight, Microsoft's rich Internet application (RIA) and Windows Phone 7 development platform.

That uncertainty was sparked by reports of alleged internal HTML5 versus Silverlight conflicts (IE9 supports HTML5, Windows Phone 7 at launch does not); confusing blog postings from Microsoft and a de-emphasis on Silverlight technology outside of WP7 development at PDC last month.

Those sparks were then fueled by comments at PDC from Bob Muglia, president of Microsoft's Server and Tools Division, about a shift in Silverlight's strategy, which were reported by long time tech reporter Mary Jo Foley in her blog. Various interpretations of Muglia's comments went viral, which ignited a Web uproar: "Silverlight is dead for the Web." "Silverlight is the new IE6."

The ensuing panic wreaked havoc for many developers. Some reported sleepless nights; others faced tough questions after working hard to convince management and customers to place big bets on Silverlight technology. Many Silverlight devotees, however, remain unfazed.

Scott Guthrie, Silverlight lead and corporate vice president of Microsoft's Developer Division, tried to address the Silverlight questions in his blog. He reiterated what Muglia had tried to explain in a Silverlight team blog after the Mary Jo incendiary. Silverlight is a strategic technology for Microsoft. The company's investments in the technology focus on three core areas: client apps inside and outside of the browser, apps on devices (Windows Mobile and Windows Embedded), and media solutions.

Guthrie, who is currently on paternity leave (so he probably wasn't sleeping that much anyway) explained:

"Where our strategy has shifted since we first started working on Silverlight is that the number of Internet connected devices out there in the world has increased significantly in the last 2 years (not just with phones, but also with embedded devices like TVs), and trying to get a single implementation of a runtime across all of them is no longer really practical (many of the devices are closed platforms that do not allow extensibility). This is true for any single runtime implementation - whether it is Silverlight, Flash, Java, Cocoa, a specific HTML5 implementation, or something else."

At least his blog was to the point. Guthrie is expected to talk more about the technology when he gives the keynote for the Silverlight Firestarter on December 2nd, an all-day educational event that will be streamed live and also available on-demand.

Microsoft's failure to communicate that Silverlight is no longer viewed as an universal cross-platform runtime solution for .NET developers--did anyone ever really think that it would work that well beyond Windows--underscores why a chief software architect or chief technologist, who can formulate and articulate the company's vision to all of its constituents from risk adverse executives to developers to Wall St. analysts remains critical. It's time to re-evaluate the decision not to replace Ray Ozzie.

With social media and the Internet promising viral exposure of perceived missteps, a brush fire that isn't put out immediately can threaten developers' livelihoods and make many people question their allegiance to Microsoft's stack despite great technology and tooling. Silverlight developers deserve better.

What's your take on the future of Silverlight? Does Microsoft's shift in strategy affect your plans for Windows Phone app development? Express your thoughts below or drop me a line at krichards@1105media.com.

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 11/09/2010 at 12:54 PM13 comments


Windows Phone 7 Developers Left to their own Devices

One of the perks of attending the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference in person last week was the opportunity to actually get your hands on a Windows Phone prior to the November 8th retail launch in the United States. As Steve Ballmer announced during the PDC10 keynote, a range of models were available as part of "the goods" handed out to registered attendees.

Charlie Kindel, Microsoft general program manager for Windows Phone 7, reported last week that around 12,000 developers had registered for the Windows Phone Marketplace, but it's not clear how many developers actually have WP7 devices.

The Windows Phone 7 Developer Tools are free but apparently many developers will need to dig into their own pockets, along with consumers, at the retail launch to sign up for commercial phone services--in order to test their apps on actual hardware.

One such developer posed this question in an App Hub Community Forum on MSDN:

"I am working on my first application for marketplace and it uses the camera, voice recording, and navigation. I am able to build and test most of the other app with the emulator, but can't emulate these functions. How do we get a developer phone / device to test apps?"

Jim Perry, a Microsoft XNA MVP, answered:

"Basically, you can't. Given that the phones are either available or close to being available, depending on where you live and your carrier you'll have to purchase one."

The developer replied:

"Thanks for the answer, but doesn't that mean there is no way for developers to have applications ready for when the rest of the world gets phones?"

George Clingerman, another Microsoft XNA MVP, responded:

"It means that it's more difficult, but not impossible. Some are (rather foolishly) releasing games/app[s] having only tested them out on the emulator. Other[s] have begged, borrowed and/or pleaded to get a device even for a small amount of time. There are devices out there currently; it's just hard to get your hands on one…"

He advised the developer to try to get in touch with a local Microsoft evangelist for help or to try to find someone in the local area who might be able to provide a phone for testing.

Releasing apps to the Marketplace that are only tested on the emulator? It's early but Microsoft needs to do a better job here.

Microsoft has also announced that it is not offering any consumption reporting services at launch. A partnership with PreEmptive Solutions was announced today to offer Dotfuscator for Windows Phone free to developers through March 31, 2011. A community edition of Dotfuscator with Runtime Intelligence ships with Visual Studio 2010.

With Dotfuscator support for Windows Phone, in addition to XAP obfuscation, developers can instrument their code to surface analytics such as unique users, feature and performance metrics via PreEmptive's Runtime Intelligence Service. This includes exception analytics, which could come in handy if you are selling apps that never got tested on an actual device. It is unclear how code instrumentation will affect app performance.

Brandon Watson of Microsoft outlines the partnership with PreEmptive and what to expect when the Runtime Intelligence Service is no longer free in the Windows Phone Developer blog today:

"Both companies are committed to working to ensure that come March 2011, there is an affordable (read: less than $10 per month) service for developers who want access to rich and deep customer insight."

Express your thoughts on Windows Phone app development, the dearth of developer hardware and quality control. What is Microsoft doing right? What could be better? Drop me a line at krichards@1105media.com.

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 11/02/2010 at 12:54 PM2 comments


ALM in the Cloud

Brian Harry has blogged about his team's efforts to port Team Foundation Server to Windows Azure and he demonstrated some of their progress today during the PDC keynote.

The biggest challenge according to Harry, wasn't porting TFS to Windows Azure, it was making TFS a multi-tenant application service that runs 24/7. TFS is a large app and the team decided to split the data storage between SQL Azure and Windows Azure Blob Storage.

"The SQL Server especially, it is almost 1,000 stored procedures, over 250 tables and 180,000 lines of T-SQL," said Harry. "We were able to port all of that to SQL Azure with about two people in one month. On the Web tier, it was 350,000 lines of C# code; that took one person one month to get it running on Windows Azure."

One difference between the on-premise TFS and the cloud service is the sign-in authentication. It moves beyond Active Directory to support Google, Yahoo, Facebook and corporate identities in Windows Azure. This federated identity is enabled by the Windows Azure AppFabric Access Control Services.

Once you have signed in, you can open work items, browse source codes, and open a project in Windows Azure. By double-clicking on a project in Azure, you can download it to Visual Studio Solution Explorer on your local workstation. You can even check-in your code and build in the cloud on the new Windows Azure VM role, which was announced today. To automate the builds in the cloud, you configure the TFS instance for continuous integration.

Harry also noted that with Azure TFS, there is no software to install. This may be a major selling point, given the headaches people have encountered. "We worked really hard in TFS 2010 to make that really easy," he explained. "And we were very proud to get from the time you stuck in the CD, to up and running in about 20 to 30 minutes. With the cloud, we're done!"

The CTP of Windows Azure TFS is expected in 2011. Check out Brian Harry's blog and the on-demand PDC10 session that details what is happening behind the scenes as Microsoft continues to port TFS to the cloud.

Express your views on PDC10 and the rapidly evolving Windows Azure Platform. Is 2011 the tipping point for developers or are we still in the early stages of Microsoft's cloud? Drop me a line at krichards@1105media.com.

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 10/28/2010 at 12:54 PM0 comments


Ozzie's 'Clouds and Devices' Memo Coincides with PDC10 Agenda

Last week came news of Ray Ozzie's departure. This week Microsoft employees received his parting thoughts (or shots depending on your interpretation) in the form of a Dawn of a New Day memo. The title is based on the theme of the 1939 World's Fair.

Likened by some to Jerry Maguire's Sports Management International career-ending mission statement and cited by others as a catalyst for further downgrades by analysts, Ozzie's parting thoughts outline a future enabled by cloud-based continuous services and appliance-like connected devices. Surprisingly, this view is basically inline with the forward-looking sessions at the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference this week. (If you look at the date of the memo, it coincides with the date of the first PDC10 keynote, October 28th.)

PDC10 offers a Clients & Devices track that focuses largely on Windows Phone 7 development with some IE9 thrown in. One session is devoted to building Windows Phone 7 apps with the Windows Azure Platform. Another session focuses on upcoming Visual Studio features that will let you share code between Silverlight desktops, Windows Phone and the cloud.

A second track is all about Cloud Services. Sessions cover almost every aspect of Microsoft's cloud from migrating apps to Windows Azure, on-premise and cloud solutions, working with SQL Azure and Sync Framework to SharePoint Online and PHP and Java development.

The Framework and Tools track includes a wide range of Web and cloud technologies, OData, Dallas, LINQ and other language updates. It kicks off on Thursday right after the keynote with a session by Anders Hejlsberg that looks at the roadmaps for C# and Visual Basic.

If you look at the PDC10 agenda, it looks like Microsoft's message to developers isn't that far off from Ozzie's. Maybe the keynotes by Steve Ballmer and Bob Muglia will paint a different picture, but I doubt it.

Some people see Ozzie's "Post-PC" memo as a call to think beyond the Windows operating system, but I see it as a call to think beyond traditional software that is primarily installed on traditional hardware. Windows at this point is much more than a client/server operating system. It is the company's flagship brand, which underscores Microsoft's cloud, phone and media strategy.

Matt Rosoff, the former Directions on Microsoft analyst, offers his "interpretation" of some of the key sections of the memo in his Silicon Valley Insider column.

Check out the PDC10 session schedule. You can see live streams of all the sessions as they are happening for free. The conference is taking place Oct. 28-29, and it is being held for the first time at the Microsoft Visitor's Center in Seattle.

What's your interpretation of Ozzie's Dawn of a New Day memo? Is PDC10 an indication that Microsoft is headed in the right direction? What PDC10 sessions and roadmaps are you most excited about? Express your thoughts below or drop me a line at krichards@1105media.com.

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 10/26/2010 at 12:54 PM0 comments


Microsoft's Software Solution: We Don't Need an Architect

Some people were surprised earlier this week when Microsoft announced that Ray Ozzie is "transitioning" out of the company, after a stint in the Entertainment division. Ray Ozzie, known for his work on Lotus Notes among other technologies, joined Microsoft in 2005 when the company acquired Groove.

Bill Gates anointed him the next Chief Software Architect in June 2006 when Gates announced that he was planning to leave day-to-day operations. Gates exited in July 2008, the same month the Apple App Store opened.

Being the successor to Gates, that infamous "nerdy computer geek who writes code, and makes billion$!" as Will Zachmann summed up the popular stereotype of Bill in his RedDevNews cover story about Gates' developer legacy, could not have been easy. The luminaries in Zachmann's article--Dan Bricklin, Robert Carr, C. Wayne Ratliff, among others--believed that Gates was a brilliant technologist and businessman who had the instincts to put it all together. That's a rare combination. Mark Zuckerberg, another Harvard dropout, is one of the few that comes to mind.

Alex St. John, co-developer of Microsoft DirectX, summed it up this way:

"History may be inclined to remember Bill as a brilliant technologist, but in some sense I think he may be between Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, History remembers Thomas Edison as a great inventor. They don't necessarily recall that he created the most valuable company in history, General Electric. Henry Ford didn't invent the car, but he's the guy who made the automobile industry."

How can anyone step into those shoes? Ray Ozzie, by some accounts, had the technology vision, but its execution, especially at a company like Microsoft was probably an uphill battle without Gates to enforce the "repivot to the cloud." A year after Windows Azure was announced in 2008 by Ozzie, the platform were re-architected and moved into the Server and Tools Business under Bob Muglia. In my view, that was the beginning of the end for Ozzie. Live Mesh, another Ozzie undertaking, become a shadow of its former shelf and is now part of Windows Live Essentials.

Ozzie was absent from the presentations at Microsoft's company meeting in late September. A few weeks ago, Microsoft shut down Live Labs, another project championed by Ozzie, and lead by Technical Fellow Gary Flake, who has since left the company.

The different styles of Ray Ozzie and Steve Ballmer were on display during a side-by-side interview at an AllThingsD conference in June. They seemed to be contradicting each other when Walt Mossberg asked questions about cloud computing and the future of the PC.

Ozzie was talking about the cloud, a services model with standard ways of consuming and synchronizing data, and appliance-like apps. Ballmer was saying that people would be using PCs in greater numbers in years to come and making an uncomfortable reference to an "ivory tower." Perhaps Ozzie summed it up best when he said Google was targeting the future with its browser-based Chrome OS, which would enable users to click on Web apps and deposit and cache them on devices ( an ultimate goal he had talked about in the past for Microsoft) while Microsoft and Apple were targeting devices on which apps would be installed.

"Bill Gates had a good, firm understanding about the business they were really in--the people, the market, the product and the equipment," C. Wayne Ratliff told Zachmann. Ratliff, the author of dBASE, contrasted his impressions of the early Microsoft with his own experiences working at Ashton-Tate after dBASE was acquired:

"There was a relatively rapid progression from the early guys like George Tate and Hal Lashlee and Dave Code who understood computers to the Harvard MBAs. They tried to run the company by the book--some MBA book. I felt I had a much better appreciation for where software was going than the Ashton-Tate managers did."

History tends to repeat itself.

Steve Ballmer has indicated that he is not planning to find a replacement for the chief software architect role after Ray Ozzie's departure. Can Microsoft succeed without a chief software architect? Express your thoughts on these latest developments. Drop me a line at krichards@1105media.com.

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 10/21/2010 at 12:54 PM2 comments


Software Development Gone Wrong

Every company has its quirks. But developers who deal with the technology underpinnings of the business, at some point in their careers, come face-to-face with the awful truth:

Near death-experiences as the company's data almost gets wiped out due to staggering incompetence.

That delicate dance around management hell-bent on some misguided project.

That sinking feeling that the "senior" development staff is the reason the mission-critical application code is undecipherable and impossible to maintain.

Working at Microsoft--at least on some projects--is apparently no different. One person, who commented on the Mini-Microsoft blog this week, and allegedly works at Redmond, described it this way:

"We are much like any other high tech company, we strive to get the best people we can to fill the openings, but sometimes getting someone in and working takes precedence over getting the absolute best….Sure we have products used by an insane amount of people, but the vast majority of them use them due to the LACK of good, affordable alternatives, not due to the inherent awesomeness of our products. That and the flip side of 'used by millions of people' is generally 'ancient code base that almost no one understands anymore, is massively entangled like a giant ball of glue covered spaghetti and you can't change anything for fear of breaking something some important (or just vocal) partner depends on'."

Sound familiar? Well, it could always get a whole lot worse. Check out the top 10 Daily WTFs served up by our DevDisasters columnist Alex Papadimoulis and his contributor Mark Bowytz.

Express your thoughts on development gone horribly wrong. Have you experienced the darker side of development? Tell us your hairpulling tale and your story could get published in our DevDisasters column. Drop me a line at krichards@1105media.com.

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 10/14/2010 at 12:54 PM0 comments


Open Source and .NET: Microsoft's NuPack Is a Gem

Microsoft took the wraps off of an open source .NET package manager that apparently has been in the works since the summer when Microsoft developers approached C# MVP Rob Reynolds, along with other open source developers who worked on Nubular (Nu) – a package management system for .NET based on RubyGems. The resulting NuPack project uses a central repository of open source libraries (packages) and Visual Studio 2010 tooling to streamline downloads and manage dependencies.

NuPack "automates" some of the tedious manual processes that you traditionally have to go through to get a third-party library into an existing app's source tree. In addition to Visual Studio integration, the tools support command-line programming and Windows PowerShell Cmdlets. Open source developers will need to register and create packages (assemblies, metadata) of their project libraries for the online catalog.

The client-side NuPack tools support all versions of Visual Studio 2010 and .NET project types, according to Scott Guthrie, who outlined key features in a blog posting:

"NuPack handles dependency management between libraries (for example: library1 depends on library2). It also makes it easy to update (and optionally remove) libraries from your projects later. It supports updating web.config files (if a package needs configuration settings). It also allows packages to add PowerShell scripts to a project (for example: scaffold commands). Importantly, NuPack is transparent and clean – and does not install anything at the system level. Instead it is focused on making it easy to manage libraries you use with your projects."

Microsoft Senior Program Manager Phil Haack indicated in his Haacked blog on Wednesday that Scott Guthrie tasked him with the .NET package management project after the release of ASP.NET MVC 2. Haack looked at RubyGems, Apt-Get, Maven, among other package management systems to come up with guiding principles for NuPack.

The first NuPack preview is available on CodePlex. NuPack is the fifth ASP.NET Open Source Gallery project accepted by the Outercurve Foundation (formerly called CodePlex Foundation). Developers outside of Microsoft can contribute bug fixes and ostensibly code to the project.

The open source .NET package management system is a significant step, especially if it works as advertised; but Guthrie's comments on .NET and open source in general may be more telling:

"We think NuPack will be a fundamental component of the .NET stack going forward. It will encourage more .NET developers to use open-source libraries. Having a standard package manager integrated into millions of copies of Visual Studio will hopefully also encourage the creation of more open source projects with .NET."

In addition to unveiling NuPack, Microsoft released the first ASP.NET MVC 3 beta and WebMatrix Beta 2. ASP.NET MVC 3, which has a Go-Live license, supports the Razor syntax view-engine, dependency injections, and unobtrusive JavaScript and HTML 5, among other enhancements, according to Microsoft.

Express your thoughts on .NET and open source. Is this a tipping point for Microsoft, or just another attempt to keep .NET developers away from Ruby-frameworks? Drop me a line at krichards@1105media.com.

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 10/07/2010 at 12:54 PM1 comments