Windows Phone 7 Tools Refresh, Jobs Backs HTML5

Today Microsoft released an April refresh of its Windows Phone Developer Tools CTP that plugs into Visual Studio 2010. The first CTP, released at MIX10 in March, supported the VS2010 RC.

The free tools include the Visual Studio 2010 Express for Windows Phone CTP (for people who don't have Visual Studio 2010), Windows Phone Emulator CTP, Silverlight for Windows Phone CTP and XNA Game Studio 4.0 CTP.

With the latest tooling, the WP7 OS image for the Windows Phone emulator and some APIs have been added or changed, according to a blog posting by Charlie Kindel, manager of Microsoft’s Windows Phone Application Platform and Developer Experience program.

There are breaking changes, according to Kindel:

"The one that will impact almost everyone who used the existing release is a requirement that all WMAppManifest.xml files have a filled out section. The release notes describe this in more detail and the tools will warn you when you open an existing project."

Developers definitely need to read the release notes because the April CTP has some issues that may cause some people to stick with the March CTP.

Tim Heuer, Microsoft program manager for Silverlight, explains in his blog today:

"This April refresh is still a CTP-quality and as such there are a few known issues with this latest release. Our goal was at least to get a set of tools that would be available to enable people to move to Visual Studio 2010 release."

One issue is lack of support for transparent Silverlight assemblies (authenticode-signed) from Microsoft and third-parties. This includes the use of libraries such as WCF Data Services or the Silverlight Toolkit. Microsoft is working to fix this issue, according to Heuer.

Microsoft's Brandon Watson, part of the developer experience team for Windows Phone 7, explains the issue and offers a workaround in his blog:

"In one of those “d’oh” moments, we found that the loader, in this iteration of the Windows Phone Developer tools, fails to load assemblies that are signed with non – Windows Phone specific certificates. So any signed SDK assembly will fail to load. This issue will surface if you are trying to use transparent assemblies from toolkits such as the Silverlight SDK (e.g. to use the RSS capabilities found in System.ServiceModel.Syndication.dll)."

The workaround is a PowerShell script. Microsoft is also letting you "temporarily remove the signatures from any Microsoft-owned assemblies that you would otherwise be licensed to include in your programs, solely for the limited purpose of evaluating this CTP." Be sure to read the fine print because this ends with the next tools release or July 31st and at that time you'll need to replace your assemblies.

You can download the release notes and the Windows Phone Developer Tools CTP refresh here.

As Microsoft's technology previews continue, Apple maintains its status as a marketing genius with another news Flash today that keeps the iPhone front and center in mainstream media. After the "left it at a bar" story, Gizmodo money exchange, and police raid of the blogger's home, Steve Jobs is explaining Apple's stance on Adobe Flash today in an Apple Web site posting --read around the world. The post entitled "Thoughts on Flash" is quite long, but Apple's stance on open Web standards and HTML5 are of particular interest:

"Rather than use Flash, Apple has adopted HTML5, CSS and JavaScript – all open standards. Apple’s mobile devices all ship with high performance, low power implementations of these open standards. HTML5, the new web standard that has been adopted by Apple, Google and many others, lets web developers create advanced graphics, typography, animations and transitions without relying on third party browser plug-ins (like Flash). HTML5 is completely open and controlled by a standards committee, of which Apple is a member."

You mean third-party browser plug-ins like Flash--and Silverlight? The Windows Phone team is dealing with an embarrassing bug and the HTML5 gauntlet thrown down today by Apple in its attempt to block Adobe, and prevent the use of Flash by developers who are building iPhone apps for Apple's App Store. Yes, Silverlight runs out of browser on Windows Phone 7, but the company has a lot invested in the RIA technology.

Are you developing apps for Windows Phone 7? Express your thoughts on the mobile Web and what happens next. Drop me a line at krichards@1105media.com.

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 04/29/2010 at 12:54 PM0 comments


Office and SharePoint 2010 Available on MSDN

Microsoft released the final versions of its Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010 wave of products to MSDN and TechNet subscribers on Thursday. Available subscriber downloads include Office Professional Plus, Office Web Apps, SharePoint Server, Visio and Project 2010.

Kudos to the engineering and marketing teams at Microsoft, after all that work, they even nailed the timing of the rollouts. MSDN subscribers get the final bits first and the worldwide launch event is slated for May 12, almost a month after the RTMs in mid-April.

Volume license customers with Software Assurance will have access to Office 2010 on April 27, according to a blog posting earlier this month by Takeshi Numoto, corporate vice president, Microsoft Office. Partners will start to sell English versions of the software on May 1st and it will be available at retail in the United States in June.

The 64-bit version of Office 2010 could cause a lot of headaches for existing add-ins, so developers may want to stick with 32-bit. Visual Studio 2010 and .NET Framework 4, released earlier this month, offer numerous enhancements aimed at easing the task of Office customizations. Microsoft's Navneet Gupta makes a pitch today in the Office dev blog for upgrading to .NET 4 for Office solutions, highlighting the new .NET 4 Client Profile and advances in the VSTO runtime. Gupta provides numerous links to helpful articles and resources.

The Office engineering team worked with more than 5,000 organizations and partners, according to Numoto. He also said that 7.5 million people had downloaded the betas since they were made publicly available in November.

If you are tackling SharePoint 2010, it is now 64-bit only and features SharePoint Foundation (formerly called WSS), SharePoint Server (MOSS) and the free SharePoint designer. The public download of the final version of SharePoint Foundation 2010 was also made available on Thursday.

Visual Studio 2010 introduces lots of new tooling for SharePoint development including templates for Visual Web Parts. You can also do client-side development for the first time on Windows 7 and Windows Vista SP1 before testing and deploying a Web part to the server. SharePoint Server 2010 requires 64-bit versions of Windows Server 2008 or R2, and SQL Server 2008 or 2005. Developers may want to get a head start on figuring out how to migrate their 32-bit SharePoint apps to 64-bit environments.

MSDN offers some information on setting up a development environment for SharePoint 2010. As the documentation notes, SharePoint Foundation only runs on 64-bit versions of Windows server, which is another reason that Microsoft strongly recommends that developers use Visual Studio 2010 for development.

SharePoint projects in Visual Studio 2010 must target .NET 3.5 -- SharePoint 2010 does not support .NET 4. Checkout Microsoft's SharePoint Samples for the VS2010 RTM, which are available in C# and Visual Basic.

The cover story of Visual Studio Magazine in June will highlight developers' experiences with Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010. Have you worked with the technical previews? Express your thoughts on the new platforms and your experiences so far, good and bad. We are also looking for projects to profile. Drop me a line at krichards@1105media.com.

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 04/23/2010 at 12:54 PM1 comments


SQL 2008 R2 Trial and Express Available Now

Microsoft launched SQL Server 2008 R2 this week, releasing the bits to manufacturing and announcing a May 3rd download date for MSDN and TechNet subscribers.

But what may have been lost in the SQL R2 hoopla is that the English versions of the 32- and 64-bit SQL Server 2008 R2 Trial editions are available now.

The same holds true for the English versions of SQL Server 2008 R2 Express including the Express editions with Advanced Services, Management Tools and Management Studio Express. The international versions of the free SQL Server 2008 R2 bits are expected in May.

The SQL Server 2008 R2 Digital Tour offers links to numerous developer resources, including the evaluation bits.

The different dates for the "launch" versus the availability of the Web downloads are wearing on some people. Microsoft has taken this approach a lot lately, but patience is wearing thin because of the shifting roadmaps that SQL Server and SQL Azure developers have had to endure. They had to wait months after the February "launch" of SQL Server 2008 for the actual August release.

Brent Ozar, a Microsoft MVP and the editor-in-chief of SQLServerpedia.com blogged about "Microsoft's SQLR2 launch goofs" and was irked:

"The public gets to download an evaluation version free, but those of us who actually paid money for MSDN access or Enterprise Agreements can’t download it until May 3rd. I could understand if we’d all been given a Release Candidate version to bang on, but…"

Ozar noted that this time around MSDN subscribers did not automatically have access to the Release Candidate, and the last CTP of SQL Server 2008 R2 was released in November.

Microsoft's David Lean commented on Ozar's blog today and said that there was a Release Candidate 0 but he wasn't sure how widely it was distributed, he thought perhaps people who had registered for the beta received it.

In terms of the lag between the free editions and the licensed software, Lean said:

"Of course it is also understandable that the more secure s/w delivery sites, ie: those that ship fully licensed product…have much more rigorous staging to production release schedules.... This may account for the time delay between Free & Licensed release dates."

Is Microsoft placing too much emphasis on worldwide launch events prior to the availability of production-ready code? How do shifting roadmaps affect your development plans? Express your thoughts on the rollout of SQL Server 2008 R2. Drop me a line at krichards@1105media.com.

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 04/22/2010 at 12:54 PM4 comments


RIA at Work: Silverlight 4 Released

Microsoft released Silverlight 4 to the Web today. The latest version comes with updated tooling from Microsoft for Visual Studio 2010, the Silverlight 4 SDK and the release candidate of Expression Blend 4, which supports Silverlight 4.

By now you have heard about the printing, right-mouse click, microphone, new forms controls, enhanced data binding and elevated trust features in Silverlight 4; functionality that opens up new opportunities for building business apps.

What you may not realize is that Silverlight 4 supports extensibility. It ships with a subset of the new Managed Extensibility Framework in .NET 4. MEF enables you to customize a Silverlight app or add functionality incrementally even after it has been deployed, to satisfy third-party or customer requests. The framework is designed to support composite apps, but how does that work in a rich Internet application?

The concept of extensible rich Internet apps is appealing because you can start with a small footprint and then have extensions delivered as it's running, instead of having to stop and download again and again, explained Glenn Block, a program manager for the new Managed Extensibility Framework in .NET 4, during his session last November on MEF and Silverlight 4 at PDC.Corporate developers extend Office, will Silverlight be next?

Microsoft offers a great rundown of what's new in Silverlight 4 and the downloads for Silverlight 4 for Visual Studio 2010, Silverlight 4 SDK, WCF RIA Services and the Silverlight Toolkit here.

Microsoft developer David Anson, who works on the WPF and Silverlight platforms, announced the release today of an updated version of the Silverlight 4 Toolkit April 2010 on CodePlex.

The toolkit supports VS2010 and offers controls, and source code under the Ms-PL.

As Microsoft rapidly advances its Silverlight everywhere pledge (Windows Phone 7 and Nokia mobile phones, Intel/Broadcom set-top boxes) developers welcome the new Silverlight designer in Visual Studio 2010 and .NET CLR support of the same compiled code for Web and desktop apps.

The cross-platform support isn't on the same trajectory, however. Silverlight rocks on Internet Explorer, Windows and Windows Phone. How important is support and version parity on non-Microsoft platforms? Express your thoughts on SL4 and where we go from here. Drop me a line at krichards@1105media.com.

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 04/15/2010 at 12:54 PM8 comments


Microsoft's Biggest Development Launch in Years

It's a big week for the Developer Division at Microsoft. Yesterday marked the release of Visual Studio 2010 and .NET Framework 4. Silverlight 4 final release bits are expected on April 15.

In addition to the new look and feel of the VS2010 code editor, which was rewritten in Windows Presentation Foundation; the IDE offers tooling for Microsoft's latest platforms: Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2, SQL Server 2008, SharePoint 2007, Office 2007, Windows Azure and Windows Phone 7. This release also marks the first major upgrade to Visual Studio Team System and Team Foundation Server since Microsoft debuted its ALM system in 2005.

Among the anticipated tooling in Visual Studio 2010 is a designer for Silverlight. The VS2010 add-in for SL4 will be updated when the SL4 bits are released later this week to the Web, according to Microsoft.

Visual Studio 2010 launch events were held in London, Beijing, Bangalore, Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) and Las Vegas. According to Microsoft, about 50 partners had their VS2010 tooling ready for the launch. With the new WPF code editor, companies like JetBrains with its ReSharper refactoring tool and others had to do a lot of work to make that happen.

In Scott Guthrie's blog on the VS2010 and .NET 4 release, he makes the point that there are a lot of improvements in the tooling that are designed to make you more productive in your every day development, without learning new concepts or studying tomes of information. Improvements to code and JavaScript IntelliSense, code navigation and visualization, enhancements to multi-targeting of .NET (two versions can run in the same process) and multi-monitor support, among other advances. Check out his VS2010 and .NET 4 blog series—he provides links to about 20 drill-downs on various tooling (halfway down the page)—for a closer look at what's new.

Guthrie explained the side-by-side functionality in an earlier post:

".NET 4.0 has a new version number for both the framework libraries and CLR engine – which means it runs completely independently from .NET 2.0, 3.0 and 3.5. What this means is that you can install .NET 4.0 on a machine that has .NET 2.0/3.0/3.5 installed, and configure some applications to run using .NET 4.0 and others to run using the older .NET versions (the IIS admin tool allows you to configure this for ASP.NET applications). This allows you to use .NET 4.0 for new applications - without having to necessarily test and upgrade all your existing ones."

Visual Studio 2008 introduced multi-targeting; the CLR in .NET 4 has been rewritten while earlier versions were built on .NET 2.0.

If you aren't an MSDN subscriber, you can still check out VS2010 for free with a 90-day trial or download an Express edition. Microsoft is also running a $299 promotion until October to upgrade VS2005/VS2008 Standard edition users to VS2010 Professional edition.

Visual Studio 2010 and .NET Framework 4 are finally here. How did Microsoft do? Express your thoughts on what's great and any gotchas that you could have done without. Drop me a line at krichards@1105media.com.

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 04/13/2010 at 12:54 PM1 comments


A New Script for Oracle and .NET

When Visual Studio 2010 is launched on April 12, launch partners have 30 days to ship their third-party products. As most developers are already aware, Microsoft is opening up its Visual Studio 2010 Premium and Ultimate advanced database tooling to frenemy Oracle Corp. through a third party database schema provider that can support Oracle 9i -11gr2.

Quest Software, the company providing the Oracle DSP, is targeting April 19th as the release date of its commercial product, Toad Extension for Visual Studio (aka Project Fuze). Toad Extension enables developers to work offline with model representations (description of the objects) of their database schemas and change management features. It includes support for refactoring, IntelliSense, code coloring, syntax checking, and formatting. It does not support Oracle's PL/SQL, static code analysis or unit testing. PL/SQL support is planned for a future release. Pricing for the commercial version of Toad Extension for Visual Studio is $799 (U.S.) per developer seat.

"Unit testing will be picked up with the next release, probably the Service Pack of Visual Studio 2010," says Daniel Norwood, senior product manager, Quest Software. "We are waiting for some changes in the architecture. I expect within the next year to have almost perfect parity with SQL Server."

The Oracle DSP is focused on structure and design, not data. Functionality like Data Compare in Visual Studio 2010, which allows you to compare data in different databases or tables, only supports SQL Server. Deployment settings for an Oracle database project are minimal compared to SQL Server, but may be a moot point in some cases, because the Toad Extension makes scripting changes at deployment on any db instance.

Quest is also releasing freeware on April 19 for Visual Studio 2010 Professional users. Microsoft has moved some of its database tooling into VS2010 Pro, "but it is just scratching the surface," says Norwood. VS Pro users will have the ability to work with the database schema model, but they will not have access to change management, among other features.

Microsoft announced its plans in June 2009 to deprecate its ADO.NET provider for Oracle (OracleClient), which is included in the .NET Framework, starting in .NET 4 and recommended that people use third-party providers. Oracle offers an Oracle Data Provider for .NET (ODP.NET) and free Oracle Developer Tools for Visual Studio Professional 2008.

The Quest tooling takes the integration a bit further by taking advantage of new functionality in Visual Studio 2010.

"With the tools that MS introduced with the Visual Studio Database Edition in 2006, we begin to see declarative development being applied to the database, so that's been reserved for SQL Server up until now," says Norwood.

Instead of connecting to a live environment, making changes and trying to document those changes and somehow get those back into source control, developers can work on an internal model of the database in Visual Studio and merge changes, check things in, and work with version history of the schema itself. The Oracle DSP considers the DDL statements that you created in Visual Studio an exact representation of the database and compares it with any db instance, making any necessary scripting changes at deployment.

"The tool does the incremental change scripts, which say, how do we make this declarative model a reality in the live database?" explains Norwood. "The database developer or Visual Studio developer doesn't have to do that anymore. It is really about this offline model which enables declarative development for the database."

The declarative development for the Oracle environment in Visual Studio 2010 is enabled using Team Foundation Server 2010. The Oracle DSP is integrated with TFS version control, change tracking, project management and build management.

Toad for Oracle, a Quest database tool that supports a connected development environment, will support TFS at some point in the future, according to Norwood.

The Managed Extensibility Framework in .NET 4 enables the extension points for Quest's Toad Extension for Visual Studio. "What we've done in Visual Studio 2010 is introduced an abstraction layer and the abstraction layer then supports database schema providers," says Terry Clancy, a business development manager on the Microsoft Visual Studio marketing team.

"There is nothing to stop other people from creating database schema providers for DB2, MySQL and Sybase," he adds, "and the thing that is exciting about all that, as developers and DBAs learn to use these new tools, their skill sets will be transferable between different database backends and they can do a lot of stuff that they can't do today."

IBM DB2 project support is available in VSTS 2008. It is unclear what the status is going forward for VS2010. Clancy declined to comment on DSPs that have yet to be announced; perhaps Microsoft will have more news on Monday.

Have you tried declarative database development? What are the pros and cons? Will the new DSP model in Visual Studio 2010 improve database and app integration in ALM? Express your thoughts below or drop me a line at krichards@1105media.com.

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 04/06/2010 at 12:54 PM2 comments


Migrating to a New Extension Model in VS2010

Microsoft moves beyond macros, add-ins and packages with a new extension model in Visual Studio 2010 that offers powerful new ways to enhance your developer experience. The VS2010 code editor and shell, rebuilt using managed code, allows developers to build custom tools around extension points throughout the IDE. This is enabled by the Managed Extensibility Framework (MEF) library and Windows Presentation Foundation in .NET 4, on which it's built.

Visual Studio 2010 also introduces VSIX deployment, a container model for extensions that is based on the Open Packaging Convention. OPC is used in the Microsoft Office System Open XML specification, which is supported in Office 2007 apps and other Microsoft software. It stores the extension, manifest and payload in a standard ZIP file.

VSIX is part of the new Extension Manager in VS2010, which allows developers to manage their extensions, and share code templates, for example, in the Visual Studio Gallery from a menu within VS2010. Microsoft announced the Visual Studio Gallery, a community portal for hosting free and commercial add-ins and extensions in February 2008.

What does the new extension model in VS2010 mean for existing COM-based add-ins and plug-in tools beyond the code editor? The Extension Manager, which is designed to allow developers to participate in a broader extension ecosystem from within the IDE, supports VSIX-type extensions only--MEF components, VSPackages, project templates and item templates. It does not support add-ins, code snippets and other extension types.

According to documentation on Managing Visual Studio Extensions in the MSDN Visual Studio Developer Center:

Visual Studio continues to support deployment technologies such as the Visual Studio Content Installer (VSI) and the Microsoft Installer (MSI), but not through Extension Manager. The VSI format can be used for macros, add-ins, code snippets, and certain other Visual Studio extension types. The MSI format, which is used extensively for applications, can also be used for extensions. Both .vsi files and .msi files comprise complete packages that can be distributed, and that can be installed by double-clicking.

With the new extensibility model, many developers are concerned about having to rewrite existing add-ins as extensions in VS2010. See Plugged-in to Visual Studio for more on this issue.

Despite these changes, Microsoft is working to make extending the IDE easier for developers in general. The VS2010 SDK is 10MB, a considerably smaller download than its 100-MB predecessor in VS2008, according to Microsoft's senior vice president of the developer division, S. "Soma" Somasegar, primarily because samples and documentation are now hosted online. The DSL Tools SDK is also a separate download. "The [VS2010] SDK’s install time has also gone from 20 minutes to just over a minute," Soma noted in December in his blog, which highlighted the new extensibility model. At RTM on April 12, the VS2010 SDK documentation will also be available for local download, according to Microsoft.

The VS2010 SDK includes several extension templates for modifying the code editor with text adornments, classifiers and margins. VS2010 IDE WPF Style Guidelines are also provided in the SDK to help maintain consistency for developers who are using the WPF UI for their extensions.

As the extensibility of the IDE continues to improve, some developers have noticed that the ability to customize the UI layout of the new WPF-based code editor and shell (menus and toolbars) is somewhat limited compared to previous versions of Visual Studio.

In answer to a user comment on this point on Microsoft Connect, Suzanne Hansen, program manager, Visual Studio Platform Shell Team, responded:

We have tried to minimize the loss of functionality, but since the customization experience was so rich in previous versions, and we were faced with rewriting much if it from scratch, we have to make some cuts. We will be monitoring feedback on this area closely, and take customer feedback into consideration when planning the next releases of Visual Studio.

Express your views on the new extensibility model in Visual Studio 2010. Are you excited about the possibilities, or wondering about the migration of your existing add-ins? Drop me a line at krichards@1105media.com.

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 03/30/2010 at 12:54 PM0 comments


Just Getting Started: Silverlight for Windows Phone

MIX10 didn't disappoint. Microsoft delivered on its promise to unveil the early stage Windows Phone application platform and got people talking. Oscar Wilde would approve.

The tools are free, tutorials and other resources are hitting the Web. Today Scott Guthrie posted a tutorial on his blog that walks you through the 'Twitter' and 'Hello World' Silverlight for Windows Phone apps that he created onstage during the keynote.

Silverlight for Windows Phone appears to be Silverlight 3 with support for device-specific features, and some Silverlight 4 functionality--which may evolve when SL4 is released next month. During his keynote on Monday, Guthrie indicated that Silverlight for Windows Phone is full fledged Silverlight.

"After playing around with the framework and tools a little bit, I have found that to be not 100 [percent] true," reported Senior Software Architect Bart Czernicki in his Silverlight Hack blog on Tuesday.

Some of those differences are based on obvious device/performance/security constraints, others are related to .NET Compact Framework limitations -- Silverlight for Windows Phone runs in .NET CF -- and a few changes appear to be version 1 decisions.

Microsoft outlined the differences between Silverlight 3 for Windows and Silverlight for Windows Phone on MSDN, notably it does not support mobile RIA:

"Silverlight applications on Windows Phone are hosted on the client device and do not run inside of a browser. Silverlight features that are based on a browser host are not supported. These features include the HTML DOM bridge, JavaScript programmability, and the Silverlight plug-in object reference."

The Silverlight for Windows Phone technology has "a list of about 30 to 50 things [that are] different," observed Czernicki. "While these can be considered 'advanced' features, they still are different," he said.

In particular Czernicki cites the .NET CF limitations, support for out-of-browser Silverlight apps only, apparent issues with Silverlight controls that require JavaScript or COM including the popular Bing Maps control and Silverlight Toolkit charts, and for now, C# only development.

He summed up his views on the early technical previews this way:

"While it is great that Microsoft succeeded in delivering a platform that uses the same Silverlight core and tools, it would have been nice to have a full blown Silverlight runtime on the Windows Phone 7. If that was the case, patterns like MVVM would be fantastic and a single Silverlight compile and simply swapping out the Views (one for mobile and another for the web) would be fantastic."

Keep in mind that Silverlight for Windows Phone is in the preview stage. It's hard to tell what is nailed down and what isn't. Windows Azure changed dramatically from the initial previews at PDC08 to the commercial release in February. The timeline here is only about six months until WP7 devices show up at retail, which may mean fewer changes.

The Windows Phone Marketplace, services and development community will ultimately drive sales of WP7 devices. Developer and community feedback about missing features or dev tools may get key functionality on the short list, or even lead to a few changes before devices with the new platform reach store shelves.

If you are downloading the free Windows Phone Developer Tools or thinking about building mobile apps, we want to hear from you. The Visual Studio Magazine cover story in May looks at the new Windows Phone platform. Express you views on Silverlight for Windows Phone. Drop me a line at krichards@1105media.com.

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 03/19/2010 at 12:54 PM2 comments


Silverlight for Mobile Reaches Cross-Platform

The new Windows Phone development platform, which is based on Silverlight/.NET Compact Framework and XNA Framework for games, is the hot topic at this week's MIX10 conference in Las Vegas.

In all the excitement, people might have missed an interesting but critical side-note from the Microsoft India Development Center. The Microsoft team in India released a public Silverlight for Symbian beta on Monday for building apps that run on Nokia S60 5th Edition devices. Developers can create these apps using Expression Blend 2 (free trial version), Visual Web Developer 2008 Express with SP1 or VS2008 SP1 with the Silverlight tools add-in.

The Silverlight for Symbian team explained the significance of the new technology on an India Development Center blog:

"With this release, we have come one more step closer to bringing Silverlight to the Symbian platform that holds single largest market share in the Smartphone market and hence extend Silverlight reach to mobile devices. While Microsoft has done cross-platform work for Silverlight on the desktop, this is the first time Silverlight cross-platform work has been achieved on a non-Microsoft mobile platform."

Silverlight for Mobile, which will enable users to view Silverlight apps in mobile Web browsers on non-Microsoft platforms may be the real gamechanger for developers.

At the same time, the Windows Phone 7 Series represents the rebirth of the company's mobile platform and so far, Microsoft has our interest.

Last week, we wondered how closely aligned Silverlight for WP7 is with Silverlight 4? Silverlight for Mobile is full-fledged Silverlight, said Scott Guthrie, Microsoft corporate VP of the Developer Division, during the opening keynote at MIX.

Maybe that explains why Microsoft released the Silverlight 4 RC at MIX, instead of Silverlight 4 RTM. In November at PDC, Guthrie indicated that the SL4 beta was the only public test build planned before the final version, which was scheduled to be released in the first half of this year. Microsoft will make that date. The technology is expected to RTM next month, according to Guthrie.

Developing Windows Phone apps in Visual Studio 2010 and Expression Blend 4 –- the beta was released this week-- looked fairly straightforward at MIX, but how hard can it be, especially during a keynote? Developers can download training kits or take in a few of the 12 technical sessions at MIX, which will be posted online within 24 hours.

Microsoft professional developers will also finally get something for nothing. The Windows Phone Developer Tools are free! And they will remain free--even after the CTPs, which are available now--for all Windows Phone developers, according to Guthrie.

MIX10 attendees who made the trek to Mandalay Bay didn't get free Windows Phone 7 Series devices, however. Maybe it's too early, but that type of giveaway would definitely push some Silverlight app developers off the wait-and-see if there's a market fence.

Express your thoughts on the new Windows Phone application platform and Silverlight for Mobile. Will you develop WP7 apps or is Silverlight for Mobile cross-platform the real incentive for Silverlight developers? Drop me a line at krichards@1105media.com.

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 03/16/2010 at 12:54 PM1 comments


Microsoft Bets on Mobile RIA

Next week, Microsoft is finally showing its cards on mobile RIA. In fact, it's all in.

Ever since Silverlight was announced in 2007, we've wondered about Silverlight for mobile applications. As SL 1,2,3 and the SL4 beta were released by Scott Guthrie's team at Microsoft, the plan for mobile remained a mystery.

Next week at MIX 10, the company's annual conference in Las Vegas for Web developers and designers, Microsoft will finally have some answers. As most people have heard by now, the platform for the new Windows Phone 7 Series is based on Silverlight and XNA.

How closely aligned is Silverlight for WP7 with the upcoming SL4, which is likely to be released at MIX?

Charles Kindel, partner group program manger for Windows Phone Application and Developer Experience at Microsoft, explained some of thinking behind the developer platform in a blog posting earlier this month:

'[O]ne of our principles was to build upon the shoulders of giants; where possible integrate instead of create."

By giants, he is referring to existing Microsoft frameworks, tools and Web 2.0 technologies.

"The expertise and familiarity with our tools is not lost," explained Kindel. "If you are a .NET developer today your skills and much of your code will move forward. If you are Silverlight or XNA developer today you’re gonna be really happy. New developers to the platform will find a cohesive, well designed API set with super productive tools."

The ultimate goal: developers can re-use a lot of the same code to build apps for multiple screens using a consistent platform. For example, apps that run on PCs in and out of the browser and on mobile devices such as Zune and WP7.

Kindel is among the presenters, who will take part in at least one of the 12 technical sessions on WP7 at MIX, March 15-17, where the application development model for Microsoft's new mobile platform will be officially announced and dissected. Attendees have also been promised free tools.

The WP7 platform was outlined this week at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco, March 9-13. Microsoft announced that the XNA Framework, currently used to build Xbox 360, PC and Zune apps, is adding support for WP7 and Silverlight. WP7, as announced in February, supports some Xbox LIVE functionality. In addition, XNA Game Studio 4.0 expected later this month, will support WP7 game development, according to Microsoft.

As Microsoft prepares to unveil its new mobile development platform, the company's clean break from the Windows Mobile 6.5 platform leaves its base of corporate developers without an upgrade path. Previous Windows mobile applications will not run on WP7. Kindel explained:

"To be clear, we will continue to work with our partners to deliver new devices based on Windows Mobile 6.5 and will support those products for many years to come, so it’s not as though one line ends as soon as the other begins."

Express your take on the new WP7 platform. Is it time for a new beginning, or will Microsoft's strategy cause business customers who invested in the WinMo platform to seek mobile solutions outside the company? Drop me a line at krichards@1105media.com.

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 03/11/2010 at 12:54 PM2 comments


Windows 7: Leaving a Legacy

The majority of companies may still be on Windows XP, but the inevitable migration to Windows 7 will spur a lot of legacy code updates. At the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference in San Francisco on Tuesday, Microsoft's CFO Peter Klein reported 90 million copies of Windows 7 have sold since the October launch, mainly in consumer and retail sales. During the first half of its fiscal year which ended in December, Microsoft sold 60 million units.

"That was a great result, and we're very well positioned going forward into 2010 and 2011 as we see a pickup in enterprise IT spend, which we haven't seen really start to grow through our first fiscal half," said Klein, who also expects an enterprise refresh cycle to drive Windows 7 into more businesses.

"It's not precisely certain when that will happen and how fast it will happen, but as we've been saying consistently for the last several quarters, we expect it to happen this calendar year and go into next calendar year, and that will be a really good thing," he said. "That will be a really good catalyst for growth for our PC business."

The momentum of Windows 7 will play a big part in the decisions of many companies to modernize their legacy software, which could be painful.

"Right now about 98 percent of our clients are on XP, but we're seeing some acceptance of Windows 7. Some of the larger ones are talking about rollouts," Steve Pownall, chief executive of healthcare claims systems provider BEMAS Software, told me last month when I interviewed him for an article on legacy migration issues. Pownall cited HIPAA regulations as the reason for some of the activity, because Windows 7 supports whole-disk encryption.

"I think [companies] need to do it sooner rather than later, just because Windows 7 looks like it's going to hurt quite a few applications out there when it comes to the legacy apps," he said. "So I suggest people start on the project -- if they haven't started already -- to try to get it out, because Microsoft's not slowing down any."

Pownall's company, acquired by Evolution Benefits in July, faced a separate set of issues, migrating from VB6 to C#/.NET based on market demands. His dev team opted to use a migration tool and then reworked about a third of codebase. The next step is to integrate the product's functionality with Evolution's, already a C#/.NET shop.

The cover story in the March issue of Visual Studio Magazine, Unlocking Legacy Code looks at Pownell's migration project and others. A total rewrite is something people should look at only after considering more phased approaches that reuse assets, advised Microsoft's Matt Carter. "In other words, the IP is the asset but the code is no longer an asset."

Is your company rolling out Windows 7? What does it mean for you as a developer? Express your views on the migration process and share what you learned along the way. Drop me a line at krichards@1105media.com.

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 03/04/2010 at 12:54 PM1 comments


VS 2010 RC IntelliSense Deactivated by Default

IntelliSense in the Visual Studio 2010 RC is getting a bad rap.

A few weeks ago Microsoft issued a patch to fix IntelliSense crashing with high power use of the code editor.

In a separate issue, several developers have found code IntelliSense for C# turned off in the VS 2010 RC by default. This behavior will be modified before the final release of VS 2010, expected April 12.

In the current build, the RC asks and then imports VS 2008 add-in profiles by default. The profiles of some plug-ins use their own autocompletion and "disable" the VS 2010 C# code IntelliSense. This issue crops up with JetBrains' popular refactoring utility ReSharper. Luckily, the fix is to turn C# code IntelliSense back on through a series of menu commands, or use the version of ReSharper that supports the VS 2010 RC.

Scott Guthrie explained the issue and Microsoft's plan going forward in a blog post on Friday:

"If a plugin has turned intellisense off with VS 2008, by default when you import the profile into VS 2010 we will re-enable it. This will ensure that on a clean VS 2010 install intellisense always works by default."

The VS 2010 launch is about five weeks away. On Monday, Microsoft announced an upgrade path for VS 2008 Standard Edition users, as promised. Developer Division head S. Soma Somasegar announced the Standard Offer and an MSDN Essentials promotion for people who purchase VS 2010 Professional at retail in his blog. Michael Desmond interviewed Dave Mendlen, senior director of developer marketing at Microsoft, about the new promotional programs in his article, Microsoft Rolling Out New Visual Studio Promotions.

Are you planning to upgrade to VS 2010 this year? Express your views on the test builds and your upgrade path. Is IntelliSense working for you? Drop me a line at krichards@1105media.com.

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 03/02/2010 at 12:54 PM0 comments


.NET Micro Community Develops

The .NET Micro Framework community dev site went live at the end of January.

Microsoft made its .NET programming model and execution environment for embedded devices available under the Apache 2.0 license in November when version 4.0 was released at PDC09. NETMF 4.0 was the first release under Microsoft's Developer Division; the original technology was developed as part of Microsoft's Startup Business Accelerator program.

The Apache license includes source code for most of the components, Base Class Libraries and CLR. It does not include the TCP/IP stack, which Microsoft licenses from ESBNET or the Cryptography libraries because of their use and distribution in other technologies, according to a Port25 blog authored by Peter Galli, open source community manager for Microsoft's Platform Strategy Group.

The NETMF community dev site is a collaboration portal for users, developers and vendors. Developers can contribute extensions, services or even to the code itself, although Microsoft is still driving the core technology implementation in what it describes as a "community development model."

In November, Galli explained:

"…Microsoft intends to remain actively involved in its ongoing development, working alongside the community. While the license will allow customers to take the code and make specialized versions to fit their needs, customers told us they wanted Microsoft to stay involved to avoid any possible fragmentation of the platform."

Will a community development model work? Express your thoughts on .NET Micro today and its future as an open source project. Drop me a line at krichards@1105media.com.

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 02/25/2010 at 12:54 PM0 comments


Azure Forecast: Cloudy with a Chance of Service Updates

Microsoft's Windows Azure platform and SQL Azure database became generally available on February 2. In the weeks since the commercial launch, the company has continued to advance its services.

The first service update (SU1) to SQL Azure went live last week. According to David Robinson, Microsoft senior program manager on the SQL Azure team and author of the SQL Azure team blog, several Dynamic Management Views (DMVs) similar to the 'views' functionality in SQL Server have been added for monitoring the relational database service. The service is also more flexible, allowing developers to now upgrade from the Web Edition (up to 1 GB/month) to the Business Edition (up to 10 GB/month) and vice versa (downgrade) with a simple command. Idle connections have been extended from 5 to 30 minutes before timing out. Work has also been done on improving support for long running transactions.

This week Microsoft expanded its location options for Azure app deployment to Western Europe and East Asia. According to the company, developers can now deploy their apps in six sub-regions: West Europe and North Europe, East Asia and Southeast Asia, South Central U.S. and North Central U.S.

As analysts proclaim the cloud a turning point in application development as disruptive as the Internet, many developers share the "I really don't know clouds at all" sentiment expressed so well in Joni Mitchell's haunting song about life's illusions. This is especially distressing for project managers who need to figure out how billing and subscriptions might play out based on an app's evolving usage data, number and size of compute instances and services. The Windows Azure team tries to shed some light on these issues in a blog posting this week, with a comparison chart and diagrams definitely worth checking out.

Still cloudy? Express your thoughts on the Azure rollout so far. Drop me a line at krichards@1105media.com.

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 02/23/2010 at 12:54 PM0 comments


Hotfix Pops Up for VS 2010 RC

Microsoft has issued a patch for the Visual Studio 2010 Release Candidate. The RC, made available for public download last week, is apparently crashing when developers are using or dismissing IntelliSense as they type in the code editor.

"It turns out that a late fix right before the RC shipped modified a UI input code path that unfortunately exposed this bug," explained Scott Guthrie in a blog posting about the issue.

According to Microsoft, the problem affects machines using UI Automation 3.0 APIs; for example, tablet PCs and scenarios where screen-reader software, multi-touch or pen drivers are enabled. The frequent crashing has been reported mainly on systems running Windows 7 or Windows 2008. However, anyone who is downloading the VS 2010 RC should also get the hotfix, advised Guthrie.

In addition to the VS 2010 RC patch, potential workarounds are discussed in the Visual Studio blog.

The problem will be fixed in the VS2010 RTM, according to Brittany Behrens, program manager on the Visual Studio editor team and the blog's author. "We also have a fix for this bug checked in for VS 2010 RTM," she noted. "You won’t need a workaround for the final release, and you’ll be able to use the RTM build on machines with UIA without experiencing these crashes."

Michael Desmond's news article, Microsoft Addresses VS 2010 RC Issues covers the UIA bug and other reported issues. Is the RC working for you? Express your thoughts below or drop me a line at krichards@1105media.com.

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 02/18/2010 at 12:54 PM0 comments