Inside the February Issue of VSM

Today's epic winter storm nothwithstanding, subscribers to Visual Studio Magazine should be receiving the February issue of the magazine. Coverage from the issue is also featured here on the Web site.

This month we lead with a collection of useful tips and advice from VSM Tools Editor Peter Vogel for ASP.NET developers considering a move to SharePoint (Developer Tips: Making the SharePoint Transition). As Vogel points out in his article, there are a lot of misconceptions about SharePoint and how it works. Clearing those up can go a long way toward helping you make the most of your SharePoint development projects.

Also featured this month is a how-to piece on developing apps for the Android mobile platform using MonoDroid (Introduction to MonoDroid), a Visual Studio 2010 plug-in that allows .NET developers to target the Android OS. You'll also find Patrick Steele's C# Corner column on Object Equality in C#, as well as Kathleen Dollard's Ask Kathleen column titled How to Generate Code from a UML Model in Visual Studio 2010.

Finally check out Alexandra Rusina's insightful look at the dynamic keyword and Dynamic Language Runtime in .NET Framework 4 (Understanding the Dynamic Keyword in C# 4). The feature starts off with an overview of the dynamic features in the current version of C# before diving into their workings with other language and framework features, such as reflection and implicitly-typed variables.

This month's issue also includes a pair of VS Toolbox reviews: Infragistics' NetAdvantage for Silverlight Data Visualization and the integrated Flash development tools Amethyst and WebOrb. The VS Insider column this month features guest columnist Al Hilwa, program director of Applications Development Software at research firm IDC, who looks at how Microsoft's support for the ARM processor could presage some interesting developments in the Windows Phone 7 space. Finally Andrew Brust, in his Redmond Review column, thinks Microsoft might do well to return to some old innovations to win a share of the fast-growing tablet space (Tablet Toast or Slate Salvation?).

Posted by Michael Desmond on 02/01/2011 at 12:53 PM5 comments

What's New in F#?

Visual Studio 2010 and .NET Framework 4, released in April, brought a number of critical changes to mainstream managed languages like C# and Visual Basic. But the latest version of Microsoft's integrated development environment and managed framework also shifted the playing field for dynamic and functional languages, like F# and IronRuby.

We posed three questions to Mark Hoban, Microsoft senior program manager for F#. Here's what he had to say:

Visual Studio Magazine: How significant an update is the version of F# appearing with Visual Studio 2010? What key features or capabilities should developers be looking for in the new version?

Mark Hoban: Visual Studio 2010 includes the F# 2.0 version of the F# language. This is a major release of the F# language, and includes important new features and brings F# to its first supported release.

Key features of this release include simple and succinct functional syntax, rich .NET Framework object-oriented programming model, integrated parallel and asynchronous programming features, units of measure and the F# Interactive. (Details on these features can be found here.) Note that this same version of the F# language will also continue to be made available in CTP form for developers using Visual Studio 2008.

VSM: Why is F# not being fully integrated into .NET Framework 4? What must developers do to enable the F# core libraries and compiler?

MH: We view F# as a true first class member of Visual Studio and the .NET Framework, but due to the development process we are releasing this version as an additional runtime that customers will need to install on the target machines. We will review that with our next release.

VSM: Who is Microsoft looking to serve with the F# language? Has the original scope of F# expanded over time?

MH: F# extends the .NET Framework by offering a productive language for developers working in technical, algorithmic, parallel and data-rich areas. This has included applications in domains such as financial services, data analytics, games, sciences and machine learning. This is largely the same audience we’ve historically targeted with F#, though the scope has expanded slightly in response to the breadth of adoption we’ve seen over the last 2 years.

Posted by Michael Desmond on 06/14/2010 at 12:53 PM0 comments

The Big News Out of Tech Ed

The biggest news to come out of the Tech Ed North America 2010 Conference has little to do with Windows Azure or Windows Phone 7 or Microsoft's expanded business intelligence stack. No, the most important thing that I learned at the show was that more than 10,000 people attended the Tech Ed event in New Orleans this week.

That figure is significantly higher than the 8,000 or so that Microsoft expected, according to a couple people I spoke with. Apparently a late rush of registrations in the past month or so drove the attendance numbers well above Redmond's expectations. And given the calamitous state of the events industry in the IT and dev space over the past few years, the figures are a certainly welcome sign.

My question is, could the positive numbers out of Tech Ed be the harbinger of better things ahead in our industry? Andrew Brust certainly seems to think so.

Were you at the Tech Ed event? What's your take on the activity trends in the .NET development space? And might we expect to see more of you traveling to upcoming events like our VSLive! conference in Redmond in August?

Posted by Michael Desmond on 06/11/2010 at 12:53 PM4 comments

Microsoft's BI Challenge: Reach the Other 80 Percent

Ted Kummert, senior vice president of the Business Platform Division at Microsoft keynoted the second day of the Microsoft Tech Ed North America 2010 Conference in New Orleans today. Kummert's keynote no doubt was also designed to appeal to attendees of the Microsoft BI Conference 2010, which is co-located with the Tech Ed event.

Kummert didn't come to unveil any exciting new technologies or strategies. In fact, he opened his address by saying: "We are not committing to a future roadmap. We are not talking about specific features."

Instead, he provided a broad overview of Microsoft's value proposition in the BI space, and showed how maturing tools -- specifically Office 2010, SharePoint 2010 and SQL Server 2008 R2 -- are enabling increasingly rich opportunities for effective data visualization, manipulation and analysis. Kummert showed off the rich integration among the applications, showing how data surfaced in a browser via SharePoint could be directly manipulated in Excel.

But his core message boiled down to this: The best kind of BI is the BI that people are actually able to use and manage on their own. Kummert cited analyst figures that found that only 20 percent of potential BI consumers actually are in a position to use BI today. Kummert emphasized familiar application interfaces, intuitive interaction and viable self-service and management as the keys to bringing BI to the other 80 percent.

"We are very, very committed to continue to move forward the technologies and tools we are giving to you, the BI professionals," Kummert told the audience. "But we see a tremendous opportunity to enable the 80 percent. You'll see more impact from your solutions. People will be able to build on them on their own. You'll have [fewer] interruptions. You'll be able to spend your time with strategic applications in your building."

What was your impression of what Microsoft has put in front of the industry? Has Microsoft done enough to really reach the other 80 percent, or does the BI model enabled by SharePoint, Excel, SQL Server and PowerPivot remain too complex and difficult to manage to fulfill Kummert's vision?

Posted by Michael Desmond on 06/08/2010 at 12:53 PM1 comments

Get Ready for Expression Studio 4

If you are like me, you may be planning to spend most of next week in New Orleans, where Microsoft is holding its Tech Ed North America 2010 conference and co-located Business Intelligence Conference 2010. But you may want to pay attention to what's going on in New York, where Microsoft on Monday June 7 is kicking off the official launch of Microsoft Expression Studio 4.

Expression Studio is Microsoft's XAML-based, application and Web design suite. The suite consists of four modules:

  • Expression Web: Web site designer and HTML editor
  • Expression Blend: Visual UI builder for XAML-based WPF and Silverlight apps. This includes the SketchFlow app prototyping module
  • Expression Design: Raster and vector graphics editor
  • Expression Encoder: Digital video encoder

For Visual Studio developers, Expression Blend could be a compelling concept. It aims to bridge the chasm between developers slinging code in Visual Studio and designers working with static images of proposed application user interfaces in Adobe Illustrator. By offering an interactive, visual front-end to working XAML code, Expression Blend enables rich prototyping and more effective UI design and iteration.

We'll be reporting more details on Monday about Expression Studio 4. In the meantime, I'd love to hear from you. Has your dev shop looked at Expression Studio (and in particular, Expression Blend)? What are your impressions of the tool and what are you hoping to see with the Expression Studio 4 launch next week?

Posted by Michael Desmond on 06/04/2010 at 12:53 PM1 comments

VS Partner Play: PreEmptive's Runtime Intelligence

Having worked in IT publishing for nearly 20 years now, I've long subscribed to the remora-and-shark metaphor when it comes to describing the Microsoft ecosystem. Often that's been cast as a bad thing, especially when you look at the sad histories of bygone companies like DoubleSpace.

But the relationship can and does work for a lot of firms, with perhaps no better example than PreEmptive Solutions. PreEmptive got its start as a player on the Visual Studio platform back in 2003, when the company solved a real problem with applications on the new .NET Framework -- that managed applications could be easily reverse engineered to reveal underlying IP.

PreEmptive's Dotfuscator helped plug that hole, and a free version of the product has been built into Visual Studio ever since. Like any viable Microsoft add-on provider, PreEmptive couldn't afford to sit still, and in 2006 released Runtime Intelligence, a Visual Studio add-on that enables application developers to receive telemetry about how their applications are being used in the field.

Sebastian Holst, chief marketing officer for PreEmptive, says his product provides "business intelligence for developers," enabling them to make better decisions about how to improve software, by allowing them to see how their customers use software.

PreEmptive is at the Visual Studio 2010 launch event showing off the latest version of Runtime Intelligence, which is integrated into all flavors of Visual Studio 2010. The new version of Runtime Intelligence includes monitoring of Silverlight 4 applications, and also enables developers to configure analytics from within Microsoft Expression Blend 4 beta, via the Silverlight Analytics Framework.

PreEmptive's story is being repeated over and over at the launch event, where over 50 vendors are showing (and shipping) Visual Studio 2010-compatible applications.

Posted by Michael Desmond on 04/13/2010 at 12:53 PM0 comments

JetBrains ReSharper 5 Poised to Impress

Speaking with developers and software vendors following the Visual Studio 2010 launch keynote this morning and it's clear the community has been busy keeping pace with Microsoft. Case in point is JetBrains. The company is releasing ReSharper 5, a significantly updated and improved version of its refactoring and productivity plug-in for Visual Studio.

JetBrains worked closely with Microsoft throughout the Visual Studio 2010 development cycle to ensure ReSharper would be ready to plug into the updated IDE at its launch. For instance, JetBrains engineers faced a real challenge tying into the redesigned, WPF-based user interface of Visual Studio 2010. The company also spent a great deal of effort fully optimizing ReSharper to preserve responsiveness.

We reviewed ReSharper 4.5 back in September 2009, but version 5 of the tool may force us to give JetBrains' marquee tool another look.

The JetBrains rep I spoke with also made a point to call out the heavy interest he has seen among customers in ASP.NET MVC. ReSharper 5 adds extensive MVC support, and it sounds like MVC developers may want to give ReSharper a look for its abilities in this area.

Posted by Michael Desmond on 04/12/2010 at 12:53 PM2 comments

Little New at Visual Studio 2010 Launch

There wasn't much new to talk about at the Visual Studio 2010 and .NET Framework 4 launch keynote at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas this morning, and Microsoft President of the Server and Tools Business, Bob Muglia, was first to admit it.

"Today is a celebration. We get to talk about all the great things that are here now with Visual Studio 2010 and .NET 4," Muglia said early in his comments to the audience. "There are not a lot of surprises in terms of what Visual Studio 2010 does. We've had it in test, our CTP test program, for quite some time."

The one new bit of news was warmly welcomed by the audience. Microsoft announced the release of Visual Studio Team Explorer Everywhere 2010, the cross-platform collaboration client based on the TeamPrise acquisition made by Microsoft last year. The new tool allows teams working with dev tools other than Visual Studio to link into the resources provided by Team Foundation Server (TFS).

"This is part of what we are delivering with the family of products of Visual Studio 2010. It is fully connected to the Visual Studio 2010 development environment and the Team Foundation Server environment," Muglia explained.

VS Team Explorer Everywhere works on Windows, Mac, Linux and Unix, Muglia said.

To my mind, Muglia and crew left the best for last in the keynote, leaving discussion of Visual Studio 2010's extensive ALM and team-minded features for the end of the keynote session. Ultimately, though, almost all this stuff is well covered ground. Today's keynote, more than anything, was an invitation to developers to explore the new tooling.

Said Muglia: "It is indeed a day and a week to celebrate, and it opens up a new opportunity for all the new solutions."

Posted by Michael Desmond on 04/12/2010 at 12:53 PM0 comments

VS 2010 RC: Gains Speed, Loses Silverlight 4 Support

The release candidate (RC) of Visual Studio 2010 goes to general availability today, probably around 3pm Eastern Standard Time, according to a blog post by Jason Zander. The RC code gives developers a chance to kick the tires on the next version of Microsoft's flagship integrated development environment (IDE). The RTM of Visual Studio 2010 is due to roll out on April 12.

Once the bits go live, you can download the RC here.

Key Microsoft developer execs like Zander and Soma Somasegar have blogged about the VS2010 RC. Based on what they're saying, the ongoing complaints about performance in the beta versions of Visual Studio have gotten plenty of attention. The very early returns are encouraging.

Keith Patrick, responding on Jason Zander's blog, wrote: "Wow! I was disappointed (very) in the Beta 2 performance (5 second lag between me typing and the letters appearing on screen), but the RC is blazing. Ridiculously so."

Visual Studio Magazine contributor Dan Wahlin had this to say in a tweet: "The performance improvements with VS 2010 RC compared to previous builds are huge. Really happy with what I'm seeing so far."

Some developers are disappointed, however, with the lack of Silverlight 4 support in the Visual Studio 2010 RC. VS 2010 Beta 2 currently supports Silverlight 4 development, but Scott Guthrie, blogging on the RC drop, wrote that the RC only supports Silverlight 3 projects. He urged developers working with Silverlight 4 to stick with VS 2010 Beta 2.

"Silverlight 3 projects are supported with today's VS 2010 RC build -- however Silverlight 4 projects are not yet supported," Guthrie wrote. "We will be adding VS 2010 RC support for SL4 with the next public Silverlight 4 drop. If you are doing active Silverlight 4 development today we recommend staying with the VS10 Beta 2 build for now."

Posted by Michael Desmond on 02/10/2010 at 12:53 PM0 comments

VS2010 to Launch in April

Microsoft isn't offering any details, but Rob Caron, in a very brief blog entry, says that Visual Studio 2010 will now launch on Monday, April 12.

The release of Visual Studio 2010 had been pushed back from the original March 22 launch target date, as Microsoft worked to hash out concerns related to performance and virtual memory usage. The three week delay certainly falls in line with the initial description of the schedule change, which S. Somasegar, senior vice president of the Microsoft Developer Division, at the time said would amount to "a few weeks." You can read more details about the initial delay announcement here.

More details as we hear them...

Posted by Michael Desmond on 01/14/2010 at 12:53 PM2 comments

VS2010 to Launch in April

Microsoft isn't offering any details, but Rob Caron, in a very brief blog entry, says that Visual Studio 2010 will now launch on Monday, April 12.

The release of Visual Studio 2010 had been pushed back from the original March 22 launch target date, as Microsoft worked to hash out concerns related to performance and virtual memory usage. The three week delay certainly falls in line with the initial description of the schedule change, which S. Somasegar, senior vice president of the Microsoft Developer Division, at the time said would amount to "a few weeks." You can read more details about the initial delay announcement here.

More details as we hear them...

Posted by Michael Desmond on 01/14/2010 at 12:53 PM2 comments

Silverlight 4 Beta Gets the Thumbs Up

I've been talking to a lot of Silverlight developers and experts over the past couple weeks, as part of a cover feature we are doing on Microsoft's next version of its rich Internet application (RIA) platform, which was released in beta form at PDC in November. Given how quickly Redmond turned the crank between Silverlight 3 and 4, I figured the beta might be a bit rough around the edges or missing a few critical pieces. So I was pleasantly surprised to hear that the current beta of Silverlight 4 is, in fact, surprisingly robust.

Ben Dewey, a senior software developer at consultancy twentysix New York, has been working with the Silverlight 4 beta since it came out. He said he hasn't encountered any problems and said there is no indication that features are missing. "I haven't run into any non-implemented exceptions or anything along those lines," he said.

Evan Hutnick, a developer evangelist at component maker Telerik, told me he's spoken with a number of customers currently using the beta release to develop Silverlight apps, and they "seem really confident in this beta right now."

I'm hearing these kinds of comments from just about everyone I talk to.

The current beta of Silverlight 4 doesn't carry a go-live license, so obviously it's way too early to start releasing software based on the current code. At PDC, Microsoft's Scott Guthrie offered a release time frame of the first half of 2010, but it certainly seems like the final version of Silverlight 4 could emerge sooner rather than later.

Have you been working with the Silverlight 4 beta? What are your impressions of what Microsoft has delivered? Comment below, or email me at

Posted by Michael Desmond on 01/12/2010 at 12:53 PM6 comments

Visual Studio 2010 Delayed

If you've worked with or around Microsoft technology for more than a few years, you probably aren't shocked to hear that the upcoming launch of the company's Visual Studio 2010 integrated development environment (IDE) and .NET Framework 4 platform have been delayed. When you are in the business of building incredibly complex tools and platforms, delays are almost inevitable.

But I have to admit that I was surprised to hear that the expected March 22 release of VS 2010 and .NET 4 would be pushed back "a few weeks," according to a blog post yesterday by S. "Soma" Somasegar, senior vice president of the Microsoft Developer Division. While VS2010 has had its share of performance and stability wrinkles, Microsoft has done an outstanding job of involving the developer community in the product's development cycle. The VS team delivered a very strong beta 2 in October, resolving a host of concerns produced by the first beta, back in May.

Microsoft isn't offering any details, but Somasegar in his blog post singled out issues related to virtual memory usage. He also cited the depth of performance-related improvements in the last beta, though it's not clear if general IDE performance is at issue here.

So what can developers expect to see next? Microsoft will add an interim checkpoint release to the VS/.NET review cycle, which Somasegar described as a "release candidate." That release should be made available under a broad Go Live license in February, Somasegar wrote.

Still, the question begs: How long will we have to wait?

Posted by Michael Desmond on 12/18/2009 at 12:53 PM3 comments

After PDC: Q&A with Stephen Chapman

Stephen Chapman is long-time Microsoft watcher and author of the Microsoft Kitchen blog (formerly UX Evangelist). He offered his thoughts on what he saw at the Microsoft Professional Developer Conference last month.

1. Was there much at all new in Sinofsky's Windows 7 presentation? Seemed like a long rehash to me.

Sinofsky's keynote speech was a snoozefest... unless you happen to have just started paying attention to Windows 7 between last year's PDC and this year's, in which case, it may have proved enlightening. The most exciting/revealing thing of his keynote was a small demonstration of a stripped-down Internet Explorer 9. Those of us who have paid attention to Microsoft since the days of Netscape know how important Internet market share has been to Microsoft, so in my opinion, if they get it right with Internet Explorer 9, I think they're finally going to have a solid foundation to start building up their Internet/browser empire.

Bing is great and anyone who says differently simply hasn't given it the fair shot it deserves. I'm not sure any search engine will ever replace Google as my home page, but there's a great chance that IE9 may very well find a place in my taskbar. What I'm getting at is a potential end to the Google + Firefox combination just about all of us use. Bing + IE9. Can you imagine?

Oh, and Sinofsky's keynote was also extremely depressing for all government and media attendees. See if this rings a bell: "Here's an amazing laptop! It's yours!" ...and then we all know where that ended up. (Ed note: Members of the media did not receive free hardware.)


2. Sinofsky was getting after developers to support Windows 7-specific capabilities like Trigger Start Services and the like. How good a job has Microsoft been doing of evangelizing Win7 development? What could they do better?

I think they've been doing well with it on a large scale, but I think they should be more proactive with their road shows. Windows 7 has a ridiculous amount of potential and, in a twist, it's actually showcasing much of what was capable in Windows Vista. Unfortunately, the negative stigma that goes along with the word "Vista" has kept developers a bit gun-shy.

Well, now that Windows 7 is out and it has received some fantastic fanfare, I think developers are going to see value added in the fact that what they write for Windows 7 will more than likely work for Vista. I think that would be a great point to emphasize, but I think Microsoft is done with Vista. One -- maybe two -- more Vista service pack(s) and they will completely wash their hands of it. But I digress.

Lastly, I think one of the coolest features for devs to play with is multi-touch. Unfortunately, I think it's also probably the most useless right now. I think Microsoft realizes that, so what did they do? They put a multi-touch platform smack-dab in their hands. Not only did they give them a device to develop on, but they gave them a device that will probably be quite affordable. Give the developers a real device that can realistically be adopted by many consumers. I could be wrong about that whole thing, but for as awesome and groundbreaking as multi-touch has the potential to be, I've never really seen it as something that would take off beyond the enterprise/professional realm.

3. Have you had a chance to look into some of the IE9 optimizations? Seems like taking advantage of the underlying hardware and accelerated DX stack is a no brainer. Is this something devs should be excited about? Any reason why other browsers can't do similar things (via published APIs, etc)?

So, the IE9 thing... incredibly exciting! Developers should be unbelievably excited about it. This is the type of thing Microsoft needs to get back in the game with IE. Granted, I think people forget how much market share Microsoft still has with IE, but IE9 has the potential to bring it back home. If they can succeed with meeting all the standards and passing the ACID test, etc., I think they're going to be well on their way to getting on top of their game... and maybe more so than they've ever been! Microsoft has been doomed in Internet market share for such a long time now, and I'm really happy for them that Bing is such a solid product.

It seems like Microsoft is finally onto something.

In regards to others pulling off hardware accelerated browsing, the issue lies not with how to get it to work, but how to get it to interact with all the browser technologies that exist out there. For instance, how do you render something in a frame that already renders itself? Flash is a good example, or perhaps even Silverlight. I think developers should get excited as hell about this, but I also think they should wait until Microsoft irons out the issues that might make devs think, "wait a minute... how the heck am I supposed to code for this?" For what it's worth, I think Microsoft has something unique going on here and for them to demo IE9 so early in the game, they're obviously confident in what they're doing.

4. The Silverlight 4 stuff was huge. Local file system access, out of browser execution, printer and clipboard support, drag and drop support and mouse wheel inputs. That doesn't even touch on performance optimizations and better integration with the .NET stack (via ADO.NET Data Services and the JIT CLR). Is all this as big as I think it is?

The Silverlight 4 stuff was HUGE!!! I think Silverlight 4 will *FINALLY* take Silverlight out of its "Flash wanna-be" status and catapult it into its own respectable technology. I mean, not that it hasn't already commanded respect, but Web developers need to just go ahead and jump on the Silverlight bandwagon.

What started as a boring PDC for me, ended with me questioning if we didn't somehow just attend MIX 09 Part Deux! It has me wanting to attend MIX 2010 REALLY badly. This feels like 2010 is going to be the year of Microsoft where the Web is concerned. Bing is doing much better than any previous search engine Microsoft has cooked up, IE9 sounds like it's going to be the solution to every problem we all have with any and every browser of our choice (no matter how powerful the computer), and Silverlight 4. I don't know about you, but this makes me want to jump on learning to be a Web dev and immerse myself completely in Microsoft's technologies!

Oh, and Silverlight for mobile. That is going to be massive. With everything Microsoft mentioned in relation to the Web here, as well as noting they would discuss Windows Mobile 7, MIX is going to be the event to attend. If Silverlight 4 is as great as it seems to be for Windows, I can't help but wonder what they have in store for Windows Mobile 7 where Silverlight Mobile is concerned.

5. What are your thoughts on the ability to compile an assembly once and have it run on both Silverlight 4 and .NET 4?

Genius on Microsoft's behalf to make this possible. When this came up, I had two good dev friends of mine comment on how incredibly excited they were about this feature. Personally, I've never coded anything that made me even put these two together as being something I wanted, but like I said, knowing two devs directly who were ultra-excited about this, I would love to hear what your reader base thinks.

6. Are you following the AppFabric stuff at all? What I'm hearing sounds like a fairly compelling pitch. Write your .NET apps for higher-level platforms like WCF and WF, and AppFabric will provide the common abstracted app interface to make your stuff run seamlessly on both Windows Server and Windows Azure. How convinced are you about this? (Obviously it's early, since the Windows Azure version of an AppFabric CTP won't see light until 2010).

Honestly, I've been so into Microsoft's web announcements that I haven't even looked into AppFabric yet. All I've gathered from it thus far is exactly what you noted. I'm going to dig much deeper into it this week and gain a further understanding of exactly what it is and how plausible it really seems (or, as you said, if it's just a compelling pitch).

7. Can you provide any general thoughts on this PDC? Can you compare to last year's session in terms of the messaging Microsoft was bringing as well as the energy of the dev audience? Is there a lot to be excited about?

Silverlight and IE9. When first announced, I was quite underwhelmed... but then, I really started thinking about it and how far-reaching the implications are of hardware-rendered browsing and Silverlight 4 (as well as Silverlight for Mobile when they discuss it on the plane of Windows Mobile 7).

As for everything else, it was nice to see how far they've come with Azure and how much they've been participating with the community and their partners to fine-tune it, but Microsoft really just drilled home cloud computing even more and dug deeper into Windows 7 features like the Ribbon UI. Like you said before, this PDC was mostly just a recap, recap, recap.

Posted by Michael Desmond on 12/01/2009 at 12:53 PM0 comments

PDC Impressions

I'm crawling toward Burbank Airport after a three-day stay at the Microsoft Professional Developer Conference (PDC) in LA this week, and I have to say this was certainly an interesting PDC. Unlike last year's confab, which played host to a diverse array of strategic launches that ranged from the high-stakes debut of Windows Azure to the beta launch of Windows 7 to some heavy visioneering around Oslo, PDC09 had a more tactical feel.

As Andrew Brust noted in his Redmond Review blog report after Day 1 of the show, PDC09 felt more like PDC08 R2, a careful scoping and refinement of the far-reaching and far-flung messaging from last year's show. Windows Azure has matured remarkably, with its fleshed out AppFabric middle-tier built around the Velocity distributing caching engine and Dublin app server extensions. AppFabric for Windows Server debuted in beta form at the show, and will arrive as a CTP for Windows Azure sometime next year. The common infrastructure, Microsoft promises, will give Visual Studio developers one target to work toward, whether they reside on premise or in the cloud. But there's a lot of work yet to be done.

Most devs I talked to seemed to appreciate Microsoft's year-long effort to refine the Azure roadmap, and felt this second PDC went a long way toward helping the .NET community grapple with the impending cloud platform. Microsoft announced Windows Azure would go to production on January 1st, with official customer billing picking up on February 1 after a month-long trial period.

Still, Microsoft managed to make a show of it on the second day, giving away free, touch-enabled Acer laptops to all show attendees. The surprise giveaway may have looked like something out of an Oprah broadcast, but I have to say, it worked. A lot of folks were talking about the Windows Touch UI the last couple days of the conference.

More important, Scott Guthrie surprised attendees by announcing the launch of the Silverlight 4 beta.

As Silverlight versions go (and there's been a few of them in the product's short life span), version 4 is huge. The new features in this version read like they came straight off the list of "what in Silverlight angers devs most," with support for out-of-browser execution, local file system access, printer and system clipboard support and lots more. Microsoft partners I spoke to were enthused, in no small part because the devs they were talking to raved about Silverlight 4. But the inevitable question kept coming up: Why would mainstream developers choose WPF for desktop development when Silverlight 4 is around? It's a very good question.

This year's show wasn't as well attended as PDC08, but vendors I spoke with were genuinely excited about the quality of the audience. PDC tends to draw the deep thinkers and strategic decision makers out of the woodwork, and PDC09 -- despite coming on the heels of PDC08 -- was no exception.

What were your impressions of this year's PDC event? Are you planning any efforts based on what was revealed at the conference? Email me at

Posted by Michael Desmond on 11/19/2009 at 12:53 PM2 comments