A Fond Farewell

Yesterday I provided a sneak peek into the August issue of Visual Studio Magazine. What I didn't mention in that preview was that the August issue will be my last as editor-in-chief at VSM.

Starting August 1, I am moving over to MSDN Magazine to become editor-in-chief of Microsoft's flagship developer publication. It's an exciting opportunity and a challenge that I am very much looking forward to. That said, I've really enjoyed my tenure at VSM and have learned so much from the talented authors and contributors who make the magazine what it is.

To our longest tenured print columnists -- Peter Vogel, Patrick Steele and Joe Kunk -- thank you for your innovative and timely how-to articles. Your Practical .NET, C# Corner and On VB columns established a vital foundation, from which we've steadily expanded the scope of our coverage. To Nick Randolph and Mark Michaelis, authors of the Mobile Corner and UI Code Expert columns, thank you for your efforts opening new topics of inquiry in each issue of VSM. From Windows Phone 7 to the rise of HTML5, your contributions have enabled VSM to stay current and vital in a changing ecosystem.

On the Web side, I'd like to thank relative newcomers Eric Vogel, Ian Davis and Aaron Bjork. Eric writes the Web version of our C# Corner column and has explored some of the intriguing new features of the language. Ian Davis' Open Source .NET column has introduced readers to powerful tools and opportunities in the .NET space, while Microsoft Senior Program Manager Aaron Bjork writes the monthly Agile Advisor column, which is packed with sound and savvy advice for agile environments. Finally, to Mickey Gousset, the longtime author of our Inside TFS (and before that, Inside VSTS) column, thank you again for your timely, frequent and on-target deconstructions of Microsoft's ever-expanding test and ALM stack.

I want to make special mention of two regular contributors to VSM over the years. Peter Vogel (who I mentioned above) has been writing for VSM and its Web site since before I arrived. He immediately proved his value, producing the always-insightful Practical ASP.NET column for the Web site and cranking out monthly VS Toolbox product reviews for the magazine. Today he serves as Tools Editor at VSM and pens Practical .NET, the anchor column in the Language Lab section of each issue of VSM. He also publishes the weekly .NET Tips and Tricks blog. A true renaissance man able to write about everything from ASP.NET to WPF -- and a whole lot in between -- Peter shows a real passion for .NET development.

A special shout out goes to Andrew Brust, who has written the back page Redmond Review column for Visual Studio Magazine, and before that Redmond Developer News, since 2008. He also writes the always-enlightening Redmond Diary blog. Andrew's insightful and often prescient takes on Microsoft development and strategy have helped VSM readers make better decisions. Andrew has also helped guide and color VSM's coverage of issues vital to our developer readership. As a longtime Microsoft Regional Director and a professional with deep experience in both the technical and business sides of development, Andrew has developed sharp instincts and an impressive range of contacts. It is to all our benefit that those considerable assets have been available to VSM over the years.

I hate to go long with this blog post, but I simply have to mention VSM Executive Editor Kathleen Richards. Kathleen has been an absolute rock for us, providing thoughtful and finely researched coverage of the development space, first at Application Development Trends (ADT) magazine and then at Redmond Developer News. In fact, she continues to edit the Redmond Developer News Web site, even as she writes and edits features and departments for Visual Studio Magazine. She'll continue in her role at VSM after my departure.

I'll also mention our fiercely dedicated and outlandishly organized Managing Editor Wendy Gonchar, and Assistant Managing Editor Katrina Carrasco. It's never easy getting a bunch of editors to turn things in on time, especially when those editors are waiting on software developers. But through a creative blend of communication, harassment and thinly veiled threats, Wendy and Katrina have consistently managed to guide me and the staff away from disaster.

Keith Ward will be stepping in as Editor-in-Chief of Visual Studio Magazine on August 1st. I've worked with (and even briefly, for) Keith for years. He's a sharp guy with broad experience across both IT and development who has, at various stages of his carrier, launched, helmed and transformed a diverse collection of technical publications. He's also a fierce reader advocate who will no doubt champion the cause of hardworking .NET developers seeking to become more productive with their tools.

I'm excited about the move to MSDN Magazine, but I am just as enthused about the direction Visual Studio Magazine is taking. Over the past year, the magazine and Web site has attracted a fine line up of driven and energetic columnists and writers. With Keith taking over, I expect we can all look forward to big things to come.

Posted by Michael Desmond on 07/27/2011 at 1:15 PM0 comments


Coming Up in the August Issue of Visual Studio Magazine

I have a confession to make: I hate summer. Seriously, if I had to pick one season as the most overrated time of year, the span between Memorial Day and Labor Day wins the prize, hands down. Between the brutal heat and humidity, soaring gas prices, emboldened mosquitoes and, of course, miles upon endless miles of highway construction, I'm hard pressed to name a more inconvenient and uncomfortable season.

Mind you, I'm writing this from the perspective of a New England resident more acclimated to frigid Vermont winters than the steamy, Carolina-like conditions of our recent heat wave. So I struggle to understand why people seem to undervalue the hushed nobility of a snowy January evening, or the crisp repose of an October afternoon. It beats melting.

One thing that doesn't change in the summer is our coverage of developer technologies in Visual Studio Magazine. In the August issue, due out next week, the cover feature by Mark Michaelis focuses on the Task-based Asynchronous Pattern (TAP) in the next versions of C# and the .NET Framework, and how it streamlines the complicated challenge of asynchronous programming. Our other feature in August, by Brian Hart, shows how developers can implement tear-off floating toolstrips in their Windows Forms applications.

Keep a look out for the Redmond Review column by Andrew Brust, who says the recent Visual Studio LightSwitch launch may challenge a lot of developers' beliefs about the nature of development tools. "People in the dev world tend to split products up into framework-based tools that generate code, and elaborate development platforms where code is crafted," Brust writes in his column. "Somehow, the LightSwitch team eliminated the [.NET development] stack’s complexity without compromising its power."

On the how-to front, Peter Vogel's Practical .NET column dives into the challenge of creating long-running services using Windows Communication Foundation, while Patrick Steele answers reader questions in his latest C# Corner column.

Our August edition of VS Toolbox features a review of Innovasys Document! X 2011, a developer documentation tool that integrates with Visual Studio. In VS Insider, guest columnist Brian A. Randell argues that Microsoft's Lab Management product appeals to more than just testers, and can really help developers as well. As he concludes: "I find bugs quicker. I spend less time messing with software installations. I get to have a life." Pretty compelling.

Look for the August issue in your mailbox (if you're a subscriber), or check it out online on Monday August 1st.

Posted by Michael Desmond on 07/26/2011 at 1:15 PM0 comments


July Issue Preview

Schools are out and the summer vacation season has officially begun. I know this, because the house is a mess and I've driven more than 2,000 miles in the past week, with I think 1,800 of those in active construction zones. Hey, here's an idea: Let's double all fines--for everything--from June through August.

Despite the chaotic summer schedule and ill-advised road trips, work continues to get done at Visual Studio Magazine. Our July issue goes live on Friday, and you can look forward to plenty of insightful how-to articles and analysis. July's cover feature by Benjamin Day looks at the powerful new build system in Team Foundation Server 2010 and how you can configure build servers and builds, customize default build scripts to handle environment-specific configuration files, and configure IIS applications.

Two other features grace this month's issue. Sebastian Holst of Preemptive Solutions explores the burgeoning arena of application analytics, and looks at how developers can use the integrated Runtime Intelligence engine in Visual Studio 2010 to capture information about how applications are behaving and being used in the field. Meanwhile, James Reinders of Intel dives into the Parallel Extensions for .NET and C++ to help developers take full advantage of multicore and many-core environments.

If there were a theme for our Language Lab columns in July, it would be extensibility. Peter Vogel's Practical .NET column this month takes a moment to answer a variety of reader questions, from how to how to extend custom sections in the config file, to using CreateQuery and ESQL in the Entity Framework, to reading lambda expressions. UI Code Expert columnist Mark Michaelis explains how to use an often-overlooked XAML extensibility resource, markup extensions, as well as how to create extensions of your own. Finally, Joe Kunk's On VB column recounts his effort to extend support for LightSwitch BlankExtension/BizType projects beyond C# to Visual Basic.

Andrew Brust writes in his Redmond Review column about an interesting pattern at Microsoft, where many of the most vital and groundbreaking innovations are coming from the smaller business units. For an example of this, writes Andrew, look no further than Windows 8 adopting the tile-based UI from the Windows Phone team. Speaking of Windows 8, Robby Ingebretsen of Pixel Lab offers five reasons you should care about HTML5, in his turn as a VS Insider guest columnist.

VSM Tools Editor Peter Vogel lays hands on Red Gate Reflector, a decompiler and class browser that lets you recreate C# or Visual Basic code from a compiled assembly. But the real story, Peter says, is Reflector's improved integration with Visual Studio. Finally, check out Mark Bowytz' latest tale of developer frustration, in DevDisasters.

We may be entering the heart of construction season, but we're not slowing down. In August you can look forward to an in-depth exploration of the Async CTP. And of course we'll continue to publish our selection of online how-to columns and articles at www.visualstudiomagazine.com. Do you have a topic you want to see covered in our magazine or Web site? Let us know!

Posted by Michael Desmond on 06/28/2011 at 1:15 PM0 comments


Introducing Practical .NET Insider

Visual Studio Magazine Tools Editor and Practical .NET columnist Peter Vogel is a busy man -- and it's all his own fault. Last month, for instance, Peter approached me about writing an occasional series of opinion columns based on questions and topics he runs across in his consulting work. Unlike the how-to flavored fare of his Practical .NET print and Web columns, these columns are intended to explore assumptions and pose questions.

The result is Practical .NET Insider. You can read Peter's first exploration -- focused on SOA build outs -- here. Next month, we'll publish Peter's look at debugging and what it takes to be good at it.

Posted by Michael Desmond on 06/27/2011 at 1:15 PM0 comments


Silverlight: The SkyDrive is (not) Falling!

Microsoft this week unveiled an updated version of its SkyDrive cloud storage and file sharing service, which had previously been based on Silverlight. SkyDrive now employs an HTML5 interface.

Predictably, the announcement ignited fresh speculation that Silverlight is as good as dead. Stop me if you've heard this before.

Not helping matters has been the stony silence coming out of Microsoft. As Redmond Developer News Editor Kathleen Richards noted in her RDN Express blog (Unexpected Drama: Windows 8 and Silverlight), Microsoft's lack of communication around Silverlight has created a charged environment. For now, developers are being told to wait for the BUILD conference in September for word on Silverlight's direction.

Are developers convinced that support for programming environments is a zero-sum game? Must Microsoft's support for a true, cross-platform programming target in HTML5 come at the expense of its support for a closed, yet powerful programming target in Silverlight? I mean, Microsoft has done just fine promoting and evolving ASP.NET MVC alongside Silverlight/WPF. And it has for a decade evolved C# and Visual Basic. And don't even get me started on the company's long history developing multiple, concurrent operating systems.

Microsoft has certainly shown that it can do two things at the same time.

Scott Hanselman, in a recent blog post on the release of the Web Standards Update for Visual Studio, which improves HTML5 tooling and support, wrote: "I didn't mention Silverlight because it has nothing to do with Silverlight. I said once, 'Just because your favorite technology isn't mentioned in a keynote doesn't mean it's dead.' Assume that the same rule applies to a Blog Post."

Hanselman makes a good point, even as he misses a larger issue. Developers aren't worried because Silverlight wasn't mentioned at a keynote. They are worried because the vision around Silverlight has gone squirrely, even as Microsoft itself has gone silent. Programming platforms are like any investment. Their value is entirely wrapped up in "what's next." And right now, a lot of people are not at all convinced they know "what's next" with Silverlight.

So is the HTML5-enabled update of SkyDrive a sign that Silverlight is doomed? Not at all. But until developers get some clarity on Silverlight, it's hard to blame them for being concerned.

Posted by Michael Desmond on 06/22/2011 at 1:15 PM10 comments


Microsoft Updates HTML5 Support for Visual Studio

Microsoft today released its Web Standards Update for Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 SP1. The update works on both commercial versions of Visual Studio, as well as the free Visual Web Developer Express 2010 SP1. The download, hosted on the Visual Studio Gallery Web site, can be found here.

The first in a planned series of releases, the Web Standards Update features improved HTML5 support and adds support for CSS 3. Also added is JavaScript IntelliSense support for additional APIs. According to the site, Microsoft expects to release new updates about "every three months to keep Visual Studio updated with the changes made by W3C."

Scott Hanselman, Principal Program Manager Lead at Microsoft, described the update in detail in a blog post.

"We don't know what all will come in the next version of Visual Studio, or the next version of HTML5, but for those of you who are interested, we hope this 'living update' of Web Standards support for Visual Studio will help you out!" he wrote.

Hanselman also took a moment to rib developers concerned about the fate of Silverlight, after a pair of Windows 8 demos highlighting the HTML5 capabilities of the new OS failed to make mention of Silverlight.

"This is an update for ASP.NET and HTML5 editing people who want to use HTML5, new JavaScript features and CSS3," he wrote in a P.S. to his blog post. "I didn't mention Silverlight because it has nothing to do with Silverlight. I said once 'just because your favorite technology isn't mentioned in a keynote doesn't mean it's dead.' Assume that the same rule applies to a Blog Post."

Posted by Michael Desmond on 06/16/2011 at 1:15 PM6 comments


Windows Azure Q&A with Roger Jennings

Roger Jennings wrote the June issue cover story for Visual Studio Magazine, titled "New Migration Paths to the Microsoft Cloud." We caught up with Roger earlier this week to get an update on Windows Azure developments and how Microsoft's efforts on products like LightSwitch and Windows 8 dovetail with the company's cloud strategy.

Michael Desmond: Scott Guthrie transitions into his new role this month. What do you think his Azure App Platform team will be up to and what technology improvements and services in your view should be top priorities? Have you seen any change in the Azure group yet?
Roger Jennings: So far, Scott’s been fulfilling prior commitments with a grand tour of London for an all-day "Gu-athon" presentation with a cloud development session on June 6, and then in Norway for a Norwegian Developers Conference to give the "Cloud Computing and Windows Azure" keynote on June 8. He's in Germany today for an IT&DevConnections Germany keynote ("Microsoft’s Web Platform").

In Oslo, Scott said Microsoft will be adding four more data centers to the current six in the next few months. He also mentioned that "some of the Azure customers we have today are storing 25 to 50 petabytes."

I recommend that Scott review the Windows Azure Feature Voting Forum for new feature requests. My favorite unfulfilled requests are full-text search and secondary indexes for table storage, as well as Transparent Data Encryption and full-text search for SQL Azure.

Scott said in Oslo that he’d been "working on Azure for the last two weeks," so he hasn’t had much time to leave his imprint on the Windows Azure Team.

MD: According to announcements at Tech-Ed North America last month, the June Windows Azure AppFabric CTP will offer developers a first look at Microsoft’s AppFabric Composition Model and related dev tools for managing multi-tier apps. What do you think of Microsoft’s approach and how is this problem solved by other cloud service providers?
RJ: Microsoft announced at PDC 2010 the AppFabric Composition Model and Visual Tools, as well as an App Fabric Container scheduled for a CTP in the first half of 2011. The AppFabric team reported at Tech-Ed 2011 that the June 2011 AppFabric CTP will include AppFabric Developer Tools to let you "visually design and build end-to-end applications on the Windows Azure platform," AppFabric Application Manager for runtime capabilities that enable "automatic deployment, management and monitoring of the end-to-end application" and provide "analytics from within the cloud management portal."

The Composition Model will be a "set of .NET Framework extensions for composing applications on the Windows Azure platform.... The Composition Model gets created by the AppFabric Developer Tools and used by the AppFabric Application Manager."

The June 2011 CTP isn’t available yet, but I expect it to provide a more advanced version of Amazon Web Services’ Elastic Beanstalk feature, as well as application management (DevOps) features offered by VMware and third-party cloud administration providers.

MD: Still no sign of the Windows Azure Platform Appliance at Tech-Ed. Any idea what’s happening with it?
RJ: News about the first commercial implementation of the Windows Azure Platform Appliance, which I call WAPA, finally emerged on June 7 in a joint Fujitsu/Microsoft press release. Fujitsu’s Global Cloud Platform service ("FGCP/A5") has been running WAPA on a trial basis in a Japanese data center since April 11. The service is scheduled for general release in August at ¥5 (US$0.0623) per hour for an Extra Small instance, not much more than Microsoft’s US$0.05 per hour charge.

Fujitsu says it expects to have "400 enterprise companies, 5,000 SMEs and ISVs [as customers] in a five-year period after the service launch." I was surprised to see a published sales target, which are uncommon for US tech firms. eBay has issued periodic details of their planned WAPA installation, but HP and Dell Computer, the other two partners Microsoft announced at last year’s World Wide Partners conference, have yet to announce their WAPA implementation plans.

MD: People also expected to see Visual Studio LightSwitch v1 after Beta 2 with a Go Live license was released in March. Have you heard anything about the final release?
RJ: Automated deployment of LightSwitch Beta 2 projects to Windows Azure was the most significant new feature for me. I’m a longtime Microsoft Access developer/writer, so I appreciate LightSwitch’s similar rapid application development (RAD) features with SQL Server and SQL Azure as back ends. As far as I know, Microsoft’s still mum (as usual) on LightSwitch’s RTM/RTW date. Beth Massi’s MSDN blog keeps you up to date on LightSwitch developments.

MD: What’s your take on the announcements at Tech-Ed and their significance to Windows Azure and SQL Azure developers?
RJ: New Windows Azure AppFabric features received most of the attention at Tech-Ed, probably because AppFabric is a primary distinguishing element of Microsoft’s PaaS (Platform as a Service). AppFabric’s May CTP is mostly about the Service Bus’s extension to support messaging with Queues, which replace the former Durable Message Buffers, and Topics, and are similar to Azure Data Services’ Queues.

Service Bus Queues provide dead-letter queues and message deferral. Topics deliver new pub/sub capabilities to Queues. Load balancing and traffic optimization for relay have been dropped temporarily in this CTP, but are expected to reappear later. The AppFabric Team and AppFabricCAT (Customer Advisory Team) blogs provide detailed explanations of these new features. The May CTP also includes an updated AppFabric Access Control Services (ACS) v2, which uses OpenID to integrate with Yahoo! and Google via the Azure Developer Portal, as well as other OpenID providers via management APIs. Vittorio Bertocci’s (@vibronet) MSDN blog is the best source of ACS v2 details.

MD: Windows 8 will support HTML and JavaScript as a first-class development target in the new OS, while support for Silverlight-based "immersive" apps via the Jupiter UI library is rumored. Any thoughts on how these Web-savvy platforms dovetail with Microsoft's cloud/Azure efforts?

RJ: You can be sure that Windows 8 will have many built-in "cloudy" features, but many will be provided by Windows Live Skydrive, not Windows Azure directly. Concentration on HTML+CSS+JavaScript development will result in a trend toward more use of OData and Windows Azure’s REST APIs than the currently popular .NET wrappers. Microsoft’s heavy investment in LightSwitch, a Silverlight-based RAD platform, is a strong indicator of continued Silverlight support in the Windows 8 era.

Posted by Michael Desmond on 06/10/2011 at 1:15 PM3 comments


Developers React to Windows 8 Reveal

So, Microsoft last week drew back the curtain on Windows 8, and the reaction in the developer community has been a heady mix of interest and consternation. The funny thing is, the widespread worry is more about what Microsoft didn't say at the two events where Windows 8 was revealed (Computex in Taipei and All Things Digital near Los Angeles) than what it did.

Both Mike Angiulo, corporate vice president, and Steven Sinofsky, president of the Windows and Windows Live business at Microsoft, talked about the new HTML 5 and JavaScript programming environment in Windows 8. The new strategy will enable developers to build native Windows apps based on the next version of the HTML specification. It's a ploy that promises to attract a vast community of developers to the new OS, and opens up a host of possibilities for development across other Microsoft platforms, including Windows-based tablets.

There's just one problem: Sinofsky and Angiulo failed to discuss the XAML technologies -- Silverlight and WPF -- that have been core to Microsoft's developer messaging for nearly half a decade. As one reader commented to Andrew Brust's Redmond Diary blog post on Windows 8:

"I'm confused. If the HTML 5 and JavaScript support is in addition to WPF/Silverlight, then I think it is good, because it will open things up to those developers. However, if it is just HTML 5 and JavaScript and no WPF/Silverlight, then I think this is a terrible idea.

Another reader, identifying himself as Stefan Olson, agreed: "I am extremely disappointed by the choice to use HTML as a development language. This will be okay as long as WPF or Silverlight are able to be used in place of that, but HTML/JavaScript is a horrible development system and a bad choice for an operating system where developers have always been the focus."

You can't blame Microsoft for focusing on the new (and ready to be revealed) stuff in Windows 8. But you would think someone in Microsoft marketing would rise to the defense of Silverlight, a platform that recently took its lumps when All About Microsoft blogger Mary Jo Foley quoted Bob Muglia, former president of the Server and Tools Division, as saying of Silverlight that "our strategy has shifted," and that "HTML is the only true cross-platform solution for everything, including [Apple's] iOS platform." Foley had asked Muglia about Silverlight because the keynote at the Professional Developers Conference featured only one mention of the technology. His response set off a firestorm of developer concern.

Fast forward seven months, and it's déjà vu all over again. At the All Things Digital demo of Windows 8, Sinofsky offered a lengthy look at the new UI with its Metro-inspired, Live Tile interface. He talked about supporting ARM processors and about the compelling value of Windows 8 applications based on HTML 5 and JavaScript. But he never talked about Silverlight. That is, not until asked.

“The browser that we showed runs Silverlight and it will still run on the desktop," Sinofsky responded.

Sinofsky had an opportunity to level set the developer community, to affirm that Microsoft has the resources and will to support both HTML 5 and Silverlight as first-class environments in Windows. Based on reporting early this year by Mary Jo Foley and Paul Thurott, it's almost certain that Silverlight will have a strategic role in Windows 8 application development. And yet, the Silverlight development community was once again left with its confidence shaken.

"HTML+jQuery+Javascript compared to Silverlight+.NET+C# is like a Model T compared to an Audi A8," wrote VSM reader Bryan Morris. "The thought of a future where all app development takes a major leap backwards to Web hacking is profoundly depressing."

Other developers urged calm.

"I have no idea why some people think the sky is falling and seem to be absolutely panic stricken," wrote one in response to a Desmond File blog post on the Windows 8 demo. "Anyone who understands what .NET is surely knows that it simply cannot be replaced by lowly HTML 5 and JavaScript."

He also offered some advice: "First, [don't] listen to rumors and fear mongering. Second, don't read more into things than are really there--don't give in to wild speculation (base things on facts). Third, things in the tech world change; don't cling too tightly to any one specific language/framework/etc. I am heavily invested in .NET, but I think of myself as a developer first and foremost and know I will be OK no matter what changes happen in the tech world."

But one enterprise developer said the concern is merited, given the stakes involved in large scale development.

"Enterprise business applications take years to build. There are many thousands of IT shops and ISVs who have embarked on multi-year development projects enthusiastically embracing Silverlight, given clear direction and assurances from Microsoft," he wrote.

"All we are asking for is firm stated, long-term commitment from Microsoft," he continued. "We all recognize that HTML/JavaScript is needed for generic Web coverage (thanks to closed realms like iOS), but PLEASE Microsoft, give us confidence in our choosing to utilize Silverlight to produce the best possible LOB software."

For the moment, a lot of speculation is swirling around the development strategy for Windows 8. As developer Steve Yetter pointed out, we may not know exactly where "Microsoft is going with this," but he preached patience.

"Before jumping to conclusions, let's see what happens at the BUILD conference."

Posted by Michael Desmond on 06/08/2011 at 1:15 PM5 comments


Windows 8 Will Have Big Developer Impact

In case you haven't visited the homepage of VisualStudioMagazine.com, I'm here to tell you that Windows 8 is going to be big. Really big. And biggest most of all for developers.

From the moment Microsoft Corporate VP Mike Angiulo started flicking the Live Tile UI on a touch-sensitive tablet for an audience of partners in Tapei (watch the half-hour video here), it was obvious that Windows 8 isn't just another OS refresh. What I saw was a ground-up re-envisioning of how people interact with their PCs and devices. Yes, the traditional Windows 7 experience is still there, and a lot of Angiulo's initial pitch focused on tablet form factors. But there is no doubt that Microsoft is looking downfield with this OS. The new stuff we are seeing in Windows 8 is going to define the new normal. And the applications developers write for Windows 8 will need to reflect that.

Even more important for developers is the decision by Microsoft to make HTML 5 and JavaScript a first-class platform for Windows 8 applications. No, Microsoft isn't ditching Silverlight and WPF. Early reports from trusted folks like Mary Jo Foley and Paul Thurott point to some exciting things related to Silverlight-based application development, but those details remain firmly under wraps. But Microsoft is definitely adding HTML 5 and JavaScript to the mix.

As VSM columnist and Blue Badge Insights President Andrew Brust put it in a tweet this afternoon: "My theory on the Win8 HTML 5/JavaScript thing: Win8 will have 'apps' and it will have 'applications.' HTML 5/JavaScript for the former and .NET for the latter."

I'm looking forward to hearing how all this folds into the larger .NET message. There hasn't been a major Microsoft platform or OS launch in 10 years that hasn't leveraged heavily against the value proposition of .NET -- the tooling, the languages, the framework and, most of all, the widely available developer skill sets. And yet here we are, talking about HTML 5 and JavaScript, rather than Silverlight, XAML and the glory of managed code.

I'm sure all the messaging will work itself out. I'm certainly looking forward to hearing about the tooling that will enable Windows 8 HTML 5/JavaScript 'apps' and provide for compelling touch and mouse/keyboard application interfaces.

Posted by Michael Desmond on 06/03/2011 at 1:15 PM10 comments


Q&A: Stephen Chapman Talks About Windows 8

In the April issue of Visual Studio Magazine, Stephen Chapman, an investigative blogger who writes for ZDNet and authors the Microsoft enthusiast blog Microsoft Kitchen, wrote a VS Insider column about what developers could expects from Windows 8. We asked him his thoughts about yesterday's first public demo of the new operating system.

Michael Desmond: What are your thoughts on what Microsoft showed at the D9 Conference yesterday? Has Windows 8 met, exceeded or lagged expectations?
Stephen Chapman: I feel Windows 8 has exceeded my expectations insofar as what they demonstrated, but ultimately left a lot to be desired. They showed off the new UI, which looks to hold a lot of potential, but we heard very little about plans to enhance/modify the usability of the traditional desktop view.

I have no doubt that the new UI will not go over well with a certain demographic (business users, hesitant users, and users of netbook-like devices that the new UI will not run on), so for those individuals who will be looking for enhancements/changes to the desktop as it exists in Windows 7, I'm waiting to see what Microsoft's plans are. Undoubtedly, they have saved the deep dives for the upcoming BUILD conference.

MD: In the April issue of VSM, you speculated on what Windows 8 might bring for developers. Now that Microsoft is talking publicly, how do you think your predictions bore out?
SC: I think the majority of my speculations align well with what Microsoft has publicly showcased. Past its usability factors, the new app framework is clearly the focal point of the new UI. It screams -- as Steve Ballmer so eloquently put it -- "developers, developers, developers." Instead of XAML/Silverlight, it looks as though they're basing their apps primarily on HTML5, JavaScript, and CSS. This creates a very interesting opportunity for Web devs to jump right on in to Windows development.

MD: What was most surprising or unexpected about what Microsoft revealed yesterday?
SC: The new UI as a whole surprised me. I had no idea how they were going to carry over tile functionality to the desktop and I'm still a bit turned off by the idea of using it with a mouse/keyboard. I think the new UI is a clear signal that Microsoft is ready to start doing away with the keyboard/mouse paradigm for a certain user base; especially since they give users a choice between the two -- even insofar as allowing users to use them both simultaneously.

MD: Were there any disappointments?
SC: Only insofar as things they didn't touch on, but the D9 demonstration was supposed to be a fun and exciting showcase and I think they succeeded in achieving that. I think hardcore keyboard/mouse users or users with no touch-enabled screens will feel the majority of the showcase was a disappointment since there was really nothing new for them to see or look forward to. Clearly, Microsoft has a lot to unveil yet with Windows 8... or so we hope, at least.

MD: Julie Larson Green in a Web article on the Microsoft Web site noted that “Windows 8 apps can use a broad set of new libraries and controls, designed for fluid interaction and seamless connectivity.” Any thoughts on the potential impact of some of the interactions Microsoft hopes to enable with this?
SC: So, this all sounds interesting to me and I'm really looking forward to future examples of apps not only working in and of themselves, but also enhancing other apps. Theoretically, it sounds like a developer could create their own app to add some additional functionality to another app, much in the manner of a plug-in. The scenarios seem endless, so I'm interested to see just how much integration Microsoft allows between applications, as well as how they plan on allowing app devs to restrict/limit access to their apps.

Something else I wonder is how easy it will be for malware writers to modify app code -- especially if app devs aren't aware of certain libraries they should utilize to protect their apps. That may be over-thinking things a bit, but piracy and malware are always topics of consideration with Windows.

MD: Sounds like the live tile interface is going drive both touch and conventional UI. What are your thoughts on Microsoft’s decision to commit to the tile paradigm for the desktop OS?
SC: At first, I was reluctant and a bit weirded out by it. I couldn't stop thinking "MCE," but that went away quickly. Ultimately, I think the new UI is a very smart move for them and it only makes sense, provided the seamless integration they're reaching for between platforms (ARM, x86, x64 et al). Combined with the Windows Store that is to happen, this UI should make applications much cheaper and easier for people to purchase, much prettier and more easily usable, and potentially more lucrative for developers as they can make one single application that runs on any Windows 8-based device that will run the new UI! I think the new UI creates a vast amount of opportunities for everyone here.

Posted by Michael Desmond on 06/02/2011 at 1:15 PM4 comments


Microsoft BUILD/Windows Conference Announced

Back in April, Microsoft announced that it would hold in September a developer-focused conference in Anaheim, California. Widely assumed to be another in the series of Professional Developers Conferences (PDC), Microsoft has now released details about the event, which it has branded as a new conference called BUILD/Windows.

The announcement came at the AllThingsD conference, where Steven Sinofsky, Microsoft president of Windows and Windows Live, demoed the Windows 8 operating system. According to a report from eWeek, BUILD/Windows will cast a broad net, focusing on both hardware and software, as well as on cloud, Web and mobile development.

The conference will take place at the Anaheim Convention Center and is scheduled for September 13-16, with pre-conference sessions on Monday, September 12. Registration for the BUILD/Windows conference opened on June 1.

Posted by Michael Desmond on 06/02/2011 at 1:15 PM0 comments


VSM June Issue Preview

It's been a busy few months in the .NET development space, what with MIX 11, Tech-Ed North America and other events producing plenty of important keynotes and new announcements. But as we learn more about Windows Phone "Mango," and Visual Studio vNext, and, maybe someday, that elusive beast perhaps called Windows 8, the editors and authors at Visual Studio Magazine have been hard at work. Here's what's on tap for June.

On the cover is Roger Jennings' in-depth look at Microsoft's efforts to enable application migration to Windows Azure on- and off-premise cloud infrastructure. Jennings looks at the progress the Windows Azure team has made since PDC 10, and the impact Scott Guthrie, incoming corporate vice president of the Azure Application Platform, might have on Microsoft's cloud making efforts.

Tools Editor Peter Vogel is as busy as ever this month. He authors a Practical .NET column that looks at how developers can get the most out of their WCF-based services architectures, and a VS Toolbox review of ComponentOne's XapOptimizer Silverlight app shrinking tool. But what really kept Vogel busy this month was the Visual Studio Toolapalooza. This feature breaks down 17 top free tools and add-ins for Visual Studio developers. Got a tool you'd like us to hear about? Let us know!

Nick Randolph is back this month with his Mobile Corner column, where he dives into the mysteries of the Windows Phone 7 application lifecycle. It's important to know how WP7 apps behave when they are not on center stage, and Nick's handy how-to offers some tricks for handling tombstoning. C# developers should check out Patrick Steele's exploration of lambda properties and how they can replace subclassing to enable specific functionality. Are lambda properties a good alternative? Give it a read and let Patrick know.

Andrew Brust in June looks at Microsoft after the lifting of the United States v. Microsoft consent decree, and wonders if the company can return to the bold strategies that made it dominant in the first place. There's more of course, like Jeff Levinson's turn in our VS Insider column, where he delves into test first development and the mindset it requires, and Mark Bowytz' latest account of epic developer fail in DevDisasters.

Look for it all on June 1st.

Posted by Michael Desmond on 05/26/2011 at 1:15 PM0 comments


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