On Feb. 27, Microsoft is kicking off a three-headed
for Visual Studio 2008, SQL Server 2008 and Windows Server
2008. As ever, with these formal launch events, the actual date of the shindig
has little bearing on the state of the software itself. Visual Studio 2008 went
back in November, while SQL Server 2008 won't ship until the second
quarter of this year.
What we want to know is: What are your thoughts on the new versions of these
landmark Microsoft products? Have you been working with the 2008 versions of
Visual Studio, SQL Server or Windows Server? If so, we want to hear from you.
Write me at [email protected],
and your input could appear in an upcoming issue of Redmond Developer News
Posted by Michael Desmond on 01/24/2008 at 1:15 PM0 comments
Looks like things are heating up around the next version of Internet Explorer,
expected to arrive in beta form in the first half of 2008. Back in December
2007, IE Group GM Dean Hachamovitch wrote in a blog
that IE 8 had passed
the Acid2 compatibility test
. Microsoft has also made it known that developers
will get details about the new browser at the MIX08
, scheduled to take place March 5 to 7 in Las Vegas.
Now, a small brouhaha has kicked up around a recent blog
posting by IE Platform Architect Chris Wilson, who informed developers that
IE 8 will implement a new, super-standards mode as a way to provide optimal
standards compatibility in IE 8. The new mode, implemented using meta tags,
joins the existing "Standards mode" and "Quirks mode" found
in IE 7 to ensure proper rendering of existing Web pages -- even those turned
for the compliance-challenged IE 5 and IE 6 browsers.
To Wilson's reasoning, the new mode will let developers strive for aggressive
standards compliance (via super-standards mode) without having to worry about
IE 8 immediately breaking existing pages. "We also think this approach
allows developers to opt in to standards behavior on their own schedule and
as it makes sense to them, instead of forcing developers into a responsive mode
when a new version of IE has different behavior on their current pages,"
But a lot of developers see this as Microsoft adding yet another layer of complexity.
"If you've learned anything in developing IE, it's that new versions don't
encourage developers to use standards," wrote one poster, identified as
jm. "They'll open their site in IE and see that their IE 5 code looks the
same now. If it looks the same, then why change coding techniques? I thought
IE 8 was about advancing the Web. I thought advancing the Web didn't include
stuffing your head with useless meta tags."
Over on Digg.com, poster potifar had this to say: "Gah, that's a horrible
'solution.' We'll never be able to get a free, open, standards-based Web if
Microsoft [is] going to keep forcing us to use their weird hacks to get IE to
work properly. I say make IE 8 properly standards-compliant by default, open
up the development process and inform the Web developer crowd about what to
expect, and solve the IE problem for good."
What do you think? Is Microsoft piling more cards on top of a shaky house of
compliance? Or is this truly a way to let Web developers ease their sites away
from the legacy of IE 5 and IE 6? E-mail me at [email protected].
Posted by Michael Desmond on 01/24/2008 at 1:15 PM1 comments
, I wrote about the recent Burton Group report that provided an overview
of the Office Open XML (OOXML) and OpenDocument Format (ODF) file format specifications.
The report, which is aimed at an enterprise readership, concludes that OOXML
enjoys a number of critical advantages over ODF, in large part because it maps
aggressively to the existing features and functions provided by current and
past versions of Microsoft Office. You can find a synopsis of the report here
One familiar name that came up in the course of talking to Burton Group Research
Director Peter O'Kelly about the report he authored was that of Alexander Falk.
Falk is CEO of Altova, a leading provider of XML tools and utilities. I had
spoken with Falk several months ago in the course of reporting an earlier story
for RDN, and figured now was probably a good time to catch up with him
Here's a quick Q&A that offers Falk's informed takes on the benefits of
the XML transition, prospects for ODF going forward and why it may already be
entirely too late to stop Microsoft's OOXML spec.
Redmond Developer News: You mentioned in our previous talk
that Altova has had plenty of inquiries about OOXML support, but none at all
for ODF. Does that remain the case today? What kind of interest in ODF are you
seeing from your customers and the broader industry?
Alexander Falk: That is still largely the case. In terms of actual
customer inquiries regarding need for ODF, we have not seen any interest from
our customers. What we did start to see -- although very rarely -- are questions
from customers who are already using our OOXML features and have read articles
about OOXML vs. ODF in the press and want to know if we also plan to add ODF
support. But I would categorize those few questions as more out of interest
rather than out of need or actual plans to implement, from what I can see.
Do you feel that ISO approval will significantly enhance adoption of
OOXML? Or will OOXML use grow regardless of what happens at the end of February?
I see the ISO vote as a non-event. In my opinion, the real-world adoption
of OOXML is primarily driven by the ubiquity of Microsoft Office much more than
any standards body. However, a positive ISO vote would probably have a positive
impact on the rate of adoption, especially in the government sector and possibly
in Europe, where Microsoft is still facing some antitrust issues and other up-hill
The larger-picture challenge of XML-based file formats is the change
from an application-based model to a content-based model. Do you have any advice
for dev shops as they craft solutions to take advantage of open, XML-based documents
and files? Are there any specific challenges or pitfalls ahead?
My advice to dev shops is to start working with OOXML as early as possible.
The best way to get started is to get the developers to experiment with OOXML
documents, look inside them and understand how they work. This can be done most
easily with the OOXML support in XMLSpy.
Altova's royalty-free XML engine, AltovaXML,
can also be used by developers to apply XSLT 1.0 or 2.0 transformations or XQuery
1.0 to any OOXML document to reuse and repurpose the data from such documents
in an open, standards-based way. The same is true for other open, XML-based
document formats and files.
What do the arrival of OOXML and ODF mean for Altova's business? Can
you give us a sense of the opportunity and challenges that face your company?
We see the arrival of OOXML and ODF just like any other new XML-based
industry standard: a validation of XML as a powerful technology for information
exchange and a tremendous opportunity not just for Altova, but for developers
in all organizations who need to work with data from a variety of different
sources. The fact that office productivity applications now emit XML data is
a gigantic opportunity to reuse and repurpose that data and develop a whole
new class of applications.
Here at Altova, our focus is on creating the best developer tools for working
with all XML data and making our customers' lives easier by introducing productivity
enhancements and other cool new features that take advantage of new technologies,
and as such we will continue to increase and enhance OOXML support throughout
our entire product line.
Do you, as an XML expert, see any scenario by which ODF can gain ground
on Microsoft and OOXML? Any suggestions, as it were, for that community to succeed?
No, I really don't see how ODF could win. There may be a place for ODF
in the open source community and maybe in some developing countries, where license
fees for Microsoft Office could be a barrier to entry, but this is really not
a technical question, so XML expertise is not going to provide the answer. The
recent Burton Group report very much brings it to the point and shows that ODF
may end up coexisting with OOXML, but in a much smaller niche role than the
ODF camp would have people believe.
Posted by Michael Desmond on 01/22/2008 at 1:15 PM23 comments
With the February vote approaching to ratify Microsoft Office Open XML as a
standard under the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), we're
keeping a close eye on developments in both OOXML and the Open Document Format
Last week, Burton Group analyst Peter O'Kelly published a detailed report that
looked at both OOXML and ODF, and assessed their relative position in the XML
file format space. You can find that report here.
There's a lot of noise and consternation about the approaching vote, but O'Kelly
points out that the two specifications share a fundamental likeness. Both OOXML
and ODF are essentially XML-based serializations of their respective office
productivity suite file formats. In short, neither is positioned as a true,
"universal" file format.
That said, O'Kelly's report finds that OOXML enjoys a significant edge -- particularly
among larger organizations -- because it is, in essence, a de facto standard.
OOXML is designed to work seamlessly with all versions of Microsoft Office,
an application suite that Microsoft estimates is being used today by more than
half a billion people.
"While ISO standardization would accelerate the use of OOXML in many standards-focused
organizations, the February 2008 ISO ballot will not determine the overall fate
of OOXML," O'Kelly writes in the report.
There's also Microsoft's rich history in the arena of standards-making combat.
ODF versus OOXML is only the latest broadly supported industry standard to challenge
the Redmond machine. Whether it's VIM versus MAPI, IDAPI versus ODBC, or OpenDoc
versus OLE, it seems Microsoft doesn't lose too many of these battles.
With the vast fulcrum of the Microsoft Office suite to apply to the current
fight, I'm hard-pressed to see how ODF will gain ground against OOXML, even
if OOXML fails to gain ISO approval next month.
Ultimately, O'Kelly said it best in his report: "The relative success
of ODF and OOXML, in any case, will be determined more by its utility and which
community effectively exploits W3C standards than it will by one or the other
more effectively navigating through ISO standards procedures."
Posted by Michael Desmond on 01/17/2008 at 1:15 PM7 comments
MySQL has emerged as the database engine of choice among open source and LAMP
application developers. But now that Sun Microsystems has snapped
up the little database-company-that-could
for $1 billion, you have to wonder
-- what next?
Yes, the acquisition immediately vaults Sun into a position to approach Oracle,
IBM and Microsoft as a viable database vendor. "It changes the landscape,"
said Gartner Vice President Donald Feinberg. "It's immediate in some areas
but it's really more of a play for the longer term. I think over the next five
years, it will really start to grow."
Grow where? Industry watchers see Sun moving into the data warehouse appliance
market, where open source databases are widely used. There are also opportunities
for Sun to bolster its Solaris OS, which currently ships with the open source
PostgreSQL. With Solaris, Java and MySQL, Sun now has a very compelling platform
for application and database development.
Of course, a lot of developers are probably thinking what I'm thinking right
now, which is: Will Sun blow this? It blew the StorageTek acquisition. And with
MySQL suddenly operating under corporate cover, you wonder if the open source
community might someday pine for the salad days of MySQL.
What do you think? Is Sun's purchase of MySQL a good or bad thing for developers?
E-mail me at [email protected].
Posted by Michael Desmond on 01/17/2008 at 1:15 PM0 comments
Last week, Microsoft announced that Jeff Raikes, president of the Microsoft
Business Division, will retire
. The gentle, nine-month transition will allow plenty of time
for Raikes' replacement, former Juniper Networks COO Stephen Elop, to step in.
Elop will be taking over the Information Worker, Microsoft Business Solutions
and Unified Communications branches at Microsoft. It's worth noting that before
arriving at Juniper, Elop was the former CEO of Macromedia and president of
worldwide field operations at Adobe.
The rest of Raikes' job will be handled by longtime Microsoft executive Bob
Muglia. Microsoft is elevating the Server and Tools Business headed by Muglia
out of the Microsoft Business Division. The result is that Muglia will be reporting
directly to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.
As Mary Jo Foley notes in her blog,
Raikes' delay-action departure is only the most noticeable in a spate of leavings.
Since around the start of the new year, Microsoft has lost or moved Mergers
& Acquisition Chief Bruce Jaffe, General Manager of Platform Strategy
Charles Fitzgerald, Developer and Platform Evangelism Chief Sanjay Parthasarathy,
and General Manager of Community Support Services and MVP Program Sean O'Driscoll.
Oh, and there's the little matter of Microsoft founder and chairman Bill Gates
retiring in June.
Greg DeMichillie, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft and a guy who spends
entirely too much time thinking about all things Redmond, had this to say to
me about the Raikes depature:
"Our best read on this is that Raikes was a long-serving and loyal
soldier who had been successful at just about every job at Microsoft and who
was looking at what's next. The next logical step for him is to be a CEO,
and that is simply not a job opening that Microsoft is going to have any time
soon. So he probably decided to leave a year or so ago with the understanding
that it wouldn't be announced until a replacement was found.
"The surprising thing is that Microsoft had to look outside for his
replacement. It doesn't speak well to Microsoft's ability to grow and develop
its management ranks if, out of a nearly 80,000-person company, there was
no one ready to step up to this role."
What do you think? Does the Raikes retirement and the hiring of Elop portend
a company in trouble? Or are we simply looking at another one of those Redmond
retirement runs that seem to occur every so often? E-mail me at [email protected].
Posted by Michael Desmond on 01/15/2008 at 1:15 PM1 comments
Last time, I blogged about Bill Gates' boast that Microsoft has sold
100 million copies
of its latest OS. Here are some of your thoughts:
Don't Drink the Kool-Aid!
"There's a need for a reality check. How many of the 100 million copies
are actually used? Were they shipped with PCs that got immediately 'downgraded'?
Were upgrades installed and removed? I know of some that were and it's not
an urban legend.
How many people have the time to learn a new interface for no real reason
other than 'it's cool'? Businesses can't support it. For instance, Microsoft
has a complete set of standalone tools to show people where things once were
in Office 2003 and where they now are in Office 2007. Seems to me that answers
a problem with the rollout of the product.
By the way, for real businesses, if they have to learn a new user interface,
why not look at Linux or OpenOffice? Yes, there's a support cost, but there's
a support cost to Microsoft as well -- what's the cost delta? Besides, it's
free, which somehow seems to cover some of the cost of support and training
since you aren't in the position of using your prior product experience.
Once you make major improvements to the user interface, you open the door
for re-evaluation of the product. For the record, my company develops Microsoft-focused
applications using the .NET platform.
You should also give some thought to where the market for information
use is going. Most users need a subset of functionality and not the bloatware
they're presented. More and more, I seem to be getting requests for BlackBerry,
PDA and SmartPhone functionality and not PC platform applications, which are
used more by 'clerical types' and not by managers, road-warriors, floor-staff,
etc. At least, that's been my recent experience with several of the [small
to medium sized-businesses] my company deals with.
Contrary to popular belief at Microsoft, I don't think the majority of
users (programmers included) like having to (re)learn how to use products
they once knew how to use, and at the same time meet business-driven deadlines.
Maybe that works in consumer products, but it's different when your boss is
breathing down your neck.
But that's just my opinion. And frankly, I never developed a taste for
Vice-President of Software Engineering and Operations
Newport Beach, Calif.
Vista Is Better
I know that there is an undercurrent about Vista; however, I develop for
both XP and Vista and I have to tell you that I much prefer Vista to that
Just for the record, I have personally developed software for all Windows
operating systems. Yes, from Windows 1.0 and up. Vista is the best so far.
-Pete Smietana, Ph.D.
Got more thoughts on Vista? E-mail me at [email protected].
Posted by Michael Desmond on 01/10/2008 at 1:15 PM0 comments
Forget about the Super Tuesday presidential primaries. The biggest election
in February could be the long-awaited vote to approve Microsoft Office Open
XML (OOXML) as an industry standard under the International Organization for
You want to get a rise out of a group of developers? Tell them you see no difference
between Open Document Format (ODF) and OOXML, since both simply map the features
and functions of their respective, underlying Office application suites, OpenOffice
and Microsoft Office.
Yeah, I can feel the hate mail already.
Peter O'Kelly knows a thing or three about the upcoming fight. He spent a good
deal of December and January finishing up a Burton Group report titled: "What's
Up, .DOC? ODF, OOXML, and the Revolutionary Implications of XML in Productivity
Applications." You can read an excerpt of his report, due to go up tomorrow,
To hear Peter tell it, the ISO vote, scheduled for late February, is probably
second only to the Super Tuesday primaries in terms of its importance. Like
the Super Tuesday contests, the ISO vote won't decide if OOXML wins or loses.
Rather, it will set the stage for the next phase of the battle.
In the case of OOXML, the ISO vote is all about position. Win, and Microsoft
OOXML gains access to a larger body of organizations, companies and government
bureaucracies requiring open, standards-based file formats for their applications.
Lose, and OOXML could find itself shut out of some major contracts. Either way,
the overwhelming dominance of Microsoft Office in the field all but ensures
that OOXML is with us for the long haul.
And like a hard-fought presidential primary, the ODF-OOXML battle has all the
passion and drama of the Hillary Clinton-Barack Obama primary fight. As O'Kelly
wrote in his report:
"It's a story that has many elements appropriate for a James Bond
movie, with multibillion dollar business empires at risk, global political
intrigue, and even some conspiracy theories at the intersection of capitalism
(commercial software products), democracy (industry standards), and communism
(e.g., related standards controlled by the People's Republic of China). This
is improbably heady stuff for what's ultimately a debate about something as
mundane as file formats."
What are your thoughts on the upcoming ISO vote -- and will the result, honestly,
even matter when it comes to blunting OOXML? And tell me, what would it take
to fix OOXML to make it a palatable candidate as an ISO standard? E-mail me
at [email protected].
Posted by Michael Desmond on 01/10/2008 at 1:15 PM0 comments
When Microsoft announced today that it would buy enterprise search firm Fast
Search & Technology for a cool $1.2 billion, it signaled Microsoft's serious
commitment to staving off the threat of both Google and IBM's OmniFind in the
enterprise search arena.
FST will give Microsoft the ability to woo developers with a richer set of
tools around enterprise search, enabling sophisticated functions like pivot
searches and expanding the scope of search beyond data to people in the organization.
The purchase also promises to amp up the scalability of Microsoft's enterprise
search offerings. Ultimately, FST CEO John Lervik expects search to emerge as
a bonafide platform that handles all search "in a unified manner."
According to Redmond insiders, FST will become the core of Microsoft's top-end
enterprise search offering, running atop SharePoint Search Server. You can read
Barbara Darrow's report on the purchase here.
Microsoft is well-known for buying its way into the party. What do you think
of the decision to purchase FST, and what advice might you want to share with
Microsoft as it forges a strategy around the new acquisition? E-mail me at [email protected].
Posted by Michael Desmond on 01/08/2008 at 1:15 PM0 comments
Microsoft CEO Bill Gates announced at the Consumer Electronics Show this week
that Microsoft had sold 100
million copies of Windows Vista
, which brings to mind comparisons to the
signs McDonald's puts up on its roadside restaurant banners, trumpeting the
number of burgers sold. And I found myself wondering, if Microsoft were McDonald's,
what would the fast-food industry look like today?
Well, for one thing, you'd be hard-put to find a Wendy's or Burger King or
Jack in the Box, since Microsoft would've driven all of these competing franchises
into near ruin years ago. Burger King might look something like Novell, a twice
re-spun shadow of its former self, now selling barbeque out of a couple dozen
franchises in Utah and the American Southwest. And pay no attention to that
subversive, open source burger shop on the corner -- there's no telling where
their beef comes from.
Not that McDonald's success wouldn't come without struggle. I can imagine McDonald's
replacing the well-loved Big Mac 95 and even tastier Big Mac 98 with the ill-considered
Big Mac Me, resulting in a widespread E. coli outbreak that angers consumers.
All would be forgiven by the time Big Mac XP rolls around -- at least, until
Microsoft replaces the beloved burger with the 4,000-calorie Big Mac Vista,
a meal so large that the company has to develop all-new packaging and larger
paper bags to hold it.
One hundred million units is a notable threshold for Vista. With SP1 nearing,
the company has made gains in compatibility, performance and overall suitability
of the OS. But the fact is, we liked our Big Mac XP.
Are you sticking with the old burger, or does your shop plan to move to Vista
now that SP1 is around the corner? E-mail me at [email protected].
Posted by Michael Desmond on 01/08/2008 at 1:15 PM1 comments
2008 promises to be a terrific year, as dev shops scramble to make use of all
the shiny new tools and technologies Microsoft has delivered over the past year.
How does your shop plan to assimilate all the new resources? Shoot me an e-mail
at [email protected]
Posted by Michael Desmond on 12/19/2007 at 1:15 PM0 comments
The first 2008 issue of Redmond Developer News
will hit the streets
in about three weeks and will feature a bevy of developer-related predictions
to help managers anticipate challenges in the coming year. We got some terrific
feedback from key experts in areas such as .NET data-centric programming and
WPF development. In fact, we got so much feedback, we couldn't fit it all into
the issue. So here are a few tidbits that are well worth sharing:
Peter O'Kelly, analyst, Burton Group, on the exploding RIA market:
"If Silverlight 2.0 successfully delivers on Microsoft's goals (i.e.,
feature-complete, multi-platform/device-type, high-performance, relatively
small and unobtrusive download), it will be the first serious competition
for Adobe Flash. Adobe is also investing major resources in Flash development,
so it's going to be a very vibrant, competitive landscape between Flash/AIR
and Silverlight 2.0. JavaFX may appeal to developers who are singularly focused
on Java, but I expect it will be a very distant third place behind Adobe and
"I think RIA development -- Flash/AIR and Silverlight 2.0 -- will
become the default for desktop-targeted development by the end of 2008; Flash/AIR
and Silverlight are definitely not just for Web apps."
O'Kelly on what's ahead for Microsoft's data access solutions, including
LINQ and EF:
"I think LINQ and XQuery will be very influential in 2008 and beyond,
but I expect Entity Frameworks will be relatively less successful. LINQ is
the strategic bet, and LINQ will be likely to evolve to generate optimized
XQuery code, so there is very strong potential synergy between LINQ and XQuery."
Chad Brown, senior vice president of component-maker IdentityMine, on RIA
"Adobe will not gain any more traction than it already has within
enterprises. If anything, I believe having Silverlight 2.0 available will
actually result in Adobe losing traction within enterprises. Silverlight may
not make converts of existing Adobe enterprise customers, but it will be an
offering to extend the existing Microsoft enterprise stack onto the Web, a
place that in the past was primarily owned by Adobe Flash.
"JavaFX? What's that? Seriously, unless someone is bent on using
Java technologies, Microsoft and Adobe are locked in an arms race that will
most likely render JavaFX a non-starter platform. Unless Sun comes up with
better tools and a good story for JavaFX, it will have only niche adoption."
Brad Johnson, director of product marketing, Borland Software Corp., on
struggles enterprises face adopting agile methods:
"Enterprise customers will continue to struggle to understand the
implications of what it means to be agile in the enterprise. Some development
teams may be adopting agile approaches, but the remainder of the business
still operates in a 'traditional' world with 12-month planning cycles -- a
typical agile development team deals with a two- to three-week horizon. Cultural
changes and basic development practices at the higher management level will
be critical to merging agile and traditional approaches in the enterprise."
Marc Brown, vice president of product marketing, Borland Software Corp.,
on how bad metrics will hamper dev efforts in 2008:
"Subjective estimates and irrelevant metrics are still the norm for
managing the delivery of software. These practices lack the information needed
to improve performance, understand delivery capacity and respond to changing
business demands -- adding to application development's perception as the
'black box' of IT."
Posted by Michael Desmond on 12/19/2007 at 1:15 PM0 comments