Microsoft Releases ASP.NET 3.5 Extensions Preview

The Model View Controller (MVC) architecture is valued for its enforced separation of concerns in development. In Web development, MVC breaks apps into interfaces (views), business logic (models) and a controller that moderates the traffic flow. This approach is hugely useful for enterprise-scale development, where code maintenance and unit-level QA become paramount.

The MVC architecture has long been used in Web app frameworks like Ruby on Rails and Apache Struts. Now, Microsoft is pushing ASP.NET Web application development in the direction of MVC, with the release of the ASP.NET 3.5 Extensions.

As RDN Senior Editor Kathleen Richards reported Monday, the addition of MVC within ASP.NET 3.5 Extensions could plug a big hole in Microsoft's Web development story.

"ASP.NET is so easy to use for the rapid app developer, but for the enterprise folks, the people who need to build maintainable code, ASP.NET is a nightmare because of the design style that Microsoft did," said Don Demsak, a New Jersey-based .NET solutions consultant and blogger (www.donxml.com). "It was originally designed for the original VB6 crowd -- using WinForms -- to switch over to the Internet. They did a lot of techniques to make it seamless for them but in taking those shortcuts, in dealing with that encapsulation there, it made it harder to maintain, especially for folks who like to use design patterns to build their code."

Microsoft's Developer Division GM Scott Guthrie said developers can continue to work in the Web Forms component control-driven model of ASP.NET, but with ASP.NET 3.5 Extensions, the option to adopt MVC design patterns is now there. Developers can even choose to use both in the same application, Guthrie said.

So what will you do? Is the MVC model in ASP.NET something you expect to move to in the coming months? E-mail me at [email protected].

Posted by Michael Desmond on 12/12/2007 at 1:15 PM2 comments


PDC and WinHEC: Backed Up and Back on Track

As RDN Industry Editor Barbara Darrow reported last week, the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference (PDC) is back on the schedule, after being postponed from its October 2007 date. The conference is now scheduled for Oct. 27-30, 2008 in Los Angeles.

The announcement comes a week or so after Microsoft announced a delay for another developer-centric show: the popular WinHEC hardware engineering confab. WinHEC has been pushed back six months to the fall of 2008. Microsoft has yet to determine the exact date and location.

Developers can expect the new shows to herald another busy period of assessment and review, as Microsoft trundles out beta and alpha versions of new technologies and frameworks. Among the key technologies I'd expect to draw an audience at PDC is .NET Framework 4.0.

Some, like reader Juan Foegen, are looking forward to another crack at PDC.

"PDC has been quite valuable to me in the past. Most conferences offer little in terms of changes to MFC/C++. [From] what little I read, there are a lot of exciting changes done for the C++ world and about the only conference that covers any of that is PDC," Foegen wrote. "PDC is usually a conference looking several years ahead, but most of us could use help just catching up."

Others, like independent developer Michael Drips of Folsom, Calif., are less concerned "If you're a developer and already involved with MSDN, etc., those shows are just bling now. It's not like it was 10 years ago when they popped out a beta that only a few people had heard of," Drips told RDN.

"PDC's becoming much more like Tech-Ed -- you go to learn stuff. I don't know of anyone in the development community who looks forward to PDC anymore," Drips concluded.

Are you looking forward to PDC, or is it a conference whose time has passed? E-mail me at [email protected].

Posted by Michael Desmond on 12/12/2007 at 1:15 PM2 comments


Last Chance for Predictions!

We're looking to get a jump on 2008 by asking folks what they expect to see happen in the year to come. Do you have a forward-looking opinion, perspective, insight or rant you'd like to share? Shoot me an e-mail at [email protected], and your New Year's prognostication could end up published in the January issue of Redmond Developer News (and if we publish your take, you'll even win a T-shirt).

Posted by Michael Desmond on 12/12/2007 at 1:15 PM2 comments


What's Gonna Happen?

We all know how crazy 2007 has been, with an absolute flood of Microsoft technologies reaching developers this year. What's really interesting is that 2008 could be more disruptive still.

Our question for you is, what do you think is coming in 2008? Will dev shops actually begin coding for WPF and XAML, now that Visual Studio 2008 and the relevant WPF tooling is finally here? Can we expect more companies to commit to Windows Mobile development in an era of opened access to providers' wireless networks? And will Visual Studio 2008, and the forthcoming Rosario Team System update, earn the attention of corporate dev shops right out of the gate?

We want to hear from you. We'd like to hear your predictions and prognostications for the year to come. And it doesn't have to be about Microsoft. What will Google's next great challenge to Microsoft look like and what does the company need to do to earn your loyalty? Do you have any thoughts on what skills will be most in-demand in 2008 and how it will affect the way companies acquire talent?

Send me your insights by e-mail and you could be featured in our upcoming feature story offering predictions for the new year. E-mail me at [email protected].

Posted by Michael Desmond on 12/05/2007 at 1:15 PM1 comments


WPF: The Challenge Ahead

It's a well-worn cycle. Microsoft talks about an exciting new development technology that promises to be the Best Thing Ever (BTE). Microsoft ships the technology, but takes months to get the tooling out, so coders forget about it and move on to another BTE. Then the tooling finally emerges, and coders quickly learn that the BTE is really hard to use.

That cycle is about to replay itself with Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF), the exciting new graphics subsystem that relies on Extensible Application Markup Language (XAML) to express application interfaces and graphics. While WPF and XAML let you do all sorts of exciting things -- like mixed 3-D and 2-D graphics and animation without crushing complexity -- there's a catch.

Developers are going to have to learn, from scratch, how to work with this stuff. Steve Dadoly, vice president of engineering for component maker Infragistics, led a team of programmers who faced the WPF learning curve. "A lot of my engineers had to relearn how to make controls because the approach is different," he said.

Jason Beres, Infragistics' director of product management, agreed. "We're good at it now even though we did really struggle in the beginning, because it was really different creating for Windows forms than WPF."

"It is a shift," Beres added. "The platform offers new capabilities and new features. If they want to offer basic forms over data, they can do that. But really it's about the user experience. I would compare this in terms of what the platform offers as easily a big jump, from Windows 3.1 or Windows 95 to Vista. It's a major leap forward."

As a result, Beres said, companies may need to be patient as they work to roll out compelling WPF applications. "It will take a couple years for those great [WPF] applications to come out. So training is critical."

So are you ready to take the leap? E-mail me at [email protected].

Posted by Michael Desmond on 12/05/2007 at 1:15 PM0 comments


Visual Studio 2008: The Ride to the Top

Lately, when it comes to discussing .NET and other key platform innovations at Microsoft, I've taken to using a building analogy. For over a year, Microsoft has been rolling out one fantastic, new platform technology after the next, but has failed to produce mature tooling to support it. It's as if Redmond had built a shining skyscraper that towers over the existing skyline, and never installed the elevators.

You want to enjoy the sweeping views? You had to walk the steps. Or, in the case of .NET 3.0, you had to hand-write the XAML code.

Well, with the release last week of Visual Studio 2008, the express elevators are finally installed and working. And as Steve Dadoly, vice president of engineering at component-maker Infragistics, told me, it's been quite a ride. Dadoly's team, you see, has been working with WPF and XAML for years, in an effort to get WPF-enabled components to market ahead of the VS08 launch. It's been a struggle.

"It was painful," Dadoly laughed. "There were a lot of different CTPs and betas and alphas we got from Microsoft in the beginning. A lot of my engineers had to relearn how to make controls because the approach is different. We did a lot of hand-coding with XAML."

But Dadoly couldn't say enough about the impact VS08 is having on his organization: "Most of the pain I spoke of is now gone because of Visual Studio 2008. The Designer is now good. [Expression] Blend brings a whole new angle to it. There is less hand-coding."

Dadoly praised the tooling for LINQ, AJAX and the team-oriented features in the Team Foundation Server product. But he was effusive about the way VS08 has transformed the way design teams work with developers at Infragistics.

"I think in the past someone would create a wire frame or screenshot of what the application should look like, and then the developer would try to approximate it," Dadoly recounted. "It was more of a waterfall process. Now things are more agile. We don't have a development team and a design team. We just have a WPF team, and they work together."

There's a word of warning in all this, though. Dadoly said dev shops face both a technical and a management challenge, as they look to take advantage of WPF, XAML and related technologies under VS08. From the interaction of various project teams to the new approaches mandated by XAML code, it's clear an adjustment process is ahead.

Do you plan to deploy VS08 and dive into the advanced features provided by WPF, XAML and LINQ? Let us know how you think VS08 might change your approach to development. E-mail me at [email protected].

Posted by Michael Desmond on 11/28/2007 at 1:15 PM0 comments


The Google Effect? Verizon Opens It Up

This week, news broke that Verizon Wireless, the nation's second-largest wireless network provider, would open its network to third-party devices and applications. The move was a major shift for the telecommunications giant, which -- like other major telcom players -- has jealously restricted access to its network.

Why the change? In a word: Google.

The same company that has bedeviled Microsoft to no end this century has also been taking the fight to the telcom sector. As RDN Executive Editor Jeffrey Schwartz reported, Google on Nov. 5 launched a mobile platform called Android and formed the Open Handset Alliance with the backing of wireless players like T-Mobile, HTC, Qualcomm and Motorola. Google also hinted it might bid on the new wireless spectrum offered in auction by the FCC.

The moves upped the competitive stakes for wireless incumbents in an arena already charged by the emergence of public wireless LANs and technologies like WiMAX.

Said Rob Enderle, president and principal analyst of San Jose, Calif.-based Enderle Group: "I think it's a realization that the market is about to change. To be a survivor of the change that's to come, you want to be ahead of the change and aggressive and not wait until the change starts taking market share away from you."

For developers, the Verizon announcement could help open the mobile application floodgates. Enterprises have long been frustrated by the brittle nature of mobile platforms and networks, which typically require homogenous hardware to ensure reliability. Verizon Wireless said it will publish technical information for developers, and offer a testing lab for device and application approval. The resources should help developers craft applications that run reliably across multiple handsets and devices.

Could we be on the verge, finally, of a wireless renaissance? Or should development shops wait things out before they commit dollars and people to crafting a new generation of mobile apps? Let me know your thoughts. E-mail me at [email protected].

Posted by Michael Desmond on 11/28/2007 at 1:15 PM0 comments


Another Development Conference Delayed

Back in May, we reported on the surprising postponement/cancellation of the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference (PDC), which had been slated to take place in Los Angeles in October. Microsoft at the time stated that the change was due to the fact that many key bits were already in developers' hands in preview form. We suspect that the real issue went deeper than a simple scheduling gaffe, and might have something to do with the slow and uneven progress out of the Live group over the past 18 months.

Now, RDN columnist and Redmond magazine Executive Editor Peter Varhol is reporting that Microsoft has pushed its popular WinHEC conference back a full six months. As Varhol notes, WinHEC has been an incredibly valuable and informative confab over the years, often presaging major advances to the Windows platform. On its WinHEC page, Microsoft is citing "industry feedback" for the delay, though Peter and I share a certain skepticism on this point.

Could it be that the pace of hardware change is slowing down? Given the rapid-fire advancement of multi-core processors, critical-mass adoption of virtualization technologies and proposed high-bandwidth successors to standards like USB, that's kind of hard to believe. What's your take on the future of PC hardware and how it affects your development plans? Send me your thoughts at [email protected].

Posted by Michael Desmond on 11/21/2007 at 1:15 PM1 comments


Visual Studio 2008 Finally Ships

It's been three years and a whole lot of betas and CTPs, but the next version of Microsoft's flagship Visual Studio IDE is finally here. As reported by RDN Senior Editor Kathleen Richards, Visual Studio 2008 became available for download to MSDN subscribers on Nov. 19.

Every version of Visual Studio, from the freely available Express edition to the enterprise-oriented Team System version, is addressed with the Visual Studio 2008 launch. VS08 includes numerous features to streamline development, including visual designers and wizards, and hooks to tap features of the .NET Framework previously inaccessible to developers.

Visual Studio 2008 also includes the next update to the .NET Framework (version 3.5), which delivers a host of compelling bits to .NET developers. Among the new features in .NET Framework 3.5 is Language Integrated Query (LINQ) for programmatic access to data stores, the ASP.NET AJAX toolkit and support for key Web 2.0 protocols.

Most important, Visual Studio 2008 finishes the work that .NET Framework 3.0 started a year ago. VS08 will allow developers to effectively tap the Windows Presentation, Workflow and Communication Foundations that are core to .NET 3.0, while also opening new avenues to AJAX, database and even Silverlight-based development.

Visual Studio 2008 is looking very much like a must-get upgrade for .NET development shops of every stripe. Do you agree? Let us know what features and capabilities you need most, and what issues or bugs concern you. E-mail me at [email protected].

Posted by Michael Desmond on 11/21/2007 at 1:15 PM2 comments


Vista Worries

If you're like me, you've been watching the sluggish rollout of Windows Vista and wondering about when it might be time to start targeting app development toward the flagship client OS. By all accounts, Vista sales have lagged behind expectations. As Redmond Media Group Online News Editor Keith Ward reported in an article for Redmond magazine, research firm Gartner Inc. has found that "Vista has had very limited impact on PC demand or replacement activity."

And Microsoft itself in July revised sales figures for Vista's share of Microsoft desktop OS revenues, down from 85 percent to 78 percent. Windows XP picked up the difference, up from 15 percent to 22 percent. People, it seems, are staying with XP in droves.

Of course, development shops must take the forward view. Despite the slow sales, do you see Vista becoming a viable target for the desktop applications your shops develop? Or could it be 2009 or later before corporate developers really commit to Vista? E-mail me at [email protected].

Posted by Michael Desmond on 11/14/2007 at 1:15 PM0 comments


ODF Split: Good Riddance or Good Grief?

A couple of weeks ago, I spoke with Sam Hiser, vice president of the OpenDocument Foundation, a small group dedicated to advancing the industry standard OpenDocument Format specification. At the time, Hiser's group had very publicly and emphatically split from the ODF working group, complaining that the XML-based spec was hamstrung by Sun Microsystems and other organizations unwilling to shape ODF into a true, universal file format.

Hiser, foundation president Gary Edwards and technical expert Paul Marbux are about all there ever was to the OpenDocument Foundation. This was a small but vocal clutch of technologists, who seemed determined to give as good as they got in the standards-making arena. But they might have got more than they bargained for, when they left the ODF working group.

Today, the OpenDocument Foundation is done. Closed. Shuttered. There's nothing left of it on the Web but blog echoes and 404 errors.

Talk to Simon Phipps, Sun's chief open source officer, and you'll hear him call Hiser and Edwards' group "a shell that consists of just three people" and that they "got out of their depth in OASIS," the standards-making body for ODF. Phipps contends the group picked up and left when things didn't go the way they wanted.

What they wanted, Hiser said, is for ODF to go further than to just be the XML-based object model for the OpenOffice suite. Hiser said his group was urging ODF to take on the tough interoperability issues posed by function-rich applications like Microsoft Office, and to arm the ODF spec with tools for at least managing and preserving the bits produced by them.

That may come in ODF version 1.2 or 1.3, said Phipps. But it's not going to happen now.

The upshot of all this is that nothing has really changed in the ODF process. There doesn't seem to be a grand split or splintering of the spec. And the ODF community will no doubt fight tooth and nail against a scheduled February vote to approve Microsoft Office Open XML as an ISO standard.

What are your thoughts on the OpenDocument Foundation decision to publicly split from the ODF community? Did they do a good thing by perhaps calling attention to an important flank in the XML file format fight, or did they only succeed in adding misplaced FUD to the ODF spec? E-mail me at [email protected].

Posted by Michael Desmond on 11/14/2007 at 1:15 PM0 comments


Visual Studio 2008 Is Nearly Here

Scott Guthrie, general manager of the Developer Division at Microsoft, has been telling us for months that Visual Studio 2008 would arrive in November of this year. And you know what? I didn't really believe him.

After all, VS08 is a huge upgrade for Redmond's flagship IDE. For the first time, rank and file developers are actually going to get a chance to work with all the neat and shiny stuff we've been reporting on for the past year. Stuff like Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF), the underlying Extensible Application Markup Language (XAML) for expressing application UIs and Language Integrated Query (LINQ) for querying data stores from directly within C# or Visual Basic.

So color me impressed that Microsoft is lined up to make deadline, despite some bumps along the way.

As Gartner analyst Mark Driver noted to me the other day, the emergence of AJAX as an absolute must-have capability really scrambled Microsoft's plans.

"AJAX completely caught them by surprise. Their plans for a next-generation UI did not involve AJAX at all. They had WPF as a next-generation declarative UI," said Driver, who added: "I think Silverlight may end up being the saving grace for WPF as it matures."

Yes, Silverlight development is supported in VS08 as well, though it remains incomplete as the dev-centric Silverlight 1.1 product remains in an open-ended alpha state for the time being. But what Silverlight will do is hook an energetic nation of Web developers to XAML -- the same XAML that is at the heart of WPF-powered UIs. Can you feel the leverage?

For people who've been patiently waiting for a reason to get excited about all the framework and foundation work being done at Redmond, it's time. With VS08 finally coming to market, dev shops can get to work crafting the next generation of Windows, .NET and Web applications.

Are you going to jump on Visual Studio 2008? E-mail me at [email protected], and let me know your thoughts about VS08 and whether you plan to move to your apps to WPF.

Posted by Michael Desmond on 11/07/2007 at 1:15 PM3 comments


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