Whither C++

Dr. Bjarne Stroustrup, creator of C++, recently gave a speech discussing the future of his seminal programming language and what the next version will look like. You can view the hour-long session here.

Called C++0x, the new version aims to push the ball forward in a wide range of areas. Support for multithreading and parallel execution, for instance, are both being added to tap the power of multi-core processors and parallel-aware OSes. Also getting updated is support for generic programming, which enables the use of abstracted concepts in developing code.

Stroustrup makes clear that the drive to improve C++ faces a lot of challenges. Not least among them is the challenge to maintain full compatibility with existing code, while still respecting calls from the community to try to streamline what is already a very large language. One solution is to introduce new features via the standard library, rather than through extensions to the core language itself.

Have you watched Dr. Stroustrup's presentation? What do you think of the direction he proposes? What would you like to see done to improve C++? E-mail me at [email protected].

Posted by Michael Desmond on 08/22/2007 at 1:15 PM0 comments

The Dish on Dynamic Languages

The busy folks at Forrester Research have released another report, this time breaking down the growing segment of dynamic languages. The third quarter Forrester Wave report looked at five dynamic languages: ECMAScript (JavaScript), Perl, PHP, Python and Ruby.

Forrester describes dynamic languages as being flexible, easy to learn and well-suited for Web 2.0 development by enabling integration and application assembly. The report also notes that these languages can reduce cycle times by allowing developers to focus on crafting business logic by leveraging mature frameworks and libraries.

Not all dynamic languages are created equal. According to Forrester, the Python language graded out slightly ahead of the others. "Python emerged as a leader because of its rich features and the fact that developers use it for a wide variety of application types," the report states. The authors, Michael Goulde and Jeffrey Hammond, went on to praise Python's clean syntax, consistent style structure and extensibility.

Ironically, Python is the only dynamic language that seems to be losing traction among programmers, according to the TIOBE Programming Community Index list. Python dropped to eighth overall in August, from seventh a year ago. PHP and Perl held steady in the middle of the top 10, just behind C++ and ahead of C#. While ECMAScript (shown as JavaScript on the list) moved up to ninth place, Ruby jumped from 13th to 10th.

You can read the excerpt of the Forrester Research summary here.

Are you making use of one or more dynamic languages in your shop? Tell us your thoughts about these popular solutions and the challenges you face. What would you like to see done to improve Ruby, Python, PHP, Perl and ECMAScript? My e-mail, as ever, is [email protected].

Posted by Michael Desmond on 08/22/2007 at 1:15 PM1 comments

BPMS Market Taking Off

A recent IDC report predicts that the business process management software (BPMS) market will grow at a torrid pace, to $5.5 billion by 2011, up from $890 million in 2006. The report finds that BPMS deployments are happening at the departmental and project level, rather than across enterprises -- a change from earlier business infrastructure waves such as ERP and CRM.

IDC singles out heavyweights like IBM, Oracle, BEA and Tibco as coming to the market with strong BPMS offerings, while Microsoft enters the market via its Business Process Alliance (BPA), which features partners such as Ascentn, Bluespring, K2 and Metastorm. In the offing: A battle of smaller BPMS power plays against large infrastructure companies. The report finds that small and nimble BPMS vendors are, for now, in a good position to innovate and win market share.

When I spoke with Jeff Mills, Bluespring VP of channel development and partner enrichment, earlier today, I was struck by how tightly the company's approach fits Microsoft's strategy of using the Office suite to unlock back end systems.

"The Bluespring perspective is we are seeing a tremendous amount of growth in the market, primarily because BPMS technology relies on effectively rolling people into the process. And the easiest way to do that is to bring them into Office tools, because that is what they know and use," Mills said.

In fact, Bluespring hopes to take IT out of the equation to a large extent by giving business process experts the ability to both craft and deploy, without technical intervention, automated business processes. Central to this approach is Bluespring's interpreted XML model, which enables customers to pause, refine and restart deployed processes in flight, allowing businesses to iterate their efforts.

Read the abstract for the IDC study, entitled "Worldwide Business Process Management Suite 2007-2011 Forecast and 2006 Vendor Shares" (IDC #207954), here.

Is your company looking to automate business processes? E-mail me at [email protected].

Posted by Michael Desmond on 08/15/2007 at 1:15 PM0 comments

Imagine Cup Recognizes Young Programmers

If you've been reading the Redmond Developer News newsletter, you know that computer science education and training is a real concern, both for myself and for newsletter readers. Microsoft has been at the forefront when it comes to motivating, encouraging and recognizing talented young programmers. And for good reason -- the company's lifeblood is the skills of its workforce.

The Imagine Cup is a good example of Redmond's commitment to youth in programming. Now in its fifth year, the event challenges students from around the globe to create innovative and compelling software using Microsoft platforms.

This year, more than 100,000 students in over 100 countries competed in the 2007 Imagine Cup. Of those, 344 competitors in 55 teams earned finalist consideration. The winning team, Team 3KC Returns/Project LiveBook! from Thailand, was awarded a $25,000 cash prize at an awards ceremony in Seoul, South Korea. Next year's event will take place in Paris, France.

You can read more about the results of this year's competition here.

Posted by Michael Desmond on 08/15/2007 at 1:15 PM0 comments

.NET Survival Guide

Any developer can tell you that it's a jungle out there, especially if you're a busy coder trying to stay on top of multiple Microsoft platforms and technologies. Whether it's constant refreshes to the .NET Framework or new approaches to managing programmatic data access, there just never seems to be time to master and consolidate skills.

You need look no further than the nearly feature-complete beta 2 of Visual Studio 2008, the second beta of .NET Framework 3.5 and the latest CTP of SQL Server 2008 to know what I'm talking about. Between November and February, you can expect a veritable blizzard of new products and technologies to blow in from Redmond.

Which is where the .NET Survival Guide comes in. In our Sept. 1 issue, we'll pull together expert insight and useful resources into a concise package, so you can quickly judge your exposure across a range of categories and disciplines. Worried about moving to multi-core savvy parallelized code? Have questions about emerging security practices? Need to make decisions about moving to rich Internet application development? The .NET Survival Guide will offer both answers and context for these questions.

But we need input from you. What technologies and issues do you feel need to be explored? Is there a specific topic expert you'd like to hear from? E-mail me at [email protected] and help us shape our first annual .NET Survival Guide.

Posted by Michael Desmond on 08/08/2007 at 1:15 PM0 comments

Visual Studio 2008 Beta 2

The second beta of Visual Studio 2008 hit the streets last week, and according to our upcoming news feature on the release, this is the version everybody has been waiting for.

In an exclusive online preview of a story to appear in the Aug. 15 issue of Redmond Developer News, Senior Editor Kathleen Richards reports that VS 2008 beta 2 is "99.9 percent feature-complete" -- this coming from Visual Studio Group Product Manager Prashant Sridharan.

The biggest new feature in the upcoming version of Visual Studio? Language Integrated Query (LINQ). If you've been following our coverage the past few months, you know that we've been all over LINQ like a cheap suit. Microsoft has spent years working up the new data programming model, which aims to resolve the violent disconnect between programming languages and databases. From what we're hearing, the company may be getting it right.

Other welcome arrivals include a stable and compelling version of WPF Designer, ASP.NET AJAX multi-targeting and a preview of the Visual Studio 2008 add-in for Silverlight 1.0. This is an important milestone for Visual Studio 2008 and one that bodes well for Microsoft's flagship IDE.

Have you been on the sidelines with Visual Studio 2008? If so, it's probably time to consider picking it up. Let us know your experience with the new beta and what you feel could be improved. E-mail me at [email protected].

Posted by Michael Desmond on 08/08/2007 at 1:15 PM0 comments

The Best of What's New

Last week, I was in New York City for the 29th annual national editorial awards event for the American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE). As usual, when I visit the Big Apple, the entire eastern seaboard was in the grip of a lunatic heat wave, with temps pushing 95 degrees as I pounded the 10 blocks to the Roosevelt Hotel.

I seriously need to visit this town in October.

As it turned out, I braved the summer swelter for good reason. Redmond Developer News was twice recognized by the ASBPE that evening, earning top honors in the New Publication and New B2B Web Site Publication categories.

This is a terrific accomplishment that reflects highly on everyone involved, from the editors and designers who craft the publication to the publishers and business managers who helped us carve out a vital niche. Kudos also to our online team -- including Rita Zurcher, Becky Nagel and Mike Domingo -- who did an amazing job getting our Web site launched.

Finally, Redmond Media Group Vice President and Editorial Director Doug Barney gets called out because he's been working the idea of a developer book in the RMG family for years. This is his baby. Doug, RMG President Henry Allain and Vice President of Publishing Matt Morollo all took a big risk launching a print publication when they did.

Winning the best new publication and Web site categories is like being Rookie of the Year: You get one chance to earn that recognition. Now it's time for us to move on to bigger and better things.

So, you tell us what you want in RDN. What products and technologies do you want covered? What kind of news, features, columns and advice do you want to see every two weeks? And how can we do a better job of getting all that to you? E-mail me at [email protected].

Posted by Michael Desmond on 08/08/2007 at 1:15 PM0 comments

Show Me the Mundie

Another important guy who got some welcome face time at the Microsoft Financial Analyst Meeting was Chief Research and Strategy Officer Craig Mundie. Mundie, who is responsible for a lot of the deep thinking and research that goes on in Redmond, spent a few minutes eulogizing Moore's Law. With clock-speed gains off the table as a way to empower software, the effort has turned to parallelism, concurrency and multi-core CPUs.

As Mundie pointed out, this transition is going to be, well, hard. "This really is a computer science problem and it's going to affect the whole stack, from the architecture of the machine itself to the tools that the programmers of the future will use, and ultimately to how we conceptualize and build these applications," he said.

And just as Mundie is getting my interest -- I mean, exactly how does Microsoft propose we rework the stack and parallelize our applications? -- he takes a hard turn straight into 2001. All of a sudden, he's pitching vaguely imaged descriptions of loosely coupled systems, computers in the cloud and contextually aware hardware and software that will know what we need before we need it.

Outside of a few specific mentions of Software-plus-Services and Microsoft's Surface technology, this part of the presentation sounds like it was ripped straight from Intel's playbook five or six years ago. Not that the actual vision of services-based applications and evolved client systems that anticipate user requests is a bad thing; I was just shocked to find that we're still talking about the same, old stuff, all this time later.

None of this detracts from the important fact that Mundie spent a good deal of time preparing the financial community for what will be an aggressive retooling of the software development stack as we enter the era of parallel programming and concurrent applications. I expect we'll be hearing plenty more specifics in the months to come.

Are you ready for the multi-core revolution and parallelized software? E-mail me at [email protected].

Posted by Michael Desmond on 08/01/2007 at 1:15 PM0 comments

Wonking Windows Live

If you're like me, you've been alternately hopeful, disappointed and downright dismayed by the uneven progress around Microsoft's Live efforts over the past year or so. A lot of it, I think, comes from the cart being thrust a couple hundred miles in front of the horse.

After all, who can forget the relentless over-branding of Live, which produced an utterly opaque clutter of online sites and services? Like the senseless .NET mania that infected nearly every Microsoft product launch in 2001 and 2002, the panicked rush to slap a Live sticker on every new Web offering served one effective purpose: to confuse customers.

It honestly worries me that a strategic software company like Microsoft can let itself fall prey to irrational brand exuberance. But it happens.

So imagine my relief upon hearing Microsoft Chief Technology Officer Ray Ozzie lay out a strategic Live platform vision to an assembled group of industry watchers at the annual Microsoft Financial Analyst Meeting in Redmond last week. Ozzie details a four-level platform that defines Live, finally providing a common ground for all Live products and services. The four levels are:

  • Global Foundation Services: The hardware and data centers that support and deliver sundry Web services
  • Cloud Infrastructure Services: What Ozzie called the "utility computing fabric," this layer enables critical app management, load balancing and deployment activities
  • Live Platform Services: A common layer of application services such as communications, identity management and (notably) the advertising platform infrastructure
  • Live Applications: The customer-facing software and interfaces that enable everything from creating and sharing documents to advertising

You can read the report from RDN News Editor Chris Kanaracus here.

The good news is that everyone in Redmond crafting Live services and products should now be working toward a common target -- a far cry from the disjointed efforts we've seen to date. And all those efforts should tie neatly into the growing body of Software-plus-Services work that will be so critical moving forward.

The bad news? We're 12 to 18 months from seeing Microsoft deliver a coherent foundation for corporate developers to build against.

For now, it's time to watch, learn and prepare as Microsoft finally starts working toward a workable vision for the Live platform.

What do you think of Microsoft's plan? Do you have any advice for Microsoft as it starts forging a framework for its fledgling Live platform? E-mail me at [email protected].

Posted by Michael Desmond on 08/01/2007 at 1:15 PM0 comments

Beta Patrol: Visual Studio and SQL Server

Redmond Developer News is looking for hands-on takes about Visual Studio 2008 beta 2 and the recent SQL Server 2008 CTP. If you have been working with either product and have opinions to share about them, we want to hear from you! E-mail me at [email protected]. We plan to publish testers' insights in an upcoming issue of Redmond Developer News.

Posted by Michael Desmond on 08/01/2007 at 1:15 PM0 comments

Gears of War

When search giant Google rolled out its Gears package in May, it quietly signaled a major shift of momentum in the arena of integrated Web applications and development.

Google Gears is a set of development tools that enable free Google apps (currently limited to Google Reader) to be used offline. By enabling local storage and processing, Google Gears effectively slams shut a critical competitive gap between Microsoft and Google.

As one IT director for a mid-sized law firm told me: "[It] might be an easy way for our attorneys to brown-bag client data and take it to court while people are still working with it. Microsoft can't sit on this and think it can sell packaged apps forever, that's for sure."

Are Fortune 2000 businesses going to ditch Microsoft Office and millions of dollars of custom development to put workers on Google Docs, Spreadsheets and Calendar? Hardly. But the bottom-up appeal of Google apps should become a lot more attractive thanks to Google Gears, which is built on simple JavaScript APIs.

What are your impressions of Google Gears? Has your dev shop looked into enabling offline-savvy rich Internet applications using the toolset? E-mail me at [email protected].

Posted by Michael Desmond on 07/25/2007 at 1:15 PM1 comments

Visual Studio 2008: Beta Inbound

Sounds like the second beta of Visual Studio 2008 is nearly upon us. According to a blog posting by the General Manager of Microsoft's Developer Division, Scott Guthrie, VS08 beta 2 should roll out this week. Even more important, Guthrie told blog readers that the latest beta will be "pretty much feature-complete."

That's a far cry from the state of VS08 beta 1, which arrived in April to much fanfare but lacked a host of key features that developers were hoping to test drive.

The beta 2 revelation occurs deep in the comments of a Guthrie blog entry on Microsoft's IronRuby project, which you can find here.

Emerging at the same time is .NET Framework 3.5 beta 2. The updated framework adds some intriguing new talents to the framework.

"There are actually a number of small improvements to WPF in .NET 3.5," wrote Guthrie, who also revealed "new support for LINQ databinding with WPF."

Guthrie emphasized that both betas of .NET 3.5 and VS08 are full-featured previews. "We'll do some small features additions/changes based on new feedback on beta 2, but 99 percent of the features are all there," he wrote.

Do you plan to download the beta 2 of Visual Studio 2008? We'd like to get your impressions of the new beta. Write me at [email protected] and your comments could be featured in our next issue.

Posted by Michael Desmond on 07/25/2007 at 1:15 PM0 comments

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