Ray Ozzie as Pitchman

Michael Desmond and Keith Ward, editor in chief of MSDN, are at PDC09 this week. Here's the scoop direct from L.A.

Ray Ozzie looked a bit nervous as he took the stage today at PDC, but he quickly settled into a cloud-heavy presentation that offered attending developers a 60,000-foot view of Microsoft's ongoing efforts around Windows Azure.

Ozzie fared well on stage, but I was honestly surprised at how marketing-driven his message was. The Microsoft chief software architect, widely lauded as a keen and innovative software mind, hammered out Microsoft's highest level messages. Target Windows 7 as the ultimate client target and extend Web experiences from there; focus on online services and Windows Azure on the Web; and use Microsoft's latest innovations to tap into the enormous potential of cloud-based data-intensive applications and services.

Ozzie enthused about the "Dallas" project, which promises to give Windows Azure developers the ability to uniquely explore, manipulate and present data stored on public and private sources. But even there, his articulation of the initiative was extremely high level for a dev community clearly looking for a glimpse at the bare metal.

Server and Tools Business President Bob Muglia hosted the more technical half of the keynote session, playing host to a series of code-level demos and diving into the new Microsoft Application Fabric and detailing capabilities in Windows Identity Foundation.

Overall, the session was a mix that initially looked like it might disappoint with its lack of new technical detail, but then took a hard right turn that should have pleased most of the PDC crowd.

Posted by Michael Desmond on 11/17/2009 at 1:15 PM0 comments

Ready for PDC

I'm just about to head off for the Las Angeles Convention Center to attend the opening keynote of this year's Professional Developers Conference (PDC). While PDC09 will not match the scope and scale of PDC08, it's still going to be a major event in the .NET developer community.

We expect to hear a whole lot about Microsoft Azure and cloud computing development -- there are plenty of sessions dedicated to migrating to cloud environments, mixing on-premise and cloud operations and many similar topics. Oslo will also be re-visited, in a less ambitious form than it took during PDC08.

In a similar vein, I expect a lot of activity around .NET 4 as it continues to round into shipping shape. As with Azure, there are plenty of sessions addressing .NET 4, with looks at various foundation elements (WPF, WCF, WF), a ton of identity-related activities, as well as guidance on what's coming in C#, VB.NET and ASP.NET. VSM Executive Editor Kathleen Richards tells me we could see news around the Silverlight rich Internet application (RIA) platform.

A lot of these technologies are already well exposed to the development community. Heck, Windows Azure made its grand debut at last year's PDC, and Microsoft Technical Fellow Anders Hejlsberg was giving everyone the lowdown on C# 4.0 at this same venue a year ago. What we can expect to see, though, is a lot of concrete detail. Expect refined messaging, scoped down technology visions, and overall a more tactical and concrete PDC experience from Microsoft.

While PDC09 may not end up being the ultimate big-picture dev conference, it could yield more tactile value to .NET developers than many expect. Of course, it's not out of the question that Redmond decides to pull a surprise or three out of its hat.

We'll know soon enough.

Posted by Michael Desmond on 11/17/2009 at 4:59 PM0 comments

Random Keynote Tidbits

Michael Desmond and Keith Ward, editor in chief of MSDN, are at PDC09 this week. Here's the scoop direct from L.A.

When U.S. Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra was remotely demoing Microsoft's "information as a service" subsystem, codenamed Dallas, he demonstrated a job-search application running on a mobile device. It was a cool demo, but perhaps the most interesting aspect is the device on which the app ran -- an iPhone. No Windows Mobile devices here.

I'm sorry, but two-hour keynotes are just too long. Too many demos, too many speakers, too many Microsoft partners. Too much, too much.

How much new stuff was announced? Not much at all. Dallas was new, and looks promising. And the vision of Azure was somewhat clarified. Microsoft promised to make the adaptation of existing internal applications to cloud-enabled apps almost as simple as clicking a few buttons. This is what's known in the industry as "overpromising."

It's interesting to see the reaction in the press room when the coding portion of the keynote starts. Conversation among the reporters picks up. The buffet gets full in a hurry. Attention wanders off of the bigscreen monitor broadcasting the keynote, and the media schlubs start blogging, tweeting, etc. In other words, we all get bored.

How many of you are ready for Azure to go live on Jan. 1? I'd be interested to see if you are, and how you're going to use it. Email me and let me know.

Posted by Keith Ward on 11/17/2009 at 1:15 PM0 comments

Moving to Dallas

Michael Desmond and Keith Ward, the editor in chief of MSDN are at PDC09 this week. Here's the scoop direct from L.A.

There's a whole lot of publicly-available data out there. What can you do with it?

Microsoft says it can help you build applications with it, through its just-announced new project codenamed "Dallas". Dallas was previewed during today's PDC keynote presentation. The idea behind it, according to Microsoft Technical Fellow David Campbell, is about "Taking friction out of discovering, exploring and using data."

Microsoft Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie positioned Dallas as part of its overall Azure strategy. "It is an open catalog and market place for data, both public data and commercial data."

Ozzie offered a laundry list of capabilities. "Dallas makes the whole world of data better than the sum of its parts by creating a uniform discovery mechanism for data; a uniform binding and access mechanism for data; a uniform way of exposing trial data sets for developers; a uniform licensing model so data from multiple providers can be easily joined and recombined. By delivering data as a service, our aspiration is that Dallas might catalyze a whole new wave of remixing and experimentation by developers. [It is] an opportunity for innovation that is uniquely unlocked by the cloud."

There's lots of public domain data out there from government and other sources. Finding it and harnessing it to build useful applications is the goal of Dallas. A demo showed a mobile app that was developed "in a few days," according to the speaker. The program was a job-search app that used Dallas to cull public information about jobs, and use that information to find a match for open teaching positions.

Check out Microsoft's Dallas website for more information.

Posted by Keith Ward on 11/17/2009 at 1:15 PM0 comments

Microsoft Interoperability Mojo

Back in February 2008, Microsoft announced with a flourish that it was committing to improving the interoperability and openness of its products, technologies and processes. The published document set out four guiding principles for Microsoft's approach to interoperability: Open connections to Microsoft products, support for standards, data portability, and open engagement.

Microsoft faced a skeptical audience at the time -- not the least of whom were the regulators in the European Commission, who days later levied a $1.3 billion fine against Redmond for failure to comply with earlier findings. It was easy to be skeptical about the initial interoperability announcement. But since then, we've seen a steady stream of products, initiatives and announcements pointing to an ever more open and pragmatic Microsoft.

The latest activities come in the form of Microsoft's purchase of SourceGear's Teamprise Client Suite, an Eclipse plug-in that integrates the Team Provider menu into the Eclipse IDE to enable source control, work-item tracking and build and reporting. The acquisition means that Eclipse developers wanting to tap Microsoft's native TFS source control and collaboration resources can do so from the supported Teamprise client. In short, the acquisition extends Microsoft's ALM footprint in mixed platform development environment.

Perhaps more significant was the announcement this week that Novell had released a plug-in for Visual Studio, called Mono Tools for Visual Studio, that enables Windows-based .NET developers to create cross-platform, Mono-compatible applications directly within the Visual Studio 2008 (and later, 2010) IDE. A component of the wide-ranging Mono Project bank-rolled by Novell and headed up by Miguel de Icaza, Mono Tools could go a long way toward making cross-platform .NET development a reality.

Brian Goldfarb, director of Web/UX Platform and Tools at Microsoft, says Microsoft recognizes that many IT environments have mixed infrastructures. "We’ve intensified our efforts to make our products more interoperable, as well as to provide greater choice and opportunities for developers who use a mix of Microsoft and open source technologies."

Goldfarb points to efforts like the Windows Azure SDK for PHP, the toolkit for PHP with ADO.NET Data Services, the Restlet Extension for ADO.NET Data Services that bridge Java and .NET, and most recently the 1.0 release of the Eclipse plug-in for Silverlight developed by Soyatec.

Neither of the recent announcements are earth-shaking, and no one would argue that Microsoft is working against its own best interests with its interoperability efforts. But the trend endures. More developers not aligned with .NET are gaining access to elements of the .NET development stack.

Posted by Michael Desmond on 11/13/2009 at 1:15 PM0 comments

VS2010 Shows WPF 4 Advances

VSM Executive Editor Kathleen Richards on Wednesday reported in her RDN Express blog that Visual Studio 2010 Beta 2 is showing off some welcome improvements in text handling, courtesy of the updated WPF 4 Beta 2 graphics subsystem. New tweaks like TextFormattingMode and TextRenderingMode are giving developers much finer control over text display and position in the Visual Studio code editor interface. These improvements may be seeing first light in the Visual Studio IDE, but they'll be available to everyone once .NET 4 ships in March. Check out the rest of the RDN Express blog post here.

Posted by Michael Desmond on 10/30/2009 at 1:15 PM0 comments

Welcome to the Busy Season

People like to complain that the holiday shopping season keeps creeping forward, until it seems that Christmas lights are going up at the local shopping mall before the leaves even come down. Well, you can excuse developers if they aren't noticing a similar phenomenon with Microsoft. This year the fall season has been as much about developer tooling as it has been about football, turkey and holiday shopping.

In 2008, Microsoft held its first Professional Developers Conference (PDC08) in three years. The event, as I detailed in a Desmond File blog post, was a blowout. Redmond, it seemed, lined up almost everything for the show--from the dizzying gestalt of Windows Azure and a host of cloud-aligned technologies and initiatives, to the launch of the Windows 7 public beta, to intriguing efforts like the Oslo application modeling platform and repository and the initial CTP of Visual Studio 2010. In fact, several show attendees and one Microsoft manager I spoke with at the show last year said Redmond tried to do too much in too little time at PDC08.

So this year it looks like Microsoft is keen on stretching things out a bit. Like the ever-expanding holiday retail shopping season, the fall developer mardi gras this year started on Monday, with the SharePoint Conference 2009 in Las Vegas. Kicking off on the same day Microsoft dropped the feature-complete beta 2 versions of Visual Studio 2010 and .NET Framework 4, the SharePoint Conference spotlights a host of major updates to Microsoft's collaboration and information management platform.

On November 17 Microsoft will kick off its second PDC in as many years, the first time that's happened since 2000 and 2001, when Microsoft was rolling out a modest initiative you might have heard of, called the .NET Framework. This year, we can expect to hear plenty about Windows Azure and assorted cloud-related services and initiatives, .NET 4 and Visual Studio 2010 (due to go final in March 2010) and of course Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010 (expected to ship before the second half of next year). I suspect there will be some Silverlight stuff tucked in there, too.

In between is the Professional Association for SQL Server PASS Summit Unite 2009 in Seattle, starting November 2. While not a Microsoft-hosted event, the confab is the largest event for SQL Server professionals and will highlight advances in SQL Server 2008 R2 as well as actvities related to SQL in the cloud.

Our plan at Visual Studio Magazine and Redmond Developer News is to be all over this activity like a cheap suit. We'll be on-site covering many of these events, providing blog and online news coverage, as well as in-depth features and how-tos in print. But we need to hear from you. What can we do to help .NET developers stay ahead of the latest, seasonal launch wave? Email me at [email protected]

Posted by Michael Desmond on 10/21/2009 at 1:15 PM0 comments

VS2010 Beta 2 Hits the Street

Dave Mendlen sounded pretty jacked up on the phone on Friday. The senior director of developer marketing at Microsoft offered fresh details about the Visual Studio 2010 integrated development environment (IDE), which went to Beta 2 for MSDN subscribers earlier today. The general public will be able to download VS2010 Beta 2 bits on Wednesday, October 21. Mendlen also revealed that the final, shipping versions of VS2010 and .NET Framework 4 are scheduled for official release on March 22, 2010.

"We have reached the home stretch for Visual Studio 2010 and .NET Framework 4," Mendlen enthused. "This release is the most significant update to our developer offering in recent years."

There's a lot to like about what Mendlen was saying last week. Perhaps most notable is the concentrated effort Microsoft put into improving the performance of the VS2010 IDE. Developers working with Beta 1 voiced significant concerns about the IDE's sluggishness and resource-hungry ways in testing, and Mendlen says the new beta addresses these concerns.

VS2010 didn't just get faster, it got simpler, too. VS2010 will come in four packages: Ultimate, Premium, Professional, and Professional without an MSDN subscription. Mendlen said customers found sifting through all the VS2010 packages "just too hard." Price-wise, expect VS2010 Premium to be consistent with the role-specific versions of Visual Studio 2008, such as Team Architect and Team Database. VS2010 Professional pricing is unchanged, but the Ultimate version will cost a bit more, Mendlen said, citing additional features and functionality for the increase. There are some promotions in place for dev shops willing to buy up to the next higher SKU, as well as an offer for Azure computing time.

If you're itching to learn more about the new beta, shuffle over to the SharePoint Conference 2009 Web site. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is giving the opening keynote at the conference and is expected to talk about VS2010 during his remarks. Also look for in-depth news coverage from Visual Studio Magazine Executive Editor Kathleen Richards.

I'm looking forward to hearing from developers their opinions of VS2010 Beta 2. According to Mendlen, the beta 2 code is feature-complete and ready for developers to start working against it.If you are working with the new beta bits, I'd love to hear your opinion. Drop me a line at [email protected]

Posted by Michael Desmond on 10/19/2009 at 1:15 PM1 comments

Hair Raising Recovery

On Friday I blogged about AVIcode CEO Mike Curreri's intriguing management stunt, in which he promised to shave his head if the company made its Q3 financial targets. The really important news for AVIcode employees, though, was that Curreri vowed to pay back income lost in an across-the-board 15 percent salary cut the company had implemented earlier, by providing a quarterly bonus to affected employees. While the headshaving bit is amusing, the real news here is that AVIcode was able to turn its fortunes so decisively last quarter.

As Curreri tells it, things are picking up in the IT space, as cash-strapped shops are finally releasing budgets that he says "have been held for quarters." While the spending is being done very carefully, Curreri says AVIcode has benefitted from IT shops targeting application performance and health as a criticial business issue. He cites activity in AVIcode's end-user monitoring, SharePoint monitoring and System Center Operations Manager integration products for the success, though the company's stand-alone app performance monitoring products have done well also, he says.

So what really drove the successful Q3 turnaround? A recent Forrester Research report found that the IT market bottomed out in the first two quarters of 2009 and is now in the midst of a recovery. In 2010, the report says, IT consulting services are expected to increase by 11.7 percent. Curreri says that AVIcode got a jump on things thanks to an increased focus by IT shops to actively manage deployed applications.

"There were actually several factors that have been converging for several months. Most importantly, I believe, is the growing realization that application performance can and must be monitored and managed across the entire lifecycle of the application. It is no longer acceptable to throw the application over the fence to ops and hope for the best," Curreri says.

While Curreri expects the current recovery to be, and I quote, "slow and painful," he's optimistic about AVIcode's chances, due in large part to shifting priorities among IT customers.

"Good management of IT will be critcal to success in this environment; and application performance management solutions are now a requirement. Modern apps need modern management."

Are you seeing signs of IT spending loosening up, particularly in the area of application development? Email me at [email protected]

Posted by Michael Desmond on 10/19/2009 at 1:15 PM0 comments

SharePoint Conference 2009 Keynote

Watching the opening keynote at the SharePoint Conference 2009 event and things unfolded pretty much as I expected. There was a broad, fast-moving series of demos and presentations, complete with caffeine-taut delivery. Microsoft Director of the SharePoint Group Tom Rizzo has a future as a horse race announcer or at least an auctioneer.

As for SharePoint itself. Perhaps it's no surprise that Microsoft is working as hard as it can to work SharePoint into every unfilled nook, cranny and crevice in the business. But as Steve Ballmer gleefully listed one SharePoint-viable scenario after the next, I could not help but think of the old Saturday Night Live commercial spoof about Shimmer Floor Wax. Honestly, if Ballmer had finished his list with "It's a dessert topping and a floor wax," I wouldn't have been surprised.

Because as far as I can tell, Microsoft's SharePoint strategy pretty much consists of doing everything. This thing can run on-premise, as a hosted service or in the cloud on Microsoft's Azure servers. It can power intranets, Internet web sites and internal processes. It can provide business social networking and enterprise search and content management and video streaming and extended database access via the Office front end and… well, you get the idea.

Tellingly, on the same day that Microsoft announced it was shaving the number of Visual Studio SKUs down from nine to four, to address customer confusion and frustration, SharePoint 2010 is arriving with a passel of SKUs. It could be as many as 10, though I need to sit down and count them all. The proliferation reflects the unprecedented range of SharePoint, which has flourished since SharePoint 2007 into a full-fledged platform. Certainly dedicated SKUs like SharePoint FAST Enterprise Search reflect the expanding mission.

One interesting bit of re-branding: Windows SharePoint Services (WSS) has officially been renamed SharePoint Foundation. I think this will help clean up the branding a bit.

For .NET developers, the most exciting news is the expected arrival of native SharePoint development tooling and support within the Visual Studio 2010 IDE. As Tom Rizzo noted, SharePoint developers will now be able to launch SharePoint projects directly within Visual Studio, taking advantage of Team Foundation Server source code control and enjoying the benefits of one-click deploy and debug. SharePoint developers will no longer be consigned to working as second-class citizens in the Microsoft tool stack.

Oh, and in a bit of news that is sure to warm the icy hearts of SharePoint developers everywhere, Rizzo notes that SharePoint 2010 developers will be able, finally, to work in Windows Vista and Windows 7, rather than having to have the SharePoint environment hosted on Windows Server.

What are your thoughts of the news on SharePoint 2010 and integration with Visual Studio 2010? Email me at [email protected]

Posted by Michael Desmond on 10/19/2009 at 1:15 PM0 comments

AVIcode CEO's Hair Cut Could Mean Better Times Ahead

File this one under great moments in management. Times have been tough, particularly for software industry developers and executives who have had to weather the prolonged downturn. But at least one exec is putting his money where his mouth is. Or should I say, his hair.

Faced with a difficult market, Mike Curreri, chief executive officer of dev tools maker AVIcode, had put in place some pretty draconian cost-cutting measures, including a stiff 15 percent across-the-board salary cut. But he made a promise at the time that if AVIcode managed to exceed its third quarter goals, the salaries would be reinstated and bonuses would be issued to make up the lost income.

Most tellingly, he promised that if the company beat its quarterly target, he'd have his head shaved in the company lobby. And that is exactly what happened. AVIcode made its numbers, and Mike Curreri found himself separated from a headful of hair. Each AVIcode employee got an opportunity to carve a swath of hair from their CEO's head.

In what has been a truly terrible economic environment, I'm as cynical as the next guy. But I have to applaud Curreri's willingness to take a creative step when it comes to inspiring his employees. I hope to speak with Curreri a bit later this weekend about exactly how his team made their numbers, and what it might portend for the .NET development market in the months to come.

I'll also find out what he's planning to let his employees do to him after the fourth quarter.

Posted by Michael Desmond on 10/16/2009 at 1:15 PM0 comments

Better Together: RDN Merges with Visual Studio Magazine

If you've done any business with Microsoft the last few years, you've no doubt heard the phrase "better together." It's become a mantra of sorts in Redmond as Microsoft has worked to create value not just in the applications it develops, but in the interactions they enable. We've seen the strategy employed in everything from Windows Server and Exchange to Windows 7 and Live.

There's a bit of "better together" going on in the halls of Redmond Developer News (RDN) and Visual Studio Magazine (VSM) today. We just announced that RDN, the twice-monthly publication for development managers, will be integrating its print operations into VSM.

The publication we launched in November 2006 with a cover feature trumpeting the arrival of .NET Framework 3.0 is hardly going away. In fact, you'll see a lot of RDN content in future issues of VSM. RDN Senior Editor Kathleen Richards ([email protected]) will be in charge of running the RDN Web site, RedDevNews.com. Tuned to the needs of software development managers, RDN online will continue to offer a unique blend of news, opinion and technology guidance. I expect good things out of that site in the weeks and months to come.

In a sense, RDN and VSM have been two sides of the same, shiny coin. RDN gives developers fair warning of what is coming, be it new technologies or newly discovered challenges, and VSM shows them how to deal with it.

VSM, of course, is the leading publication for enterprise-oriented professional developers. The publication actually dates clear back to 1991, when it was launched as Basic Pro Magazine and later became Visual Basic Programmers Journal. Today, VSM delivers practical, proven and unbiased how-to articles and insight for enterprise development professionals working with Microsoft tools and technologies. VSM and RDN have been sibling publications since 2007, after 1105 Media purchased VSM's parent company, FTP.

The decision to combine RDN with the VSM print publication reflects the fact that developers need context. They need to know about the tools they are mastering so they can make better decisions on how to use them. To that end, future issues of VSM will deliver the kind of in-depth features, timely technology and product news, and expert insight that you've seen in RDN since 2006.

The transition also brings significant changes to the VSM staff. I'm moving over from RDN to serve as VSM's editor in chief, while Kathleen Richards comes on board as executive editor. Jeffrey Schwartz ([email protected]), who has been executive editor at RDN since 2007, also joins the VSM team as the news editor. He's in charge of driving much of the front-of-the-book content in the updated magazine.

Jeff is also stepping up to serve as editor of ADTmag.com, where he is working to reinvigorate the Web site dedicated to covering cross-platform enterprise application development issues and technology. Also known as Application Development Trends, the site enjoys a strong following -- so strong, in fact, that we've decided to invest some of our best people into its success. At RDN Jeff has shown himself to be an outstanding leader and manager. Now he'll bring those talents to his own site.

As for VSM, the new staff reflects an expanding mission for the 18-year-old publication. The magazine will continue to publish cutting-edge tutorial and how-to content. But our coverage will expand to include issue-oriented features, timely news analysis and incisive commentary. Developers working with tooling as expansive and as powerful as Visual Studio don't work in a vacuum, and VSM will reflect that.

Finally, those of you who are VSM readers are likely familiar with outgoing Editor in Chief Patrick Meader and Managing Editor Guy Wright. It's been my pleasure to work on occasion with Patrick over the past two years, and I've respected him deeply for his intelligence, composure and commitment to principle. Patrick is as dedicated and forthright a person as I've ever run across in my 16 years in IT publishing, and his success over the years at VSM is testament to that.

I want to emphasize that Visual Studio Magazine, Redmond Developer News and ADTmag.com are here to serve you. With so many big and exciting changes afoot, we're more anxious than ever to hear the opinions and input of developers and dev managers. What can we do to improve VSM? How can we make our Web sites better? What kinds of stories, content, tutorials and interaction are you looking for? And how can these things be tuned to help you do your jobs better? E-mail me at [email protected].

Posted by Michael Desmond on 01/30/2009 at 1:15 PM1 comments