I was talking to the folks at ComponentOne
the other day regarding their Studio
Enterprise 2008 v3
suite of cross-platform components. The suite was released
last week and packages up a wide range of modules for WPF, Silverlight, ASP.NET,
WinForms, .NET Compact Framework, iPhone mobile and even ActiveX development.
What, no support for Win16 user interface controls and dialog boxes? I'm disappointed.
One question that did come up during the meeting was the timing of this release,
which occurs just as the broader economy (beyond the previously devastated financial
and real estate sectors) has begun to accelerate into a dive. Despite widespread
calls for sharply reduced IT and dev spending in 2009, Chris Meredith, product
manager for ComponentOne, said the downturn may actually increase opportunities
for his group to sell components to dev shops.
"In these dire economic times, unfortunately people are looking for the
best way to do things in the shortest amount of time for the least amount of
money," Meredith said. "And when you factor in the amount of man-hours
our controls can offer, I think people are still looking at it as a very necessary
and viable option, even with the downturn of the economy. So I don't think we
are being that affected by it, to be honest with you."
Could Meredith be whistling past the graveyard? Sure. IDC has adjusted its
growth projections for the U.S. IT market in 2009 to 0.9 percent, down from
a previously projected 4.2 percent estimate. The collapse of numerous financial
institutions and the dire condition of the Big Three automakers will no doubt
produce broad IT and development sector dislocations.
But John Gantz, chief research officer at IDC, noted in a statement that "IT
is in a better position than ever to resist the downward pull of a slowing economy."
He singled out the importance of IT and development in mission-critical operations.
In short, businesses that hope to operate throughout the downturn will have
to keep producing fresh code and deploying and maintaining IT systems to do
What do you think? With dev shops no doubt counting every penny, are pre-packaged
component libraries an effective way to stretch developer productivity and get
the most code for your dollar? E-mail me at [email protected].
Posted by Michael Desmond on 12/09/2008 at 1:15 PM0 comments
Sun Microsystems today officially announced the launch of its JavaFX runtime,
platform and development tools for rich Internet application (RIA) development.
JavaFX consists of the JavaFX Development Environment compiler, libraries and
runtime tooling; the JavaFX Production Suite for managing assets and workflow;
and the JavaFX Desktop runtime environment. Developers craft applications using
the declarative JavaFX Script.
Sun officials also announced JavaFX tooling plug-ins for the Eclipse and NetBeans
IDEs, as well as plug-in filters for Adobe PhotoShop and Illustrator design
software. The plug-ins enable JavaFX developers and Adobe Creative Suite designers
to collaborate on common files, much the way .NET developers can share XAML-based
projects between Visual Studio and Expression Blend.
"It lets you take your illustrations and graphics and all the richness...and
export into JavaFX format. You get a two-way workflow," Param Singh, Sun
senior director of Java marketing, told me. "Initially, the NetBeans plug-in
will be somewhat more feature-rich than Eclipse. We are looking to reach [feature]
parity in the spring."
JavaFX is designed to run either inside or outside of a client Web browser.
Waters reports, systems equipped with the Java Standard Edition 6 Update
10 can run JavaFX apps. The JavaFX Mobile Runtime, expected in the spring of
2009, will enable app development for handheld devices and smartphones.
JavaFX 1.0 joins Microsoft Silverlight 2, released in October, and the Adobe
stack of Flash, Flex and Adobe Integrated Runtime (AIR) as the third major RIA
offering. While some industry watchers are skeptical of the late entry, Michael
Cote, industry analyst for Redmonk Inc, said JavaFX enjoys a key advantage.
"As with Silverlight, JavaFX has the huge advantage of an existing developer
community -- namely Java," Cote said. "What comes with that community
is a strong understanding and connection to application development and services
and back-ends that they require. That community is heavily geared toward Web
UI'ed applications now and have been without a GUI layer for a long time."
Peter O'Kelly, principal analyst for O'Kelly Consulting, is less sanguine.
"I believe the best-case scenario for JavaFX is niche status within strongly
Java-focused organizations," O'Kelly said. "It may be great technology
in many respects, but the odds are against JavaFX reaching anything close to
the ecosystem momentum Adobe Flash Player has and Microsoft Silverlight is building
-- and of course Sun is not in a position to invest a lot in trying to change
O'Kelly is referring to Sun's November announcement that it will lay
off up to 6,000 employees over the next year, a reduction that could ultimately
account for more than 15 percent of Sun's total workforce. Sun's stock price
has also been battered, falling below $4 per share from about $20 a year ago.
Sun President and CEO Jonathan Schwartz argued that Sun's financial struggles
have little to do with JavaFX's prospects for success.
"It's important not to confuse the global financial crisis and its impact
on Sun's high-end systems business, with our strategy to build out and to continue
to develop our market opportunity," Schwartz told RDN in an interview.
"The Java platform today is our most financially successful software platform
at Sun. It's a very profitable enterprise. [JavaFX] will simply accelerate that."
Do you intend to give JavaFX a close look, and could it sway your dev shop
from other RIA alternatives? E-mail me at [email protected]
and let me know what you think of Sun's RIA effort.
Posted by Michael Desmond on 12/04/2008 at 1:15 PM2 comments
The final Redmond Developer New
s issue of 2008 -- due to hit the street
on Dec. 15 -- will offer a glimpse into what promises to be a very stressful
and no doubt eventful 2009. Among the observations of our expert panelists:
- The economic downturn will do more than crater IT budgets and throw developers
out of their jobs. It will spur programmers to adopt cutting-edge technologies
and master new skills that will ultimately position them for the recovery
to come. The downturn will also transform dev organizations as they flock
to hybrid, open source/proprietary solution stacks in an effort to balance
cost and value.
- 2009 also promises to be a year of catching up, as developers assess new
and refreshed technologies like Silverlight 2, WPF, Windows Azure and .NET
Framework 4.0. You'll see real interest in cloud computing among firms suddenly
strapped for cash to pay for capital expenditures, but the heady task of planning
any cloud transition will prove daunting.
- No surprise, 2009 promises to be a busy year for rich Internet application
(RIA) development. But what's really interesting is how enterprises may turn
to RIA tools and runtimes to help them deliver cost-effective apps.
What challenges and changes do you think await Microsoft developers as they
enter 2009? E-mail me at [email protected]
with your prescient takes and we'll look to publish them in an upcoming issue
Posted by Michael Desmond on 12/02/2008 at 1:15 PM1 comments
You know what they say about Microsoft software: It always takes them three
tries to get it right.
Well, if the third time's really the charm in Redmond, we should all be pretty
excited about the early news on the next version of Microsoft's Silverlight
rich Internet application (RIA) platform and runtime. Scott Guthrie, Microsoft's
corporate VP of the .NET Developer Division, offered a sneak peek at what's
to come in Silverlight 3 in a blog
post on Sunday.
Silverlight 3 will add native support for additional video formats, including
MPEG-4/H.264 encoded video. It's the first time a non-Microsoft-developed video
format will be supported by Silverlight. Guthrie also said Silverlight 3 will
bump up graphics, adding graphics hardware acceleration and enhanced 3-D display
Important for corporate developers, Silverlight 3 will offer enhanced data-binding
support, further increasing Silverlight's appeal for line of business application
development. Additional controls are expected, as well. On the tool front, Visual
Studio and Visual Web Developer Express will support a "fully editable
and interactive designer for Silverlight," according to Guthrie. Tool support
for data-binding will be included.
Guthrie failed to talk schedules, referring only to "the roadmap in place
over the next year." However, the FAQ
page on the Microsoft Silverlight Overview Web site indicates "a future
version of Silverlight" is due early in 2009. That same page indicates
Silverlight will add support for AAC encoded audio -- the same format used by
It's clear that Microsoft is continuing to push hard in its effort to advance
Silverlight as a platform for serious RIA development. But a lot of questions
remain, particularly for business developers who are still clamoring for essentials.
Things like printing support, clipboard support and better text-handling facilities
are all high on the still-need list among these coders.
What do you urgently need to see in Silverlight 3? Let me know and we'll be
sure to bug Scott Guthrie about it next time we get a chance! E-mail me at [email protected].
Posted by Michael Desmond on 11/18/2008 at 1:15 PM0 comments
The current issue of Redmond Developer News
features a newly arrived
columnist. Starting in the Nov. 15 issue, which focuses on the just-concluded
2008 Microsoft Professional Developers Conference, Andrew Brust will be penning
the Redmond Review column.
Andrew is chief of New Technology for consultancy twentysix New York, a Microsoft
regional director, and co-author of Programming Microsoft SQL Server 2008
(Microsoft Press, 2008). He's also deeply engaged with the development community,
serving as a member of the Microsoft Advisory Council and as co-chair of the
VSLive! family of conferences.
We asked Andrew to write for us because he flat-out knows his stuff. As a regional
director (in fact, he was recognized as Microsoft's Regional Director of the
Year in 2008), Andrew has links both to the internal workings in Redmond and
to the external concerns of Microsoft's customers. His grasp of technical issues
and business concerns is both balanced and deep.
Andrew's Redmond Review column will appear every issue in the news section
of RDN. He'll offer insight into Microsoft's strategic direction, provide
critiques of important new technologies and generally help managers get a better
grasp of the shifting development landscape.
You can find Andrew's inaugural Redmond Review column here.
Do you have a question for Andrew or perhaps a topic you'd like him to get
after? E-mail me at [email protected].
Posted by Michael Desmond on 11/18/2008 at 1:15 PM0 comments
We're taking a close, hands-on look at the Windows 7 client operating system
for an upcoming issue, and as part of that effort I started talking with developers
about their impressions of the 6801 pre-beta build that was distributed
at the 2008 Microsoft Professional Developers Conference (PDC) in Los Angeles
If one theme emerged from my discussions with attendees at PDC and after, it's
that Microsoft seems to have delivered a remarkably stable preview product.
Anyone who recalls the rough-and-tumble days of the Windows Vista development
cycle knows this is a huge win for a group that just three years ago was plagued
by ugly delays, buggy code and redacted features.
Stephen Chapman should know. As the author of the UX
Evangelist blog, Stephen has been all over the Windows 7 dev cycle and is
currently running the pre-beta build on a desktop and a laptop PC.
"Windows 7 performs beautifully in both of those environments, which is
excellent news for people with low-end computers who worried about how Windows
Vista would perform on their machines," Chapman told me in an e-mail exchange
Chapman has his share of complaints, including issues with Internet Explorer
8 performance and problems with some drivers being properly recognized by the
OS. But he said the biggest problem facing Windows 7 could be the perception
that it's little more than a "dot" release to Vista. Call it Vista-dot-one.
Or don't. Chapman said the new Windows 7 taskbar offers a ton of value to developers
looking for ways to better expose their apps on the Windows desktop. More important
is the inclusion of .NET Framework 3.5 SP1, which Chapman pointed out includes
new ADO.NET and ASP.NET data services and assemblies, as well as improved WPF
graphics performance. The updated .NET code certainly adds to Windows 7's dev
Chapman is enthusiastic about Windows 7. More enthusiastic, certainly, than
I am, and I'm generally quite impressed with what I've seen to date. But my
positive response has been more about what Microsoft didn't do this time around
-- specifically, over-reach on its dev efforts -- than what it did. I honestly
like that people are grumbling about Windows 7 being a point release. And I
outright love the fact that this pre-beta build is proving fairly stable.
Have you worked with the pre-beta build of Windows 7? Do you think Microsoft
didn't go far enough in advancing its latest client OS? E-mail me at [email protected].
Posted by Michael Desmond on 11/13/2008 at 1:15 PM0 comments
Microsoft is working overtime to change the way you write software. That message
might have gotten lost in all the news about Windows Azure, Windows 7, and all
the .NET 4.0 and Visual Studio advances at the Microsoft 2008 Professional Developers
Conference (PDC) last month. But one look at the messaging and tooling coming
out of the "Oslo" project makes this fact crystal-clear.
We spoke at PDC with Burley Kawasaki, director of product management in the
Connected Systems Division at Microsoft. He's in charge of managing the Oslo
project, which is comprised of the "M" modeling language, the "Quadrant"
visual modeling tool and the Oslo repository. These tools, currently in community
technology preview (CTP), allow developers to create their own domain specific
languages (DSLs) that are tuned to address a specific set of issues or requirements.
Just as important, Oslo encourages developers to further abstract their thinking,
building application behaviors based on configurable models that can be reused
To hear Kawasaki tell it, Oslo is just the latest -- albeit, most significant
-- move in what has been a years-long trend at Microsoft toward model-driven
"We benefit from the fact that the core .NET platform has been getting
much more model-driven over the last three-plus years. If you think about things
like Silverlight or WPF, they are very model-driven. The presentation layer
isn't specified as code, it's specified as XAML, and it's configurable so if
I change the definition of the XAML file, it changes the presentation of my
application," Kawasaki explained.
"The same is true for Web services. If I change the configuration metadata
on a WCF-based service, it can change the behavior of the service. Or ASP.NET
with the latest MVC extensions -- very model-driven. The whole structure of
your application now is really a set of models, so as a platform it is getting
much more model-driven," he concluded.
Microsoft developers seem attentive to Microsoft's modeling mantra. The Lap
Around Oslo presentation at PDC, hosted by Microsoft Product Unit Manager Douglas
Purdy, was packed with developers anxious to get familiar with the new tooling.
Based on the response I saw at the presentation, the Oslo tooling was well-received.
Have you worked with the Oslo CTP? What are your impressions of the M modeling
language and Quadrant visual editor? What works and what still needs work? E-mail
me at [email protected]. And let
me know if you think Microsoft's modeling push can really help dev shops better
build and manage their applications.
Posted by Michael Desmond on 11/11/2008 at 1:15 PM1 comments
Maybe Steven Sinofsky and the Windows 7 group at Microsoft have mastered the
fine art of lowering expectations. Or perhaps Windows Vista did the job for
them. Whatever the case, it seems Windows 7 is poised for a warm welcome among
IT and development professionals alike, when it ships (possibly) in 2009.
But we're impatient. We want to hear what you think of the next great Microsoft
client OS right now. If you've worked with the Windows 7 pre-beta, send us an
e-mail with your thoughts. And let us know if the new features and capabilities
of the OS might make Windows 7 a more appealing dev target. E-mail me at [email protected].
Posted by Michael Desmond on 11/11/2008 at 1:15 PM1 comments
When I read the news that Microsoft was officially ending the licensing of
Windows 3.x earlier this month, my first surprised thought was: Microsoft still
licenses Windows 3.x?
Windows 3.x, of course, was the last 16-bit operating environment designed
to run atop the DOS operating system. Windows 3.0 was introduced in 1990 and
it quickly captured broad market share for the struggling brand. Several updates,
including Windows 3.1, Windows 3.11 and Windows for Workgroups, would follow
over the next four years. By 1995, that run was over, as the vastly successful
Windows 95 operating system introduced 32-bit computing to the consumer desktop.
But Windows 3.x wasn't dead. Far from it, the little operating environment
that could continued to churn away in businesses and homes for years. Microsoft
provided support for Windows 3.x through 2001, at which point the writing was
on the wall for most client deployments -- it was high time to high-tail it
over to Windows XP and its far more stable and capable, NT-derived, pure-32-bit
And still, like William Shatner's improbable career, Windows 3.x continued
to live on. As BBC News' Mark Ward reported,
cash registers, ticketing systems, in-flight entertainment systems and sundry
other embedded applications made use of the remarkable software that helped
launch a juggernaut.
Today, Windows 3.x is a dim memory. And yet, it remains an archetype in the
Microsoft pantheon. Its look and feel drove user interface design at Microsoft
for years, and still lingers on millions of XP-based PCs. And the product's
delayed-action success -- breaking through only on the third version -- established
a well-earned industry meme that major Microsoft products take two, three or
four versions before they can be considered mature and successful.
Heck, MSN is still trying to break through.
The passing of Windows 3.x honestly doesn't mean much. But it does beg the
question: What were you doing in development when Windows 3.x was gracing everyone's
desktop? E-mail me at [email protected]
and tell your tales of writing software for Win3x.
Posted by Michael Desmond on 11/06/2008 at 1:15 PM4 comments
By this time tomorrow, we'll all finally know the result of what has proven
to be the longest and one of the most passionately fought U.S. presidential
campaigns in memory.
In fact, my first election-related memory goes way back to 1972. I don't remember
much about second grade, to be honest, but I do have a clear memory of marching
around with other kids in my classroom, singing: "Nixon, Nixon, he's our
man, put McGovern in the can!"
I like to think I've come a long way since second grade, but the sad fact is
that much of our electoral discourse and communication remains as simplistic
and silly as that little Nixon-inspired ditty from 1972. Whether it's the partisan
shrieking of campaign hacks or the ruthless spin-cycling of mass-media ideologues,
modern presidential campaigns can seem to more resemble a simple-minded classroom
parade than a reasoned debate over the issues.
But that's changing. And it's changing because bright people are picking up
powerful tools to push past the curtain of rhetoric and sloganeering to actually
see what's going on.
Take the fantastic FiveThirtyEight.com
Web site, which is fanatically dedicated to breaking down and tracking every
poll to create a powerful, aggregate picture of the election. Nate Silver, founder
of the site and a partner at sports media firm Baseball Prospectus, publishes
the site on a Blogger.com template, and uses Stata Data Analysis and Statistical
Software and Microsoft Excel 2007 to produce detailed results and charts.
When the Drudge Report loudly touted a poll in mid-October showing that John
McCain had pulled within two points of Barack Obama -- within the poll's margin
of error -- FiveThirtyEight.com offered
vital context. Silver's aggregate snapshot of national polls showed no significant
The point is, advancing tools and software are having a very real and visceral
impact on the electoral process in the United States. From analyzing and publishing
aggregate poll data, to delivering finely targeted blogs and news reports, to
making available -- on demand -- countless hours of campaign-related video and
content, voters today have more access to more pure electoral information today
than ever before.
And much of that is a direct result of advancing development efforts in the
area of Web publishing, data handling and media distribution. It's amazing to
think, honestly, just how the campaigns of 2012 will look, given the current,
rapid-fire advances in underlying Web dev technologies.
What innovations might we see help change the election landscape in 2012? E-mail
me at [email protected].
Posted by Michael Desmond on 11/04/2008 at 1:15 PM1 comments
As the father of three young children, I can't help but feel a bit of a Christmas
afternoon vibe in the air as the 2008 Microsoft Professional Developers Conference
closes. The packages have been opened. The gifts have been strewn about the
house. Long months of anticipation have given way, inevitably, to a bittersweet
mix of contentment and exhaustion.
In short, it's been a very good several days in L.A., both for developers who've
learned so much about the future direction of Microsoft-based development, and
for Microsoft itself, which I feel did a very good job of articulating its most
important strategy since the launch of .NET Framework in 2000. Despite some
confusion among attendees around the Windows
Azure cloud OS launch, it's apparent to me that Microsoft decisively moved
the ball forward on several fronts this PDC.
PDC 2008 also marked a critical changing of the guard. This is, I believe,
the first PDC to not feature Bill Gates as a keynote speaker. Mind you, we're
talking about PDCs stretching clear back to 1992 and the initial pitch of "Chicago,"
later known as Windows 95. The fact that things have gone so well is a real
testament to the new vanguard in Redmond (I'm looking at you, Ray Ozzie, Steven
Sinofsky and Scott Guthrie).
More important, the high-level messaging coming out of this conference was
remarkably well-orchestrated and harmonized. Make no mistake, the Azure effort
could fall flat on its face two years from now, but the approach Microsoft is
taking looks sound: Leverage heavily against .NET, align development on the
familiar Visual Studio IDE and provide plenty of choice along the continuum
of pure, premises-based server deployments to full-on, Azure-hosted services
in the cloud.
Microsoft has a ton of problems to solve in all this, not the least of which
is how to mesh these new Microsoft-owned services with the existing channel
of value-added resellers and service providers who've moved into managed services
and hosting. I'll leave it to my astute colleague Scott Bekker, editor in chief
of Redmond Channel Partner, to ponder those questions.
But even without the prospect of a channel fight, Microsoft has to deliver
a lot of very robust technologies even as it manages server product families
that have suddenly spawned services operations (SQL Server now
adds SQL Services, for example). As Microsoft Technical Fellow Dave Campbell
told us, it's a big job to staff up the services skills to drive the Azure-side
development, and there's a lot of additional coordination that needs to be carried
forward to keep services and server versions of SQL, Exchange, Office and the
like in sync.
Do I think Microsoft can pull it off? Yeah, I do. But if Microsoft stays true
to form, it won't happen as quickly and as smoothly as you might hope or think.
Consider the sudden emergence of Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) at this
year's PDC. This is a technology that was released to a good deal of internal
excitement within Microsoft, but got squelched by a combination of missing tools,
wildfire AJAX Web development and the poor uptake of Windows Vista. Microsoft
all but set WPF aside, at least publicly, while it stumped heavily for WPF's
kissing cousin: the Silverlight rich Internet application platform and runtime
that uses the same Extensible Markup Language (XAML) technology and tooling
And now, at PDC 2008, it turns out that WPF is at work all over the place --
from Windows 7 to the compelling Surface touch UI, and even to the design surface
in the Visual
Studio 2010 CTP and new Oslo Quadrant visual modeling tool. Component makers
like Infragistics and DevExpress say they saw a ton of interest among developers
anxious to get started with WPF. As the old saw goes: It took three years, but
WPF may finally be an overnight success.
Which is fitting. Because at the end of the day, PDC is about the long view.
And it has almost always been Microsoft's dogged willingness to invest and invest
and invest into its new products and tooling that have ultimately brought success
to the same. So yes, we might still be scoffing a bit at Azure at PDC 2010 or
whenever the next confab occurs -- but that doesn't mean we should be counting
We'll be covering the PDC extensively in our upcoming issues and want to include
your insight! Send us your thoughts on the PDC 2008 event and how it was useful
(or not-so-useful) to you. E-mail me at [email protected].
Posted by Michael Desmond on 10/31/2008 at 1:15 PM0 comments
Lost amid all the sturm und drang of the Windows
Studio 2010 CTP
is a rather intriguing tale about Microsoft's effort to
introduce and support parallel programming across both the native C++ and .NET
dev stacks. Not so ironically, as it turns out, Microsoft is getting very busy
with parallelization...in parallel.
On the one side is Lynne Hill's Parallel Computing Platform organization, which
is tasked with infusing parallelism into the .NET stack and providing a means
for .NET developers to enable concurrency in their managed code projects using
familiar languages like C# and VB.NET.
This stuff is happening already, Hill pointed out. The F# functional programming
language provides for parallelism through its declarative, side-effect-free
nature, while LINQ and parallel LINQ (pLINQ) enable queries to be run in parallel.
The Visual Studio 2010 CTP provides parallelism support, including a profiler
for assessing how existing applications might be adapted for concurrent operation.
Hill provides a measured, thoughtful and strategic approach to parallelism,
one that will no doubt merge well with the growing list of capabilities in the
On the other side are Tandy Trower and George Chrysanthakopoulos from the Microsoft
Robotics Group. As GM of the Robotics Group, Trower said he inherited from Craig
Mundie an intriguing incubation project, which has emerged today as the Decentralized
Software Services (DSS) and the Concurrency and Coordination Runtime (CCR) technologies.
Engineered by Partner Software Architect Chrysanthakopoulos, DSS and CCR have
emerged as an attractive parallelism solution for enterprise customers like
Siemens and Tyco.
The CCR and DSS technologies will eventually end up in the .NET stack. But
for the time being, a growing list of enterprise customers are turning to this
point solution to enable massively parallel code infrastructures.
It's not the first time that Microsoft has delivered multiple technologies
and approaches to a single problem, and no doubt it will not be the last. What's
remarkable is just how different the approaches are. Chrysanthakopoulos and
Trower couldn't help but laugh when I characterized them as guerilla developers,
wearing camouflage and face paint as they worked their way through the high
grass toward their goal.
"We're not in Dev Div, we're a very small group," Chrysanthakopoulos
said. "We're always kind of in the back corner, but we knew it was a solid
model. And we also knew that if we go out there and we become public at least
in one market, people will see the power of this thing and they did. Now we
have things like Siemens and Tyco and some other really big names I can't talk
about yet that really are doing stuff at a scale that, with most Microsoft products,
we don't advertise at that scale."
Expect to hear more about Microsoft's parallelism efforts this week and in
our Nov. 15 issue. Are you looking hard to parallelize your existing code? E-mail
me at [email protected].
Posted by Michael Desmond on 10/30/2008 at 1:15 PM0 comments