VSLive!, Day 2: Microsoft Pitches New App Model for Office and SharePoint

Wednesday's keynote address at the Visual Studio Live! conference in Las Vegas explored the new development models, tools and capabilities around SharePoint 2013, Office 2013 and Office 365.

Jim Nakashima, lead program manager in the Office Developer Tools division at Microsoft, opened his Day Two keynote by noting the same point stressed on Tuesday by Steven Guggenheimer, Microsoft corporate vice president of Developer Platform Evangelism, during his keynote address. That is, the decisions companies are making to deploy applications to the cloud are no longer about "if," but "when."

Microsoft recently completed a round of product launches enabling the new app model for Office and SharePoint. Office 2013 was released in January 2013, while the cloud-based Office 365 was released in February. The Office Developer Tools for Visual Studio were released in March.

Nakashima went on to walk through the cloud-based development model introduced with Office 2013 and SharePoint 2013, and showed how this model coexists with Web standards-based and .NET server-side development. He then worked through a series of demos, showing how developers can embed app functionality in Excel spreadsheets and Outlook e-mail windows, before exploring how developers can quickly build applications for SharePoint that can be deployed to provider-hosted or auto-hosted (that is, Microsoft) servers.

Nakashima went on to highlight the app lifecycle capabilities of the new platforms, showing how the Web-based Team Foundation Service enables continuous deployment and provides source control, continuous integration, and features like burndown charts and work-item tracking.

In an interview after the keynote, Nakashima said that Microsoft's strategy around Office and SharePoint is to build upon the well-understood Web app development model and give developers a seamless path to shift their Web development efforts to SharePoint.

"There's just a little bit of goo on top of [a Web app] you need to do to make that app for SharePoint. And you get awesome identity [management] by default with that little bit of goo," Nakashima explained. "It is literally just tying a manifest to a URL. That URL is hooked on a Web server. So everything you've done as a Web developer and developing a Web app continues to exist, but you get some value-add on top of that."

Once deployed to SharePoint, developers can work to take advantage of the capabilities of the platform, Nakashima said. SharePoint features like workflow, search, remote event procedures, lists and libraries all become available to developers that move their Web apps to SharePoint. In addition, SharePoint offers a standard way to surface apps within the organization, using the new App Catalog.

Perhaps most important, new Office and SharePoint apps streamline the end user experience, Nakashima said.

"People are already using these apps," he said. "Why have them bounce out to different apps and experiences? Just keep them in the apps and experiences they're in."

Posted by Michael Desmond on 03/27/2013 at 1:16 PM0 comments


WebMatrix 3 Release Coming April 4

At the Visual Studio Live! 2013 Las Vegas conference today, Microsoft announced the release to Web (RTW) date for WebMatrix 3, the company's free tool for creating and deploying Web sites.

In an interview before his presentation, "From 0 to Web Site in 60 Minutes with WebMatrix," Mark Rosenberg, an instructor with Microsoft certified training partner New Horizons, revealed that the new version of WebMatrix will debut on April 4, 2013. Rosenberg noted that the WebMatrix 3 CTP was released in mid-March, and is currently available for download.

Using WebMatrix, Web developers can build, deploy and maintain Web sites using a variety of languages and platforms, including PHP, Node.js and HTML5. Rosenberg described WebMatrix as "Visual Studio simplified." It provides the Visual Studio HTML editor and Web site-creation experience, along with other Visual Studio tools like IntelliSense, yet still gives developers from various platforms the power and simplicity of "one-click" Web site creation and deployment.

"The idea is to get a Web site up and running as simply as possible," Rosenberg said. "One of the problems that I always have in Visual Studio is… 'I don't have the prerequisites: I need to install PHP to make it work, I need to do this [or that],' and I install PHP, and then it doesn't work. WebMatrix takes care of all those problems for you. [If] you don't have PHP installed, and you've picked a PHP-based Web site, it installs PHP. It actually takes care of installing everything you need on your machine."

The most notable improvement in WebMatrix 3, according to Rosenberg, is the tool's strengthened integration with Windows Azure. (He noted that the Microsoft ASP.NET team -- a team from the Windows Azure side of Microsoft -- is behind WebMatrix, perhaps driving some of the interoperability.) He described the WebMatrix/Window Azure experience as "smooth, easy [and] simple," and noted that, "essentially, you can develop a Web site and, with a click, put it up in Azure if you have an Azure account." Rosenberg mentioned the 10 free Web sites that come with the 90-day free trial of Azure, noting that Microsoft is "not charging you to put them up there -- so without even an MSDN account, you can put a lot of stuff up there, get a Web site going, put it up in the cloud, have it running."

Another important piece of the WebMatrix 3 update is the addition of source control support for Git and Team Foundation Server (TFS). TypeScript support has also been added to the tool, along with improved remote editing and provisioning capabilities.

Asked who the target dev audience is for WebMatrix, Rosenberg replied: "If you're using Visual Studio and you really, really like it, you don't have to use [WebMatrix]. But if you have people that don't know how to use Visual Studio, or if you need to set up Web sites that someone else is going to maintain, this is a great tool for them."

He noted that WebMatrix is "open to anyone," and stressed the product's interoperability aims, saying that though it is not an open source product, it "cooperates with open source."

"[Even people who] work with Visual Studio a lot have trouble sometimes getting all the little parts to work correctly. With WebMatrix you don't have that problem...Everything in WebMatrix just works --it's all designed to just work," Rosenberg said. "Whatever kind of Web site you want to make, it's easy to do in WebMatrix."

Posted by Katrina Carrasco on 03/27/2013 at 1:16 PM0 comments


Steven Guggenheimer Keynote Shines Light on Modern Apps

Steven Guggenheimer, corporate vice president and chief evangelist of Developer and Platform Evangelism at Microsoft, took the stage at Visual Studio Live! 2013 Las Vegas Tuesday afternoon to outline Microsoft's vision for the emerging class of modern apps in a device- and services-centric world.

Guggenheimer noted the challenge posed by the rapid explosion in the number of deployed devices, from 500 million worldwide in 2003 to an estimated 50 billion by 2020. However, he called the effort to develop for these devices "just one half of the conversation." The flip side, he said, is enabling services to constantly interact with these devices and with other services.

Throughout the talk Guggenheimer kept coming back to the concept of symmetry -- be it in enabling diverse client form factors or supporting a range of client-server and cloud-based software models.

Guggenheimer made a point to distinguish Microsoft's device strategy across phone, tablet and computer from that at Apple or Google. He noted that both competitors treat the phone and tablet the same, despite the large differences in screen size, while the computer is addressed with an entirely distinct platform. Microsoft, Guggenheimer said, has worked to enable symmetry across all three form factors, treating the tablet and PC more as equals.

"Nothing is perfect here today. But we've tried our hardest to try to get that symmetry," Guggenheimer said. "We've picked some different design points intentionally, because we think bigger screens align more than smaller screens."

Microsoft Fellow John Shewchuk came up on stage to demonstrate how Microsoft supports development across all three form factors. The demonstration showed how developers can code similar functionality for the Web with HTML5/JavaScript, natively with C++, or in a managed framework with C#. At one point, Shewchuk showed a C++-based, DirectX-enabled game based on the Unity 3D graphics engine, running both on his Windows client PC and a Windows Phone.

"It's the same game running through that engine," Shewchuk said.

Guggenheimer also talked extensively about the cloud and Windows Azure, noting that for many greenfield development efforts, the "starting point now is cloud first. In the past it was on-premises first and cloud second. That was just where we were in our history then."

Shewchuk returned to stage to show how Windows Azure Mobile Services can be used to transform a traditional VB-style application into a cloud-enabled connected application targeting Windows Phone, Windows Store, Android or iOS. Shewchuk also showed how a real-time Web mapping application can interact with Google Maps on an Android smartphone.

Even as Microsoft makes gains enabling cloud- and services-centric app development tuned for diverse client targets, a core economic challenge remains. Guggenheimer noted that companies are struggling to monetize apps sold through store environments like Windows Store. Store-based apps account for $20 billion in annual revenue, compared to more than $300 billion for line-of-business applications.

The solution, said Guggenheimer, is to maximize exposure by being "available in as many countries, as many languages, and as many currencies as possible." He also noted that Microsoft's fee structure enables apps that have more than $25,000 in sales to move to a more advantageous fee level. After $25,000, developers keep 80 percent of revenues for apps sold on the Windows Store, up from 70 percent.

Guggenheimer closed by reminding attendees about the upcoming Microsoft BUILD conference, scheduled to take place June 26-28 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. BUILD is Microsoft's flagship developer conference and has been used in the past as a platform to launch major dev-oriented products and initiatives.

For more on BUILD 2013 see our interview at Visual Studio Live! with Guggenheimer here.

Posted by Michael Desmond on 03/27/2013 at 1:16 PM0 comments


VSLive! Opening Keynote Highlights Fast-Moving Windows Azure Platform

The Visual Studio Live! conference in Las Vegas kicked off Tuesday morning with a keynote address focused on Windows Azure application development by Microsoft Senior Director of Developer and Platform Evangelism James Conard.

While the conference is aligned around a number of core themes, including cross-platform mobile and Windows 8 app development, Conard's talk hit hard on the compelling features of Windows Azure.

Windows Azure has seen significant updates over the past several months, including a March update for Windows Azure Mobile Services that added support for HTML and JavaScript clients and Cross Origin Resource Sharing (CORS) to support and manage AJAX requests from across multiple domains.

During his keynote, Conard showed off the streamlined Windows Azure Management Portal and guided attendees through creating, configuring and monitoring Windows Azure applications.

Among other things, Conard showed off Windows Azure's new endpoint monitoring capabilities, noting that Microsoft just added the functionality as part of the March update last week. He also discussed how Microsoft now allows developers to synchronize content from Dropbox folders, in addition to supporting Visual Studio, GitHub, FTP and other repositories.

"We've been on an amazing march with Azure for the last few months," Conard said in an interview, noting that Azure Mobile Services was introduced in August 2012. That release supported Windows Store and Windows Phone 8 applications. Microsoft updated Azure Mobile Services with support for iOS in October, followed by Android support about a month ago. JavaScript and HTML client support was added in the most recent March update.

Conard pointed out that Windows Azure touches a wide range of applications and scenarios, from Web-based apps to complex, multi-tier applications. During his presentation, he walked attendees through the process of configuring and deploying Windows Azure applications, highlighting the streamlined, Web-based Windows Azure UI and rich dashboard functionality.

Conard said that the overarching theme of his keynote was flexibility.

"This is a shift that is occurring across virtually every type of customer that we talk with. From the larger enterprises to mobile application developers that are one- or two-man shops -- just the transformation of using the cloud in different ways is happening across the board," Conard said. "[Developers benefit from] the flexibility we are exposing with Windows Azure and the ability with that to use the frameworks, languages and tools of Visual Studio and .NET, in the case of this group of developers, with Windows Azure."

The rapid-fire feature updates do pose a challenge of sorts for Conard, who says the Azure group is committed to a continuous-services model.

"What's really important for developers, and also quite difficult for developers to get used to today, is just the pace of innovation that is being exposed through the cloud, where literally next week you go and take a look at Azure and there is a new feature or new services, like Android support for Azure Mobile Services," Conard said. "We are on a pace of continuous services and so what we should expect are more and more capabilities being exposed on Azure, and that's across the board."

Posted by Michael Desmond on 03/26/2013 at 1:16 PM0 comments


Microsoft Announces BUILD 2013 Conference Dates

More on this topic:

Don't look now, but the Microsoft BUILD conference is back.

Steven Guggenheimer, corporate vice president and chief evangelist of Developer and Platform Evangelism, announced today that the next BUILD Conference will be held June 26-28, 2013, at the Moscone Center in San Francisco.

Guggenheimer revealed Microsoft's BUILD conference schedule at the Visual Studio Live! conference in Las Vegas this morning. During his afternoon keynote address, Guggenheimer told attendees that the Moscone Center will provide a lot more room than last year's event, which was held on Microsoft's Redmond campus. Registrations for BUILD 2012 sold out in less than one hour.

BUILD is Microsoft's flagship developer conference. The June event will be the third BUILD conference, following events held in the fall of 2011 and 2012. The conference in the past has served as the platform for launching developer previews of key Microsoft developer products, including Windows 8 and Visual Studio 2012.

In a blog post, Guggenheimer wrote that the conference will provide updates "about what's next for Windows, Windows Server, Windows Azure, Visual Studio and more." Developers can also visit the official BUILD Web site for information about the event.

BUILD 2013 conference Registration opens April 2nd at 9 a.m. Pacific Time. Registration costs $2,095, with an early bird rate of $1,595 for the first 500 registrations.

Posted by Michael Desmond on 03/26/2013 at 1:16 PM0 comments