Redmond Diary

By Andrew J. Brust

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MIX Day 2 Keynote: Put the Phone Down and Listen

The MIX day one keynote was all about Windows Phone 7 (WP7). MIX day two was a reminder that Microsoft has much more going on than a new mobile platform. Steven Sinofsky, Scott Guthrie, Doug Purdy and others showed us lots of other good things coming from Microsoft, mostly in the developer stack, that we certainly shouldn't overlook.

These included the forthcoming IE9, its new JavaScript compiling engine and support for HTML 5 that takes full advantage of the local PC resources, including the graphics processing unit.

The announcements also included important additions to ASP.NET (and one subtraction, in the form of lighter-weight ViewState technology), including almost-obsessive jQuery support. That support is so good that John Resig, creator of the jQuery project, came on stage to tell us so. Then Scott Guthrie told us that Microsoft would be contributing code to Open Source jQuery project. This is not your father's Microsoft, it would seem.

But to me, the crown jewel in today's keynote were the numerous announcements around the Open Data Protocol (OData). OData is nothing more than the protocol side of "Astoria" (now known as WCF Data Services, and until recently called ADO.NET Data Services) separated out and opened up as a platform-neutral standard.

The 2009 Professional Developers Conference (PDC) was Microsoft's vehicle for first announcing OData, as well as project "Dallas," an Azure-based cloud platform for publishing commercial OData feeds. And we had already known about "bridges" for Astoria (and thus OData) for PHP and Java. We also knew that PowerPivot, Microsoft's forthcoming self-service business intelligence plug-in for Excel 2010, will consume OData feeds and then facilitate drill-down analysis of their data. And we recently found out that SQL Reporting Services reports (in the forthcoming SQL Server 2008 R2) and SharePoint 2010 lists will be consumable in OData format as well.

So what was left to announce? How about OData clients for Palm webOS and Apple iPhone/Objective C? How about the release to open source of .NET's OData client? Or the ability to publish any SQL Azure database as an OData service by simply checking a checkbox at deployment? Maybe even a Silverlight tool (code-named "Houston") to create SQL Azure databases (and then publish them as OData) right in the browser? And what if you you could get at the entire NetFlix catalog in OData format? You can -- just go to and see for yourself. Douglas Purdy, who made these announcements, said: "We want OData to work on as many devices and platforms as possible." After all the cross-platform OData announcements made in about a half year's time, it's hard to dispute that statement.

When Microsoft plays the data card, and plays it well, watch out, because data programmability is the company's heritage. I'll be discussing OData at length in my April Redmond Review column. I wrote that column two weeks ago, and was convinced then that OData was a big deal.

Today upped the ante even more. And following the Windows Phone 7 euphoria of yesterday was, I think, smart timing. The phone, if it's successful, will be because it's a good developer platform play. And developer platforms (as well as their creators) are most successful when they have a good data strategy. OData is very Silverlight-friendly, and that means it's WP7-friendly too. Phone plus service-oriented data is a one-two punch. A phone platform without data would have been a phone with no signal.

Posted by Andrew J. Brust on 03/17/2010

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