Focus on the Present, Look to the Future
<i>VSM</i> takes an in-depth look at the next version of Microsoft's Windows operating system, but rest assured the magazine's focus remain on the practical, hands-on code and samples.
Please don't start filling your magazine with articles about Whidbey and Longhorn. Sure, it's fun to hear some preview information about the fun stuff we'll be able to do in one to three years. But we're trying to develop products that customers can use today and using tools our managers will approve today. Technical journals are essential tools in our work, and I'm beginning to find that the articles in the most recent issues are less and less relevant to my current work because they're always jumping ahead to what's coming next yearor even three years from now! We appreciate your excitement about the future, but there are plenty of things to cover in the currently shipping OS and development tools that would be more useful to us. Joel Lyons, VSM reader
Two issues, two extended looks at upcoming technologies.
Last month, VSM took an in-depth look at the next version of Visual Studio and its related technologies, including what will be new with C#, Visual Basic .NET, ASP.NET, and SQL Server. This month, VSM extends that theme with an in-depth look at the next client-side version of Windows, code-named Longhorn, and its related technologies, including Avalon, the next-generation UI and presentation layer; WinFS, the next-generation data access layer; and Indigo, which will provide a unified communications model for Web services and system messaging.
VSM is covering these topics because they are the future and, by default, what you do will be significantly impacted by them. It is always good to know what is coming and to have a sense of context for how what you're doing now will fit into the next generation of tools and operating systems you use. Unlike the last handful of OS releases, which had little in them that targeted developers, Longhorn includes a host of features and capabilities that will affect how you develop, draw information to the screen, and store and access information. It is up to you as a developer to understand what these changes are, not least because the longer you wait to learn about and provide information back to Microsoft about them, the less say you will have in the next version of development tools you will use.
At the same time, readers like Joel Lyons have a point. Magazines have increasingly gotten away from sharing information that is practical and oriented to the present. The Next Big Thing is often discussed at the expense of The Thing You Can Do Right Now. Magazines often spend their time chasing The Next Big Thing the same way Gatsby believed in the "orgiastic future before us"always a step ahead of us and never quite attainable.
The changes and features announced in Whidbey and Longhorn are significant and will have effects that ripple down to the present, but there is much that hasn't been covered in the current version of the tools, and development audiences are seeking code and samples that they can use now, not three years in the future.
It is VSM's goal to provide that hands-on, immediately usable information for you, in the larger context of what is coming next. It is our goal to provide information that makes doing your job easierright now. We won't neglect what's coming down the road, but we won't focus on it to the exclusion of all else, either. VSM is also here to provide you objective information. VSM is an independent magazine, and, as such, doesn't relay the announcements about upcoming tools with starry-eyed wonder and astonishment, but instead sets a context for the tools. Roger Jennings, in his overview on Longhorn, notes that a lot of Longhorn remains undefinedor vaguely defined, at best.
Think back to the early announcements about .NET; the shape of Longhorn and its implications to developers are in a similar state. There are some interesting features being discussed, but we don't know exactly what we will be getting several years from now. There are also some issues that we as users of Windows need to be cognizant of, including the way the next version of Windows will handle digital rights management (DRM). Longhorn as described now raises key questions about the extent to which the information and files stored on your computer are yours to manipulate and use. The best way to get what you want in the future is to ask for it, but that also requires being informed about the goals of the tools you usewhether you're speaking of a development tool, an operating system, or a magazine.
Patrick Meader is editor in chief of Visual Studio Magazine.