Gates Bids Developers Farewell

Redmond's chairman uses Tech-Ed keynote to talk up 'Oslo,' 'Velocity,' Silverlight and other dev tools.

In what could be remembered as his send-off to developers, Microsoft founder and chairman Bill Gates kicked off this month's Tech-Ed Developers 2008 conference with a keynote that took an opportunity to look back and also provide a glimpse into the future.

Gates, who's giving up his day-to-day role with Microsoft on July 1, took to the stage one more time to take the wraps off a grab bag of developer-related technologies and updates. Among them were new details about the next betas of Silverlight 2 and Internet Explorer 8 (IE8), as well as new enhancements around Visual Studio and SharePoint.

Also launched -- but not touted in Gates' keynote -- was an in-memory cache platform for distributed applications. Code-named project "Velocity," the project aims to boost the performance and reliability limits of enterprise applications.

Fond Memories
Speaking to an audience of more than 5,000 developers in Orlando, Fla., Gates linked his early success with the efforts of contemporary developers. "It really comes back to the key things about this industry from the very beginning, which is that by having platforms that are very low cost and very high volume, and having the right kind of tools, we unleash a level of creativity that even surprises us in terms of what gets done," Gates said.

Appearing on stage with Microsoft Developer Division Senior Vice President S. "Soma" Somasegar, as well as technical fellows David Campbell and Brian Harry, Gates demonstrated a number of Microsoft development solutions aimed at enabling enhanced user interfaces, more capable data-driven apps and better management of enterprise-scale software projects.

Gates also gave a plug for SharePoint Server development, revealing that Visual Studio 2008 extensions for Windows SharePoint Services (WSS) 3.0 version 1.2 will provide a simplified dev environment for shops looking to extend their WSS and Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) deployments.

Data Layer
Joined by Harry, Gates discussed new tooling to help developers model and architect applications. New architecture tooling in Visual Studio Team System (VSTS) lets developers check application flows, drill down into the architecture layer and validate program code against the architecture design. Harry also noted that VSTS will let developers automatically check for architecture design violations at check-in.

As part of the demonstration, Harry showed off an upcoming IBM DB/2 database connector, which will allow developers to do DB/2 development directly within the VSTS Database Edition IDE. Developers can refactor DB/2 database code directly from within VSTS-based projects.

"You no longer have to manage two IDE environments for doing your application development," Gates said. "This is a big step forward."

Gates also trumpeted the "Oslo" project, the ambitious application modeling and repository effort first announced in November of last year. The first Oslo community technology preview (CTP) is scheduled to arrive at the Professional Developers Conference in October.

Microsoft also announced a new CTP of the Microsoft Sync Framework for Windows Mobile. The Sync Framework enables collaboration and offline functionality for devices, services and applications.

Gaining Velocity
One of the notable surprises was project Velocity, which aims to streamline and enhance access to disparate data sources for high-performance applications that are spread across large clusters of computers. Microsoft released the first CTP of the forthcoming distributed in-memory application cache platform.

Gates, joined by Somasegar, said that Silverlight 2 beta 2 is now available for download. The latest cut of Microsoft's cross-platform, rich Internet application platform is available under the Go Live license, enabling dev shops to start working on public-facing Silverlight apps.

Somasegar demoed Silverlight 2 applications, including the Crossfader music video app that showed advanced interface effects and streaming low-bandwidth video playback. He also demoed integration with Expression Designer, showing how developers can tune application design from the Expression tooling.

Microsoft has updated tooling for Silverlight developers, with an Expression Blend 2.5 June 2008 preview and Microsoft Silverlight Tools beta 2 for Visual Studio 2008 both announced.

Finally, attendees learned that IE8 beta 2 will be available Aug. 20. As previously reported, IE8 will usher improved support for Web standards, as well as two new features Gates emphasized: Activities, which let users gather things they do on the Web in a single place, and Slices, which enable Web site owners to drive focus to a specific portion of their pages.

About the Author

Michael Desmond is an editor and writer for 1105 Media's Enterprise Computing Group.

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