When it comes to rich Web media development, it seems like Microsoft has been
fighting with two hands tied behind its back. Like the ill-fated Black Knight
from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Redmond has been forced to fend of competition
with little more than its legs and teeth, facing mature Flash-based development
tools from Adobe to the white-hot popularity of AJAX development. Six months ago,
the folks at Adobe were probably asking: "What are you going to do? Bleed
They aren't asking any more. Thanks to the emerging set of tools in Microsoft's
Expression Studio suite, Redmond is becoming relevant in the rich Web design
and development space. Built on four components -- Web, Blend, Design and Media
-- Expression is a classic bit of Microsoft maneuvering. When caught at an obvious
disadvantage, shift the playing field.
Expression does just that, by tying into the rich Windows Presentation Foundation
layer in Vista and .NET 3.0 Framework to enable sophisticated GUIs, 3-D visuals
and other effects previously limited to the realms of DirectX game development.
WPF, however, is a rich client play -- the stuff to make Office sing and desktop
graphic design soar. In the Web space, the secret sauce is WPF/Everywhere, a
subset of WPF that will enable ubiquitous playback of rich visual and programmatic
interfaces on all manner of Web clients.
Why would anyone shift from Flash interface development to the Expression suite?
In a word: XAML. Short for Extensible Application Markup Language, XAML describes
rich interfaces in a human- and machine-readable markup format, while enabling
Flash-like animation, graphics and video. And just like that, Flash-based sites
that were utterly opaque to Google searches can be fully indexed. What's more,
designers who build interfaces using XAML tools like Expression can turn their
work over to developers who can readily tune, tweak and twist the underlying
There's a workflow play here. Microsoft envisions a mingling of roles, as designers
use Expression to engage functional tasks that in the past belonged strictly
to programmers, and programmers ease themselves into the design arena. Where
the two sides once lobbed work orders at each other, like hand grenades tossed
across a river, tomorrow folks could be walking right across the bridge to do
touch-up work themselves on the other side.
Is it a good thing? I'm not so sure. I'm pretty certain plenty of developers
will be ready to man the approach to that bridge and shout "None shall
pass!" But it does offer that choice.
What are your thoughts? Will you ditch Flash for Expression Web? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted by Michael Desmond on 12/06/2006 at 1:15 PM