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PDC: Day 3: When It Rains, It Pours

Is it possible to have too much of a good thing? If some of the responses I've heard from attendees at the Professional Developers Conference 2008 are any indication, the answer might be yes.

More accurately, a lot of folks felt that Scott Guthrie, Microsoft's corporate vice president of the .NET Developer Division, could have used a lot more time to work through the enormous cache of developer announcements that he unloaded during his limited time on the stage.

As reported yesterday, Guthrie presented -- among many other things -- the first CTP of Visual Studio 2010, new toolkits and controls for WPF and Silverlight 2, and intriguing looks forward to .NET Framework 4.0 (which will add C# support for the Dynamic Language Runtime). As if that weren't enough, we learned that Visual Studio itself is being recast in phases in WPF, enabling powerful new developer design surfaces and visualizations.

Alas, this imposing lode of developer insight was tightly constrained by the keynote format. Guthrie yesterday shared the stage with Steven Sinofsky and his Windows 7 announcement, and with David Treadwell and his presentation on Microsoft's Live Services. And while these presentations are incredibly important in themselves, there was a sense of frustration among some developers.

"He wasn't up there that long," said one software company product manager who felt that Microsoft should have "let [Guthrie] talk for another hour." He described the Twitter feed that was displayed at the beginning of the Tuesday keynote showing scores of developers messaging each other about going to see Guthrie's presentation.

Courting Cloud Confusion?
Surprisingly, Microsoft also seems to be courting a bit of confusion over its cloud computing efforts -- due in part to what I might call "Sudden Branding Syndrome."

If rumors are to be believed, Microsoft named its cloud operating system offering, Windows Azure, in a hurry. Until last week, press reports indicated that the operating system described at one point by Steve Ballmer as "Windows Cloud" would end up with the name Windows Strata. But at Monday's PDC keynote, Ray Ozzie formally unveiled the Windows Azure name.

As Microsoft product names go, I've seen plenty worse than Azure. And despite some apparent confusion among Microsoft managers here as to how exactly to pronounce Azure, there's no reason Redmond can't successfully align the brand effort.

More troubling, really, is the use of the Windows brand at all with Windows Azure. According to one attendee I spoke with, developers have repeatedly asked about deploying Azure on their enterprise datacenters. The problem is, Azure isn't for sale. Instead, Microsoft will host the Azure infrastructure on its own servers and datacenters. This is a pure Microsoft-hosted service play. And that means that Azure will be the first member of the Windows family not intended for external consumption.

Can Microsoft overcome this confusion? Certainly. The company, after all, is already spinning up efforts to get developers accustomed to writing scalable, cloud-friendly apps using the familiar foundations of Visual Studio and .NET Framework. And no doubt we'll see a significant amount of course correction as the sundry enterprise product units -- SQL Server, Exchange, Office and SharePoint among them -- work to articulate and deliver their cloud-themed strategies and services.

Still, the move to a cloud-centric services strategy is nothing short of historic for Microsoft. So it's surprising to think that the company might have courted a bit of branding panic with its Azure launch.

Windows Large and Small
Tomorrow, I'll be reporting extensively on the aggressive parallel computing efforts coming out of Microsoft, including tooling and resources for both native C++ and managed .NET-based development. But for now, I was interested in the announced launch of Windows "Quebec," the upcoming version of Windows Embedded that's being built on the Windows 7 operating system core.

According to Microsoft, Windows Quebec will support leading-edge Microsoft tooling and technologies like WPF, Silverlight 2 and the Visual Studio 2010 IDE, which was released as a CTP yesterday. In an announcement, Microsoft touted the ability of Quebec's Windows 7 core to support "rich user experiences," including the multi-touch touchscreen input that was demoed at Tuesday's PDC keynote session by Corporate Vice President Julie Larson-Green.

Said Kevin Dallas, Microsoft's general manager of the Windows Embedded Business Unit, in a statement: "It also will feature a rich set of componentized operating system technologies and specific features that let developers optimally size the operating system on their devices with only the drivers, services and applications they need."

And so, there you have it. The circle is nearly complete, absent one critical product: Windows Mobile 7. From Windows 7 to Windows Server 2008 R2 to Windows Embedded "Quebec," Microsoft has moved decisively to step the entire Windows brand forward into the Win 7 space. The announcement of the Azure cloud-based services OS further extends the promise of Windows-friendly .NET development to the most vastly distributed online hosted apps.

Windows Mobile 7, however, will have to wait. As reported by Mary Jo Foley in our Oct. 15 feature on Microsoft's product efforts at PDC and beyond, Windows Mobile 7 is likely to be delayed until the second half of 2009. That could push the delivery of actual functioning Windows Mobile 7-based handsets as far out as 2010. Read the entire article here.

Posted by Michael Desmond on 10/29/2008 at 1:15 PM


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