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PDC Impressions

I'm crawling toward Burbank Airport after a three-day stay at the Microsoft Professional Developer Conference (PDC) in LA this week, and I have to say this was certainly an interesting PDC. Unlike last year's confab, which played host to a diverse array of strategic launches that ranged from the high-stakes debut of Windows Azure to the beta launch of Windows 7 to some heavy visioneering around Oslo, PDC09 had a more tactical feel.

As Andrew Brust noted in his Redmond Review blog report after Day 1 of the show, PDC09 felt more like PDC08 R2, a careful scoping and refinement of the far-reaching and far-flung messaging from last year's show. Windows Azure has matured remarkably, with its fleshed out AppFabric middle-tier built around the Velocity distributing caching engine and Dublin app server extensions. AppFabric for Windows Server debuted in beta form at the show, and will arrive as a CTP for Windows Azure sometime next year. The common infrastructure, Microsoft promises, will give Visual Studio developers one target to work toward, whether they reside on premise or in the cloud. But there's a lot of work yet to be done.

Most devs I talked to seemed to appreciate Microsoft's year-long effort to refine the Azure roadmap, and felt this second PDC went a long way toward helping the .NET community grapple with the impending cloud platform. Microsoft announced Windows Azure would go to production on January 1st, with official customer billing picking up on February 1 after a month-long trial period.

Still, Microsoft managed to make a show of it on the second day, giving away free, touch-enabled Acer laptops to all show attendees. The surprise giveaway may have looked like something out of an Oprah broadcast, but I have to say, it worked. A lot of folks were talking about the Windows Touch UI the last couple days of the conference.

More important, Scott Guthrie surprised attendees by announcing the launch of the Silverlight 4 beta.

As Silverlight versions go (and there's been a few of them in the product's short life span), version 4 is huge. The new features in this version read like they came straight off the list of "what in Silverlight angers devs most," with support for out-of-browser execution, local file system access, printer and system clipboard support and lots more. Microsoft partners I spoke to were enthused, in no small part because the devs they were talking to raved about Silverlight 4. But the inevitable question kept coming up: Why would mainstream developers choose WPF for desktop development when Silverlight 4 is around? It's a very good question.

This year's show wasn't as well attended as PDC08, but vendors I spoke with were genuinely excited about the quality of the audience. PDC tends to draw the deep thinkers and strategic decision makers out of the woodwork, and PDC09 -- despite coming on the heels of PDC08 -- was no exception.

What were your impressions of this year's PDC event? Are you planning any efforts based on what was revealed at the conference? Email me at [email protected].

Posted by Michael Desmond on 11/19/2009

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