Having worked at Macromedia on Flash and Flash Video, Key said his interest in interactivity, multimedia and the Web was whetted. But something was lacking. "Thats how I got interested in Microsoft; I was charmed by the vision here to change the world," Key said.In the PDC demo, "Adobe After Effects was used to output this new markup language called XAML [Extensible Application Markup Language], and then Windows magically was able to render a rich multimedia representation of the experience, in real-time, on hardware rendering ," Key wrote in the blog post. "The idea that such skills (those of my own, as an advanced After Effects user) and a yet to be released Windows technology would allow for a real-time design experience for actual applications I was hooked," he said. Key describes WPF (Windows Presentation Foundation) and the Microsoft technology code-named WPF/E, or Windows Presentation Foundation Everywhere, as foundational technologies that provide "ways in which the developer and designer community can build rich content experience for both Windows and the Web. Meanwhile, the tools in the Microsoft Expression SuiteExpression Web, Expression Blend, Expression Design, and Expression Media"complement each other to enable the development of applications," he said. eWEEK Labs says Expression Web could be a more significant release than even Vista and Office 2007 Click here to read more. Moreover, Key credits Microsoft for enabling him to build a team to focus on the user experience, and for the companys "acknowledgement of individual contribution." He said his team includes people from varied backgrounds including creative designers, lab researchers, cinematic experts, software developers, site designers, print experts and even a rock musician. But they all unite to help Microsoft build its next-generation platform for designers that will enhance workflow between developers and designers. That notion is only starting with the Expression tools, he said. "With Expression, were not nearly done," Key added. Obviously, some of the overall vision for where Microsoft wants to take Expression is in the version 1.0 productswhich are either shipping or in some form or preview or other. But fully achieving that vision will take a few more years of that 10-year plan Key talks about. That means more years and more people to work on the projects. "Each year were hiring more and more people," Key said. "Right now we have up to 70 positions we need to hire." Indeed, Key said he believes that Microsoft, overall, "has to grow by an entire company to meet our targets. We just cant hire enough people fast enough." Meanwhile, the Expression tools are among the wave of Microsoft technologies that have taken advantage of the companys CTP (Community Technology Preview) process. CTPs are part of Microsofts move toward greater transparency. "From the industry I come from, you never put anything out until it was done," Key said. Yet, the Expression tools, particularly Blend, underwent "dramatic changes" in direction and implementation based on feedback from the CTPs, Key said. Asked whether Microsoft might consider delivering an Express version of its Expression tools, Key said Microsoft is taking a pyramid approach to delivering its design technology. Microsofts Express versions of its Visual Studio development tools are lightweight tools aimed at hobbyists, students and novice developers. "There are people like those at ILM that have very sophisticated needs, and there are people who dont require as much from a tool," Key said. "You see a significant increase in volume as you move down the pyramid." Moreover, Key said he sees a future where the designer has a role in the Microsoft Visual Studio Team System enterprise development system. Meanwhile, to gain traction in the design world, Key knows Microsoft needs to reach out to the community. Microsoft will hold its second Mix conference in Las Vegas in April. Microsoft described last years conference as "a 72-hour conversation between Web developers, designers and business leaders." Said Key of the companys efforts to continue its outreach: "Were going to do a lot more events like Mix to bring together different constituencies." Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis in programming environments and developer tools.
Indeed, in a blog post from December of last year, Key describes how an engineering manager on the Macromedia Flash team came back from Microsofts 2003 PDC (Professional Developers Conference) and told him of a demo that signaled the direction Microsoft was heading, and it made Key want to have a closer look.