Against the backdrop of a wild rumor that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer might make an appearance at the Apple Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC), speculation abounds about what he might announce should he show.
According to published reports, word is Ballmer is slated to have seven minutes onstage at the WWDC keynote in June in San Francisco where it is alleged that he will discuss Visual Studio 2010. The question is why would Steve Ballmer be onstage at Apple's WWDC discussing Microsoft's flagship development tools suite?
One reason could be that Microsoft has optimized its toolset to support iPhone application development. Microsoft has adapted its Visual Studio tools to be the development platform for its Windows Phone 7 line. The Microsoft Windows Phone 7 developer toolset consists of Visual Studio 2010 Express for Windows Phone, a Windows Phone 7 emulator, Microsoft's Silverlight cross-platform rich Internet application (RIA) framework, and XNA Game Studio.
Some speculate that should he appear at WWDC, Ballmer might discuss the possibility of Silverlight for the Apple iPhone, iPod and iPad platforms. Silverlight is Microsoft's response to Adobe's Flash technology, which Apple has repeatedly said no to.
According to Engadget, a tweet from a known Microsoft corporate Twitter account indicates that Ballmer will not be appearing at WWDC. The tweet reads: "Steve Ballmer not speaking at Apple Dev Conf. Nor appearing on Dancing with the Stars. Nor riding in the Belmont. Just FYI."
However, the post does not say whether Microsoft will be represented at WWDC or whether the company is cooking up any kind of support for Apple's platforms.
In an April open letter entitled "Thoughts on Flash," Apple CEO Steve Jobs laid out his reasons for not wanting Flash on Apple's platforms. Jobs listed Flash's proprietary nature, as well technical, performance and security reasons among others for why Apple does not want Flash, but his most prominent reason came down to control over the developers who create applications for the iPhone, iPod and iPad. Jobs said Apple jealously guards its relationship with its developers.
In his letter, Jobs said:
""Besides the fact that Flash is closed and proprietary, has major technical drawbacks, and doesn't support touch based devices, there is an even more important reason we do not allow Flash on iPhones, iPods and iPads. We have discussed the downsides of using Flash to play video and interactive content from Websites, but Adobe also wants developers to adopt Flash to create apps that run on our mobile devices."We know from painful experience that letting a third-party layer of software come between the platform and the developer ultimately results in sub-standard apps and hinders the enhancement and progress of the platform. If developers grow dependent on third party development libraries and tools, they can only take advantage of platform enhancements if and when the third party chooses to adopt the new features. We cannot be at the mercy of a third party deciding if and when they will make our enhancements available to our developers.""
That said, why would Silverlight and Microsoft be any different than Adobe and Flash? Microsoft also is a third party, and Silverlight also is a proprietary technology.
A more likely scenario is Visual Studio support for the iPhone developer, including support for Objective C.
In response to eWEEK's query about what Ballmer could possibly discuss at WWDC if the rumors are true, Al Hilwa, program director for applications development software at market research firm IDC, said:
""If Visual Studio was to support Objective C it would be an excellent strategic move for Microsoft. In some respects it goes along the -if you can't beat them join them' aphorism. Visual Studio is one of Microsoft's key assets and crucial to its future success with any of its platform endeavors, so making it a more universal platform for supporting non-.NET environments is a win-win. Normally, these extensions are done by partners, in this case Apple itself may well have developed a VS extension to support development for the iPhone. However, if Apple would not, it would make strategic sense for Microsoft to do so. At this stage Microsoft is in a lock from the perspective of its mobile phone position. It has some phones coming out by end of year based on the new OS. WinPho7 is likely to be successful, however it is unlikely to achieve anywhere near the dominance of Windows the smartphone space. Ballmer, who is famous for understanding the -developer' appeal, may be searching for every angle to keep Microsoft relevant in the emerging smartphone world, and the iPhone and iPad are where developer excitement seems to be.""
We shall see what develops, if anything, as this is all based on speculation.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was updated to reflect that Microsoft tweeted that Steve Ballmer would not be appearing at WWDC.