Microsoft Calls Developers to Vista

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2006-11-07

Microsoft Calls Developers to Vista

LAS VEGAS—Just a year after releasing its primary tool set for building applications on Windows, Microsoft has announced a set of new technologies aimed at helping developers build next-generation interactive applications for Windows Vista, the 2007 Microsoft Office System and the Web.

In a keynote address at the Visual Studio & .Net Connections conference here (also known as DevConnections) Nov. 6, Scott Guthrie, general manager of the Developer Division at Microsoft, laid out the new products Microsoft is making available to developers to promote a better development experience on the forthcoming Windows Vista operating system. Windows Vista is expected to be released to manufacturing any day now.

At a launch event in San Francisco last November, Steve Ballmer, Microsofts chief executive, announced Visual Studio 2005, SQL Server 2005 and Biztalk Server 2006 as the next-generation tools for connected systems. Now, a year later, Microsoft is launching a set of new tools for creating Web services and next-generation, connected service-oriented applications, Guthrie said.

Microsoft announced slew of new technologies for developers, including the release to manufacturing of the Microsoft .Net Framework 3.0, which provides advances for building rich, interactive client applications via WPF (Windows Presentation Foundation), communication and workflow via WCF (Windows Communication Foundation) and WF (Windows Workflow Foundation), and online identity management via Windows CardSpace.

Microsoft also announced the availability of Visual Studio 2005 extensions for the .Net Framework 3.0. This is a series of plug-ins and project templates that enable developers to use Visual Studio 2005 to build .Net Framework 3.0 solutions.

In addition, Microsoft announced the release to manufacturing of Visual Studio 2005 Tools for Office for the 2007 Microsoft Office system to build solutions for the six major applications in the 2007 Microsoft Office system: Office Word, Office Excel, Office Outlook, Office PowerPoint, Office Visio and Office InfoPath. Visual Studio 2005 Tools for Office for the 2007 Microsoft Office system enables developers to build scalable line-of-business applications that leverage the functionality of the 2007 Microsoft Office system, the company said.

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Also at the show, Microsoft announced the release of Beta 2 of its ASP.Net AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) Extensions and Microsoft AJAX Library (collectively called ASP.Net AJAX), formerly code-named Atlas. This is a free framework that allows developers to quickly create a new generation of more-efficient, more-interactive and highly personalized Web experiences that work across the most popular browsers, said Brian Goldfarb, group product manager of Microsofts Web Platform and Tools Team.

Adding to its SQL Server family, Microsoft announced the release candidate of Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Compact Edition, an offering for essential relational database functionality in a compact footprint.

Microsoft officials said that by sharing a familiar SQL Server syntax and common ADO.Net programming model with other editions of SQL Server, SQL Server Compact Edition allows developers and administrators to apply their existing skills and be immediately productive. The release candidate is available via download at

And, finally, Microsoft announced the availability to MSDN (Microsoft Developer Network) Premium subscribers of Windows Vista and the 2007 Microsoft Office system on release to manufacturing.

Goldfarb said that Microsofts message to developers is that these new offerings in the Vista wave focus on three main concepts: security, integration and extensibility.

Next Page: AJAX development craze.

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Goldfarb said the Microsoft ASP.Net AJAX tools enable Microsoft developers to get into the AJAX development craze.

"AJAX delivers a different kind of user experience," Goldfarb said. "Business models on the Web are commoditizing, and people have a preference that can be based on the emotional experience" they get from a user experience of a specific Web site, he said. AJAX is a concept that can make a difference there, he said.

"AJAX is an enabler," Goldfarb said. "It was there for some time, and even though its a complex technology, people are using it. ASP.Net AJAX makes AJAX easy."

Ben Noonan, Internet project and development manager at Burton Snowboards, of Burlington, Vt., which uses the Microsoft ASP.Net AJAX tools, said Burton customers tend to be very Web savvy and they want more content, particularly more videos and more photos. "And our marketing people wanted us to deliver that," Noonan said.

However, Burtons developers had more server-side development experience, and the companys development shop had been through a number of ASP.Net versions while building out its Web presence, Noonan said. "So it made perfect sense to go with the ASP.Net AJAX" offering from Microsoft, he said.

"Since we implemented it, weve seen page views double since early August, and our revenues have grown significantly," Noonan said. "And the learning curve is about zero" for Burtons Web developers, he said. "Were not required to write a bunch of JavaScript."

Before adopting Microsofts ASP.Net AJAX, Burtons developers looked at other AJAX frameworks such as, he said. "But we didnt have the skill sets in-house."

The Burton team also looked at Adobes Flash as a possible solution, but it required "a lot of maintenance and a unique skill set, and we wanted to utilize what we had, what we were comfortable with and what wed been successful with," Noonan said.

Goldfarb said ASP.Net AJAX will be released to manufacturing by the end of the year and will be a fully supported Microsoft technology. That claim is "not available with some of the community-focused efforts," he said.

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Microsoft will license its AJAX libraries under a derivative of the companys Shared Source license, Goldfarb said.

Meanwhile, Jay Roxe, lead product manager in Microsofts developer division, said many of Vistas native technologies will enhance the development experience for developers, particularly given that there have been more than 7,000 new APIs added to the operating system. Roxe said the Vista message to developers is: Clear, Connected and Confident.

The Clear message is around the Vista user interface technologies such as WPF, Aero, Sidebar, DirectX 10 and Rich Preview, which enable developers to create rich and attractive applications.

The Connected message is around the WCF and WF technologies, as well as other technologies such as the People Near Me search capability added into the operating system, RSS support and Vista Sync Center, which enable developers to build applications that are aware of their connected nature.

For instance, using the People Near Me Windows peer-to-peer networking technology, "I could write an application to connect with people near me in a peer-to-peer fashion, and we could do things like virtual whiteboarding," Roxe said.

"Peer-to-peer is an area where were just starting to put tools into developers hands," Roxe said. "We dont know what developers will actually do with it."

The Confident message is primarily about security, which Vista offers in spades, Roxe said. The new operating system offers enhanced User Account Control, advanced cryptography, richer Windows Error Reporting and event logging, he said.

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