Vista Holds Promise for Developers

Microsoft is pushing Windows Vista, Office 2007 and its AJAX tool-codenamed "Atlas"-as key development platforms.

With the upcoming business launch on Nov. 30 of its Windows Vista operating system, Microsoft is promoting a host of new opportunities for developers.

The Redmond, Wash., software giant is highlighting Windows Vista, Office 2007 and the Web via its AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) tool—codenamed "Atlas"—as key development platforms.

In addition, Microsoft officials said the platforms enable developers to build applications that were previously either unthinkable or were difficult to build.

The platforms are getting good reviews from users. Andrew Brust, chief of new technology at Twentysix New York, said the Atlas technology will be a boon to user interface sophistication.

"In general, it abstracts away the [messy] details of writing the client-side JavaScript necessary to make interactive Web applications," said Brust, in New York.

"We have written a bunch of this JavaScript code ourselves, and its certainly non-trivial. In the app dev world, non-trivial stuff often gets sidelined because of budgets and deadlines."

Microsoft is planning the business launch of Vista for Nov. 30 in New York, with the retail launch to consumers coming in January. However, many industry observers say the code for Vista could be released to manufacturing as early as the week of Nov. 6.

S. "Soma" Somasegar, corporate vice president of Microsofts Developer Division, said Windows Vista represents "a confluence of things happening with technologies coming to market that enable our developer community to take advantage of the latest features and tools that target the client broadly—that is, the rich client, the Web and the Office client."

Moreover, Somasegar said Microsoft has "made a ton of progress" in targeting developers.

"Our first and foremost job is to ensure a high level of compatibility," which the company has achieved, he said.

The developer story around Vista targets three sets of developers, he said. First are developers with existing applications they want to move to Vista, and the second are those who wish to add things to applications so they can run on Vista. The third are developers of new applications.

"Weve added 7,000 new APIs" to the OS platform to help developers, Somasegar said. "Weve also enhanced the managed programming side with the enhancements to the framework in .Net Framework 3.0."

Meanwhile, Microsoft is working on the next version of its Visual Studio tool set, codenamed "Orcas," but "were not waiting for Orcas to deliver new functionality for Vista," he said.

/zimages/6/28571.gifMicrosoft tells PC buyers: Dont wait for Vista. Click here to read more.

Two leading technologies that come to bear in the Vista rollout include VSTO (Visual Studio Tools for Office) and ASP.NET AJAX, formerly known as "Atlas," which enable developers to target Office and the Web as development platforms, Somasegar said.

Scott Stanfield, CEO of Vertigo Software, in Point Richmond, Calif., said that with a lot of people "playing with things like Google Maps, theyre going to want the AJAX pixie dust to sprinkle on top of the mashup applications they develop" and Microsofts AJAX tools can help.

"Microsoft is moving to enable developers to use Office as a platform to build applications without having to use the traditional Microsoft tool set," said Joe Wilcox, an analyst with Jupiter Media, in Kensington, Md.

Prashant Sridharan, group product manager of Microsofts Developer Division, said that "this wave of innovation is all about the user experience at the end of the day. And youll see a lot of people sprout up in that developer/designer space, including those leveraging the stuff were doing around Expression."

Microsofts Expression suite of tools is aimed at the application designer, and Microsoft is working to enable designers and developers to work together more efficiently.

An independent software vendor using Microsofts ASP.NET AJAX is online photo company Phanfare, of Metuchen, N.J. Phanfare consists of a downloadable client that talks to a Web service running on the companys servers to enable users to post photos and videos and make albums online.

"We actually evaluated a few different AJAX platforms, but the big win for ASP.NET AJAX was its seamless integration with Microsoft Web services, and hence the service we already had up and running," said chief technology officer Mark Heinrich.

"Using the ASP.NET AJAX framework, we can make the same Web service calls from JavaScript that our PC client makes from C#."

Flowfinity Wireless, in Vancouver, British Columbia, is using Microsofts .Net 3.0 technology to build a series of applications, said President and CEO Dmitry Mikhailov.

Flowfinity is using the WCF (Windows Communication Foundation) and WPF (Windows Presentation Foundation).

"Windows Vista and .Net 3.0 are giving companies like Flowfinity more capabilities to deliver rich, highly usable applications to our customers," Mikhailov said. "Flowfinitys new products for automating mobile enterprise business processes with EvDO, EDGE and UMTS-equipped laptops are coming to market faster due to these new capabilities."

Vertigos Stanfield said the Vista wave provides developers with a menu of items to choose from, "but it remains to be seen if Vista will drive" developer adoption.

"Had not Microsoft back-ported WPF and WFC to Windows XP, it [Vista for developers] would be a bigger deal," Stanfield said, adding that Office 2007 "will have a quicker pickup than Vista."

He called the combination of Vista, Office/SharePoint 2007 and the ASP.NET AJAX tools "the trifecta" for developers building applications on the Microsoft platform going forward.

"What our customers need is easily achievable with this technology," Stanfield said. "My biggest concern is we might have too much in our arsenal. We can build them a Hummer, when all they need is a bike."

/zimages/6/28571.gifCheck out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis in programming environments and developer tools.