Microsoft Max Shares the Visual Power of Avalon

The "user experience technology" beta allows users to organize and share photos as slide shows.

Microsoft last week released the beta of a new photo-sharing sample application that takes advantage of core components of the upcoming Windows Vista platform to deliver a unique user experience.

Hillel Cooperman, product unit manager of the technology code-named Max, demonstrated the application during the opening keynotes of Microsofts PDC (Professional Developers Conference) in Los Angeles last week

The demonstration followed presentations by Microsoft Corp. chairman and chief software architect Bill Gates and by Jim Allchin, group vice president of platforms at Microsoft. Cooperman later gave a private demo of the software for eWEEK.

Max, also known as Project M, which was the internal name for team working on the technology, is a user experience technology that enables users to make lists of their photos and turn them into slide shows to share with family and friends.

Max is based on WinFX technology: WPF (Windows Presentation Foundation, formerly known as Avalon), WCF (Windows Communication Foundation, formerly known as Indigo), the CLR (Common Language Runtime) and other Microsoft technology.

"Max allows you to create visualizations and share them over the Net," Cooperman said.

Max supports the same programming model for both 2-D and 3-D displays. Indeed, Cooperman showed how the Max user interface supported a display featuring "2-D on top of 3-D on top of 2-D," in which a photo sat atop a glossy surface and its reflection was captured in the same image.

Cooperman called Max an experiment, and said, "Its important to have the ability to experiment … We could have done a million different things, but to make a photo-sharing application would be relatively unique."

Max has roots in technology that came out of MSR (Microsoft Research), which Gates demonstrated at last years Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, sources said.

At CES 2004 early last year, Gates demonstrated two MSR technologies. One, code-named Media Variations, provided a way for people to explore large amounts of connected information. For example, users could locate movies based on the connections between them, such as common actors, directors or genres, and browse through them using a rich, three-dimensional interface, Microsoft said.

/zimages/3/28571.gifRead more here about the latest on Avalon and Indigo.

The second research project, code-named MSR Media Browser, offered a consistent and seamless interface to help people find and work with clusters of photos and video on the PC, a digital picture frame or other device based on when the photos were taken, who they feature and other attributes, the company said.

Meanwhile, at last weeks PDC, Gates said the new Windows user experience is poised to "make it easier for people to visualize information."

Max is primarily an Avalon application and has a hard-wired newsreader embedded into it. It also features an Indigo peer-to-peer channel to link with other users. Cooperman demonstrated the peer connection using two laptops.

"Max is a proof-of-concept app showing you what to do with Avalon and Indigo," Cooperman said. "Its a P2P photo-sharing app, and its a 100 percent managed code Avalon app."

In addition, the composition engine in Avalon enables support for nested views, Cooperman said. And Maxs Avalon visuals can be specified directly in Microsofts XAML (Extensible Application Markup Language) or by the ControlTemplate feature, the company said.

Cooperman said components built using Avalon are reusable.

/zimages/3/28571.gifClick here to read more about the Avalon and Indigo beta builds.

"And we intend to use Sparkle more and more to build our UI," he said. Sparkle is Microsofts newly announced interactive designer tool for creating animation and other graphics.

"Our team, having a healthy selection of UI folks and nerds, we like to iterate a lot," Cooperman said.

In addition to Cooperman, some other members of the Max team include Max architects Walter Smith and Dan Crevier, Max developers Jay Beavers and Peyman Oreizy, and Jason Moore, who is known as a "Max Ninja."

Cooperman said that with a small team of developers, the group had the bulk of the Max application up and running in a few months.

"We had to deal with a lot of things that other teams didnt have to, like constantly changing APIs," he said.

Right after the Max demonstration at the PDC, Max was among the top 10 most searched-for terms according to the Technorati Web site, Cooperman said.

Editors Note: Mary Jo Foley of Microsoft Watch provided additional reporting for this story.

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