Vista Creates Developer Opportunities

At this week's Professional Developers Conference, Microsoft will highlight enhancements for managed applications, data sharing, RSS handling and security.

Microsofts upcoming Windows Vista operating system will deliver a series of enhancements that developers can tap to build more reliable systems, the company said.

At the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles this week, the software giant will highlight some of the benefits for developers, the company said.

For instance, the WinFX SDK (software development kit) contains documentation, samples and tools designed to help developers create managed applications and libraries using WinFX, which is the set of next-generation managed APIs provided by Microsoft, said John Montgomery, director of product management in Microsofts Developer Division.

In addition, Windows Vista introduces features oriented around finding, organizing, and sharing data, including XPS (formerly "Metro") and a complete RSS (Really Simple Syndication) subsystem that enables developers to find and consume RSS feeds through system-level APIs instead of through a dedicated RSS reader, Montgomery said.

Other features include ClickOnce and Windows Installer (MSI) advances, he said. ClickOnce is an application deployment technology that makes deploying a Windows Forms-based application as easy as deploying a Web application, Microsoft said.

And for security, Windows Vista offers an improved Windows privilege model to help prevent users from running programs that attempt to perform operations that the user doesnt really intend or authorize with User Account Protection. The NAP (Network Access Protection) framework enables system administrators to define and enforce policies that require network clients to establish their trustworthiness and compatibility with the network before being given a specified access, Montgomery said.

"For me and most all developers the WinFX Runtime Components, User Account Protection (least privilege) and ClickOnce are the best new features," said Stephen Forte, chief technology officer at Corzen Inc., in New York. "Windows Installer will make a lot of developers very happy."

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Richard Tallent, a software developer and project scientist at ERM Group Inc., in Beaumont, Texas, said, "WinFx will cement .Net and the CLR [Common Language Runtime] forever into the very heart of Windows. The move to a fully managed API is light-years ahead of other operating systems, and is a welcome change."

Tallent added that "ClickOnce reduces the friction of installing and updating traditional Windows applications. Its a great idea. I welcome the feature as long as it works with both Internet Explorer and Mozilla-based browsers."

Meanwhile, Forte said "ClickOnce is the best. It will allow my company to deploy our custom reporting tools over the Web in a seamless fashion. This is key for us."

Added Andrew Brust, chief of new technology at Citigate Hudson, in New York, "ClickOnce is good stuff… We are using some of its precursor technology now, and it has saved a customer of ours tons of time, frustration and money (in support costs). I think of it more as a piece of .Net than of Vista, but that distinction is clearly softening."

Patrick Hynds, chief technology officer at CriticalSites Inc., in Nashua, N.H., said he thinks ClickOnce already is having an effect.

"There seems to be a new dawn for windows client application development, and many more applications are being rethought before blindly being written as Web apps," Hynds said. "I think this is directly related to the better deployment story that Vista tells and that Windows applications have always had better security."

Meanwhile, the PDC appears to be shaping up as a coming-out party for Microsoft presentation layer technology, namely the Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF, formerly known as Avalon) and an accompanying suite of tools, known as Expression Studio.

"Avalon will become increasingly important as Vista nears release," Brust said. "I am intrigued by the emergence of an (unsupported) tool that exports from Adobe Illustrator to Avalon/XAML. It demonstrates well how compelling graphic design and application development can coexist, and I find that very exciting."

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Meanwhile, regarding the RSS functionality, Tallent said: "RSS fills a gap that P2P [peer-to-peer] apps do not yet cover: easy publication and subscription of text, images, and sound. But while I read over 200 Weblogs a day using RSS and appreciate the technology, Im more excited by the possibilities of the new P2P feature (Meeting Space) than the fact that they are baking a play-toy news reader function into Explorer."

Brust summed it up: "Embedding of RSS into the operating system is a particularly sensible yet significant action on Microsofts part. Ditto for the technology that is now part of the separate Windows Desktop Search. Giving mainstream computer users an easy way to organize and search through their own data and documents and the reams of information on the Internet is an absolute necessity. I spend at least 30 percent of my time creating and reading all that content (e-mail, word processing documents, spreadsheets, and articles and information on the Web) and I find it an unbearable tax on my life and time management.

"If Windows Vista provides a platform for taming this beast, then the prognosis is excellent for a lot of product innovation around pushing that 30 percent down to something more reasonable, like 15 percent. I know this may sound extreme, but I see this as a serious economic development/productivity issue for anyone reasonably classified as an information worker. "

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