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Microsoft PDC 2008: Day 2 Wrap-Up


Windows 7, Office 14, Live Services, Visual Studio 2010 

Tuesday’s first keynote focused on several different Microsoft products and technologies: Windows 7, Office Web applications, Office 14, Live Services and more specifically Live Mesh, and Visual Studio 2010 & .NET Framework 4.0. Ray Ozzie returned to the stage to lead things off, providing an overview of each of these upcoming products. In essence, this keynote was all about User Experience (UX), whether it is on the PC, the Web, or a mobile device.

Once Ozzie had set the stage for the morning’s unveilings, he introduced Steven Sinofsky, Senior VP of the Windows and Windows Live Engineering group. He said that one of the primary goals in the development of Windows 7 is performance optimization. They are focused on reducing memory consumption, disk I/O, and processor utilization everywhere possible. He also stressed that it’s very important for application developers targeting Windows 7 to do the same. One of the other areas of focus under the covers are application and device compatibility.

There were many changes to the Windows UX demonstrated as well. The Network and Sharing Center has been enhanced to provide a simpler user interface to share media, printers, documents and more across PCs on a shared network. The ribbon control introduced in Office 2007 is now a part of the core Windows API, and is part of a long-overdue makeover for MS Paint, WordPad and Calculator. Multi-touch is also being baked into Windows 7, as are some improvements to window management and Gadgets.

The biggest update to the UX is in the taskbar. It is slightly larger by default, and open programs display as an icon instead of a larger button containing an icon and the window caption. When a user hovers over an icon in the taskbar, large thumbnails of all open windows (and tabs for Internet Explorer) for that application are displayed. Clicking on one of those thumbnails brings that particular window or tab into focus. Right-clicking on an icon opens a “Jump List”. Jump Lists are a new incarnation of the right click menu which provide a list of the available windows/tabs as well as custom menu options based on the program selected. Another improvement to the taskbar is a more customizable system tray. Users will have controls over what icons in the system tray will be visible and whether they can open notification bubbles or not. Hidden notifications are aggregated in a notification manager window.

Scott Guthrie came up next. He highlighted some additions and improvements to the Windows API in Windows 7. These include: the ribbon control, Jump Lists, Libraries (a new content aggregation concept in Windows Explorer), multi-touch and DirectX. He also demonstrated how simple it is to implement some of these APIs using Visual Studio 2010 and .NET 4.0.

Visual Studio itself is also getting a makeover. The entire VS 2010 shell is being re-written in WPF. The current CTP version does not use that new shell yet, but parts of it do use WPF, including the code editor.

Some other cool demonstrations included using a sample photo application with multi-touch and integration into Live Mesh to share photos across computers, the web and mobile devices. A similar demonstration of Office 14 and Office Web Applications, showed how users will be able to seamlessly collaborate on documents whether they use windows-based Office applications or the web-based versions in their browser. 

Drill Down on .NET Services

Don Box and Chris Anderson’s keynote was vastly different from the first two PDC keynotes. There were no slides, no videos and no guest vendor demonstrations. The two of them spent the entire talk writing and running code that exposed and consumed web services. It felt very unscripted (though undoubtedly it was prepared), and there was a fantastic dynamic between Don and Chris. They really pulled the audience into the talk and sated their desire to finally see some cool code. 

Hands-On with “The Goods”

I got my hands on “the goods” just after lunchtime on Day 2, but had to wait until later in the evening to install Windows 7. The biggest disappointment was that the build provided to PDC attendees was not the same build demonstrated during the keynote. The most notable difference is the taskbar. The taskbar in build 6801 still has the old Vista style… no Jump Lists. Most of the other features do seem to be present. There is built-in support for creating and mounting existing virtual disks, improved window management, and improvements to the Network and Sharing Center, and the new ribbonized versions of Paint, WordPad and Calculator.

The Visual Studio 2010 CTP was only provided in the form of a virtual hard drive with an OS and VS 2010 pre-installed. No installable bits to be found on the USB hard drive. There appear to be quite a few other SDKs and whitepapers to check out. I haven’t had time to fully peruse the contents. 

‘Oslo’: The Language

Don Box and David Langworthy presented an in-depth session on Microsoft’s new modeling language, ‘M’, which is part of the Oslo modeling suite. They defined M as a language for defining domain models and textual Domain Specific Languages (DSLs). M models define the schema of the model and query over structured data that makes up the model. M DSLs use rules-based transformation and have grammar-driven text editor integration. They further impressed upon the audience that M is not an object-oriented language, a data access technology or a replacement for T-SQL queries. There is a lot to understand behind M before I can provide a complete evaluation, but it looks like a big step into new territory for Microsoft. 


Day 2 was more about depth. There were more technical keynotes and deeper dives into products and technologies throughout the day. The Day 3 keynote will provide a vision further into the future from Microsoft Research.


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