The second and final keynote at MIX10 was all in the cloud.
Dean Hachamovitch was the leadoff speaker for today’s keynote, representing the Internet Explorer team. He wasted no time in letting everyone know he was there to talk about Internet Explorer 9 (IE9), HTML 5, standards and performance. It is clear Microsoft cannot and will not completely abandon the use of some proprietary technologies in their browser’s rendering but they are improving their ACID3 score. He also made it clear that the IE team understands the importance of moving users off of IE6 and onto IE8 (and eventually IE9).
Hachamovitch announced the immediate availability of the Internet Explorer Platform Preview for IE9. It is not a full browser but the IE9 engine hosted inside a shell with limited functionality. There is no back button. In fact, there is no toolbar at all. The menu system contains these options:
- Developer Tools
- Force IE5 Document Mode
- Force IE7 Document Mode
- Force IE8 Document Mode
- Force IE9 Document Mode
- Reset Document Mode to page default
- Report Issue
- Report an Issue
- Run IE9 Diagnostics
- Using the Windows Internet Explorer Platform Preview
- Privacy Statement
I am expecting to see Microsoft pushing browser performance over the next year. It was a big theme this morning. The IE9 engine is using hardware acceleration for rendering in the browser, taking the load off of the active processor thread(s). The result is a smoother animations and amazing HTML 5 video performance. Steven Sinofsky, the head of the Windows division at Microsoft joined Hachamovitch on stage to demonstrate IE9’s capabilities. Most of the demos shown are linked to within the IE Preview application’s home screen. Every HTML 5 demo rendered much faster than both Firefox and Google Chrome (Chrome was clearly the slowest of the three, using all of the processing power available on the machine).
Client-side web debugging tools are also included in the preview. The debugger includes network monitoring, script, CSS and HTML debugging.
One of the first updates to the platform preview will include support for HTML 5 video. Microsoft’s demo machines were loaded with this version and showed off the performance of their video rendering. On a $400 netbook, IE9 rendered two videos using less CPU and with fewer frame drops than Chrome. Next they showed off a video carousel application. It was a carousel in HTML 5 spinning four videos with colored borders and an IE9 background on the page. On Chrome, the CPUs were working hard. On IE9, the CPUs were around 50% utilized. Also, the IE9 version rendered the videos semi-transparent.
The IE team plans to release updates to the platform preview approximately every eight weeks, a welcome shift from the relative silence since the release of IE8.
Web Platform and Developer Tools
Scott Guthrie was on stage next to talk about Microsoft’s new and upcoming web platform and developer tools, ASP.NET 4 and Visual Studio 2010. Visual Studio improvements for web developers include:
- Full Multi-Monitor Support
- Better IntelliSense
- Reduced Keystrokes and Better Navigation
- Richer Code Visualization, Profiling and Debugging
Scott Hanselman came out to demonstrate some of the new development features coming in Visual Studio 2010. He dragged a code editor window out of the Visual Studio IDE and maximized onto a second monitor to illustrate the multi-monitor support. IntelliSense now supports two new types of autocompletion. First, it will search for results containing the text entered instead of those just beginning with the search text. In addition, if a developer knows the first letter of each word in the desired type/member name, they can type those letters in CAPS to find it. Box selection is possible by holding down the ALT key. Here is an example:
In Hanselman’s example, he selected the word “private” on a series of properties and quickly changed them to “public”.
Finally, Hanselman showed an example using a new jQuery templating plugin they created in conjunction with jQuery and made publicly available to the jQuery community. Scott Guthrie also announced that this plugin is just the first contribution in their ongoing relationship. Next they brought up John Resig, creator of jQuery, to give his thanks and endorsement to the endeavor.
Guthrie stressed that Microsoft wants to make it easier to get started with web development. To that end, he touted products and services that are currently available for individuals and small businesses:
- Web Platform Installer – Easily download and install development platforms and tools.
- Web Application Gallery – Free open source applications (both .NET and PHP) which can be downloaded, along with their prerequisites, via the Web Platform Installer.
- WebsiteSpark and BizSpark – Two programs to provide free tools for production use to web development startups for up to three years with no commitment beyond that period.
Services Powering Experiences
Douglas Purdy’s portion of the keynote aimed to answer three “How Do I” questions in regard to data services:
Enable Many Experiences
As a developer, this was possibly the most interested and exciting part of the morning. Purdy announced the Open Data Protocol (OData) which has a home at www.odata.org. The purpose of OData is to standardize data access via web services, providing an easy way to consume and present that data across platforms. Netflix is among the first to publish their data via OData. The feed can be viewed today here. It returns an Atom service document with rich metadata. Using only the Url string, the data returned can be filtered ($filter=<your filter here>) and formatted ($format=json). There is no client-side code needed to perform the queries outside of querying the Url. The Add Service Reference dialog in Visual Studio 2010 supports OData services out of the box. A downloadable OData Visualizer provides a rich view of the structure of the data returned from the service. The data can be queried with LINQ and bound to existing web controls. The Palm Pre browser can also navigate OData sources.
In Office 2010, a couple of options for OData will be included. For SharePoint 2010, every list available on the server will expose an OData feed by default. In Excel, OData can be consumed and presented using PowerPivot.
The .NET OData client is being released under the Apache license and is available today.
Make API Scalable
Scalability is possible with Windows Azure and SQL Azure. The Netflix OData data and service is being hosted on Azure. Exactly one line of code is needed to expose an Entity Framework data library as a service for OData. By simply changing the web.config file to point to a SQL Azure back end, an existing service can pull its data from the cloud. Microsoft’s Codename “Houston” project can allow users to create, build and manage their SQL Azure databases through a web user interface. So, with no client side tools, an Azure customer can create a database and expose it as an OData service by checking a single checkbox.
At MIX09, Bill Buxton opened the keynote on Day 1. This year he was the closer on Day 2. The eccentric user experience (UX) guru did not disappoint. He has a keen insight into design and user interactions. The key takeaways from Buxtons talk were:
- What Is Natural?
- Our ability to acquire skill
- Our ability to adapt/assimilate to our environment
- Respect Users’ Acquired Skills
- Mobile Is Key – Respect physical and social context in our applications
- Build the Design Right
With the keynotes over, I am off to some sessions and to meet some interesting people in The Commons, Microsoft’s exhibition and gathering hall at MIX10. Stay tuned for continued coverage!