MIX 2009 kicked off in Las Vegas this morning with a bang. There was a virtual avalanche of announcements made about key products and technologies that will have a lasting impact on web and interactive developers and designers over the next year. Bill Buxton and Scott Guthrie tag teamed a very full keynote session, and while I’m personally still trying to digest everything we heard, I wanted to provide you with a summary of all the announcements made this morning. I’m sure this will prompt many follow-ups over the next few days and weeks as I get a chance to dig deeper into Expression Web and Blend, Commerce Server 2009, Azure and, most of all, Silverlight 3.
The theme for MIX this year is “Return on Experience,” and that is precisely what Bill Buxton of Microsoft Research focused on during the opening minutes of today’s keynote. Bill began by presenting a new and far more compelling discussion about why user experience (UX) matters (or should matter) in all the software we build. He talked about the history of industrial design and pointed out that some of the most innovative and successful products ever created address the needs of individual people and provided unparalleled simplicity and intuitiveness in their design. Bill also showed that there is a long history of companies and products being very successful during times of economic strife, mentioning several companies founded just before or during the Great Depression which are still in business today.
Bill finished his portion of the keynote by restating Microsoft’s commitment to delivering exception user experience in all of our products, citing that growth in user experience professionals at Microsoft has grown by 150% over the past 7 years.
“The Gu” came on stage after a particularly funny video which featured him, among other things, disco dancing and getting his hair teased, and started right in with Microsoft’s state of the art in what he termed “the standards-based web.” Major announcements in this space include:
- The preview of Expression Web 3 is available for download today!
- SuperPreview is a new tool that is part of Expression Web 3 that will allow web developers to comprehensively test their web pages for cross-browser compatibility before publishing them online. If the designer is working from an image mock-up of a page, they can do a side-by-side comparison of the mock and their designed page. They can even overlap them to get a better idea of who close they’ve come to implementing the intended design. Even more cool than that, they can preview the page in many different browsers. SuperPreview will render the page in any locally installed browser and will even connect to a cloud service to render the page in a browser you don’t have on your machine. For example, if I have IE8 and FireFox 3 installed on my machine, but I want to see how my page would render in Safari, SuperPreview will pull a Safari instance from the cloud to show the output. This is going to make SuperPreview invaluable to web designers.
- The ASP.NET MVC 1.0 framework shipped this morning and is available for immediate download for free.
- A series of improvements for ASP.NET 4.0, including:
- Enhanced web form development
- Integration of ASP.NET MVC and AJAX
- Distributed caching
- Enhancements to Visual Studio 2010 for web developers, including:
- SharePoint developers become first class citizens in the IDE with new development tools for MOSS
- New publishing and deployment tools, including the ability to keep multiple web.config files specific to a deployment environment, i.e. development, test, staging and production
- General availability of the Microsoft Web Platform Installer 2 beta. This awesome little application provides you with the ability to get all the tools and technologies for developing web applications for the ASP.NET platform in one place—no more jumping from web site to web site trying to find the installers. Just click on a check box, hit the Install button and you’re there!
- Microsoft Commerce Server 2009 available today.
- Customer-driven enhancements to the Windows Azure Service Platform, including:
- FastCGI/PHP and .NET full trust, allowing applications to share data and resources much more easily
- SQL Data Services will adopt a more familiar ADO.NET interface, making a true relational database in the cloud
- Windows Azure is schedule to ship this year!
As if this wasn’t enough, Scott moved into his talk about Silverlight 3, the preview of which is available today. Here are the highlights:
- There are over 10,000 web sites in the world today using Silverlight, and there are over 300,000 developers and designer actively developing with Silverlight.
- A new Silverlight version of the World Wide Telescope, previously available only in WPF, is going live today.
- A new SDK for integrating Microsoft Virtual Earth into your Silverlight applications will be available for download this week.
- Silverlight 3 will provide cross-platform support for hardware acceleration.
- Silverlight 3 will include the H.264, AAC and MPEG-4 codecs; it will also include a raw bit-stream audio and video API which will allow developers to create custom codecs in managed code if they need/want to.
- Silverlight 3 includes enhanced logging capabilities for managing application access analysis
- IIS Media Services
- This will be a free download that will enable any IIS7 web server to provide smooth video or audio streaming services
- Media Services will provide advanced logging, bit-rate throttling and edge caching
- Media Services applications will be developed and deployed using Expression Encoder, so the experience will be familiar and seemless
- There are several enhancements to Silverlight 3 in graphics, including:
- GPU acceleration and hardware compositing
- Perspective 3D, essentially moving 2D objects in the UI in a 3D space
- An API for bitmap images and pixels
- Shader effects
- Hardware acceleration for Deep Zoom
- There are also several new features in Silverlight 3 that will make RIA development even easier, including:
- “Deep linking,” which is the ability for a user to link to a specific place inside a Silverlight application
- Navigation and search engine optimization
- Improved text quality
- Library caching support
- More than 100+ controls available from Microsoft, not counting those made by partners
- Silverlight 3 will ship with the native ability to run outside the browser. A Silverlight application running outside the browser implements the same security model as Silverlight in the browser, and even has built-in automated update abilities. Yep, drop a new version of the application on the web server and the Silverlight app on the user’s machine automatically updates. Say goodbye to complex deployment issues for desktop applications!
- The 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver will be streamed live and on-demand using Silverlight
- And, in what was possibly the most incredible news I heard all morning, with all of these new, incredible features, the Silverlight 3 installer package is actually 40k SMALLER than the Silverlight 2 installer. I guess there really is something to rigorous code review practices!
Finally, The Gu finished up the keynote this morning with a look at Expression Blend 3 CTP. Here are the highlights:
- Blend 3 will include a new tool called SketchFlow, which will allow you basically create a digital “cocktail napkin” design of your application, visually mapping interactions between different application windows, share these drafts with customers, enter feedback directly into the form and send the feedback to designers in Blend. From where I was sitting, this looked a lot like the work item management tools in Visual Studio Team System. You’ve heard of Application Lifecycle Management (ALM)? How about DLM: Design Lifecycle Management!
- Support for Silverlight development in Eclipse, both for Windows and the Mac OS.
- New data-binding tools in Blend 3 support the ability to connect to sample data or generate sample date. You can also edit the test data right in the design environment, giving designers unprecedented testing capabilities.
Every bullet point above could easily be a separate post, and I intend to do as many as I can. Anyway, that’s the summery of this morning’s announcements, and there are more coming tomorrow. The links to many of the products above are not live yet. I’ll do follow-up posts with links to the goods as they become available. Until tomorrow…
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