Day one at my first PDC was interesting. The focus on of the keynote speech was on the release of Windows Azure. This isn’t really a new hard product, it is basically a fancy hosted version of Windows. Microsoft is stressing the “Cloud computing” Software + Services thing. Not all that exciting for what I’m doing. A demo of this technology used a cute little application called bluehoo. This application lets you see who is around you with Bluetooth phones on. It is a very interesting concept and you can get it for your phone at http://m.bluehoo.com
. It showed an interesting use of the Azure technology, the ability to rapidly scale your architecture is very cool. The bottom line though will be the bottom line, and the only comment that they had on the pricing structure is it will be based on 2 things, resources used and service level agreement’s desired. It was mentioned though that uptime guarantees are part of the equation with financial consequences for Microsoft if they fail to meet them. This is an interesting concept but I’m not sure why they chose to highlight this at PDC which is a developer conference.
After the Keynote I attended a session on “Under the hood: Advances in the .net Type system.” This turned out to be an interesting session. Basically, in VS 2010 you will be able to work with COM interop without having to include Primary Interop Assemblies with your code. This “No PIA” approach forces the compiler to analyze your code and build into your .exe all of and only the type definitions that you need for your application’s specific interop calls. This results in much smaller distributions as only the portions of the PIA that are needed for your app are copied into your .exe. The example used was the Excel PIA…to utilize it would require 1.2 megs for the full Excel PIA, however with the new method the resulting .exe was only 2kb larger and the 1.2meg Excel PIA was not required. This “link” compiler switch will be turned on by default for new projects but will have to be turned on as part of the PIA properties in VS 2010.
After lunch, where I was again convinced that I didn’t need VS Team system according to my tablemates comments, I tried to get into the Blend Secrets session. It was completely full and the overflow room was standing room only. Fortunately some folks got up and I snagged a seat. A lot of good information came out of this session. First, a lot of the frustrations with Blend that we have had are shared by the larger developer community. The Font Manager for blend was covered which is important to keep your Silverlight applications small and yet still looking the way you intended. The difference between “static” vs dynamic fonts was also explained, static only copies the actual characters in the string at design time, so it will not work well for bound data. In the case of bound data or any data that can change at runtime you need to use a dynamic setting. In response to user questions I learned the following about the next Blend release:
1) Releases will be done annually.
2) Everyone wants intellisense and it was promised that “better editing of XAML will be introduced in a very interesting way in the next version.” The presenter could not elaborate.
3) The next version will feature source control integration.
4) Other users have an issue with dynamic data, the static XML that is always in samples but doesn’t map to the real world. The inability for Blend to work with dynamic data in resource dictionaries is something targeted for improvement.
Someone complained about the cost of the upgrade to v2 as I had done in this blog
. The presenter empathized and others around me seemed to agree.
6) The support for 3rd party controls will be improved in the next build which they are calling a really big upgrade
7) The next version of Design will support EPS files but that’s about as far as they are going to go with supporting Illustrator.
8) Everyone has to check out WPF Snoop….its like Mole but on steroids..the 3d view of an application is amazing and it can also work with compiled .exe’s including blend.exe itself!
The next session I attended was about Office Communications Service. I really wanted to go to the “Surface” presentation but there is a direct need in my business to get up to speed with the various OCS technologies so I had to pass on the cool coffee table. There were some issues with the demos but in all I realized that there is a huge opportunity to either integrate OCS into our main product line or use some of the ideas on OCS in our own messaging platform within our product line.
After a short break I attended a session about constructing applications that will run in both Silverlight and in regular WPF. This was a great presentation. One of the biggest Siliverlight issues is that the webclient class doesn’t support network credentials. To get around this Ian, the presenter, created a webservice that would essentially proxy the calls that the Silverlight client needed to make. I have a feeling this will be a common theme when writing our Silverlight apps, we will hit a wall and have to have a service running on the server to circumvent the limitations with Silverlight. I asked about getting support for ado.net datasets in Silverlight, and the presenter took my information and will get back to me. After asking my question I had several others around me comment that they really need this functionality as well which was encouraging. Another big item missing from Silverlight that many were requesting is printing support.
I closed the day up by changing things around a bit, I attended a session on “Agile Development with Visual Studio.”
There was a partner reception afterwards but I was able to score tickets to the LA Kings Detroit Redwings hockey game at the Staples Center. Fearing a Microsoft Overdose I decided to head there with some friends from LA. Tomorrow is going to be a long but good day, 2 big keynotes and the attendee party at Universal Studios to cap it off! I’ll report back then.