Posts Tagged ‘Microsoft’

Thoughts from Build Windows Conference

September 15, 2011

This past week I attended the Microsoft Build Windows conference in Anaheim, California.  The conference was focused on developing applications for the next version of Windows – known as Windows 8.

The keynote was presented by Steven Sinofsky (President of Windows and Windows Live Divisions) where he provided an overview and demonstration of Windows 8. Windows 8 introduces a new user interface called Metro (similar in appearance to Windows Phone and XBox) which is possibly the biggest change to the Windows user interface since Windows 95. Metro is designed for touch first and keyboard/mouse second, thereby changing how users interact with the operating system. In Metro there are no overlapping windows, nor are there any icons on the desktop – rather it has ‘living tiles’.  The operating system recedes into the background, whilst applications and content take front stage.

Windows 8 Start Screen

Microsoft claims that any application that runs on Windows 7 will run on Windows 8. To achieve this, Windows 8 provides both the Metro user interface and the traditional Desktop user interface, whilst allowing instant switching between both.  However, applications must be either Metro applications or Desktop applications.  Windows 8 effectively packages 2 different user interface paradigms and allows the single operating system to run effectively on both tablets and desktops.  This is a different approach to Apple which has separate operating systems with iOS for tablets and OS X for desktops.

The conference sessions focused on developing applications for the Metro user interface.  From the sessions, Metro appears great for developing content consumption applications targeted for consumers, but does seem lacking for content creation/productivity applications targeted for businesses.  I am interested in knowing what Microsoft plans to do with their productivity software, such as Word and Excel which are feature rich applications, whether they remain as Desktop applications or whether they can be reimagined into Metro applications.  I particularly like the Share Contract for Metro applications, but it is short-sighted in not allowing the Share Contracts to be used with Desktop applications.

The Windows Store is a good addition to Windows.  Metro applications can only be distributed via the Windows Store and must pass a certification process to ensure quality.  The revenue sharing model has not been released, but all Metro applications use a Microsoft licensing model which licenses software to an account which may be used across multiple devices.  The ability to specify a trial period for a Metro application is a good inclusion, and improves upon the separate Lite/Full version apps in the Apple App Store.  Desktop applications can be listed in the Windows Store if certified and continue to use traditional licensing and distribution methods.

LiveID plays an important role in Windows 8 by leveraging the Cloud to sync user profiles, preferences, applications and their associated data across devices.  Other nice aspects of Windows 8 is the fast boot, AppV support, chrome-less Internet Explorer, revamped Task Manager and the innovative picture passwords.

Metro applications reuse developer language skills in C, C++, C#, VB, HTML, and Javascript.  Developers will need to learn the Windows Runtime which is in a flavor similar to the .Net framework.  Desktop applications developed using the .Net Framework and Silverlight are part of the Windows 8 journey, but they are now relegated to the back seat, with Windows Runtime in the drivers seat and HTML5 calling shotgun.

Windows 8 Apps

Besides sessions on Windows 8, I was interested in Anders Hejlsberg’s session titled Future directions for C# and Visual Basic which demonstrated Project Rosyln – the compiler as a service.  I was also interested in Roger Doherty’s session titled Building mission critical database apps with SQL Server code name “Denali” which overviews the many great improvements in SQL Server for developers and needed a day of sessions to do it justice.

These are my thoughts after attending Build Windows over the past 4 days and look forward to seeing how Windows 8 evolves through the Developer Preview and Beta.  In summary, Windows 8 is a bold refresh of the Windows operating system, positioning to be the best user experience for a diverse range of device formats.

ISV Perspective of Partnering with Microsoft

March 23, 2011

QSR International is an Independent Software Vendor (ISV) that develops and sells Qualitative Research software to an international market. Since 2004, I have been QSR International’s Executive Contact for the Microsoft Partner Network. QSR International has achieved the Gold ISV competency which represents organizations that have demonstrated the highest, most consistent capability and commitment within their business area. This blog post reflects my views on partnering with Microsoft as an Australian ISV.

To achieve an ISV Gold competency with Microsoft, an organization must accomplish the following:

  • Deliver a product that has passed either
    • Certified for Windows Server 2008 R2, or
    • Windows 7 Logo Test
  • Commit to achieving either
    • 12 customer deployments involving Microsoft technologies, or
    • US$50,000 in Microsoft product licensing sales
  • Provide a minimum of 5 customer references for your product
  • Provide a minimum of 10 customers to complete a satisfaction survey
  • Complete an organization profile
  • Pay a membership fee

The benefits of the partnership that we have leveraged are:

  • Access to training, technical support, and events
  • Partner newsletters with news and business opportunities
  • Attendance at the Microsoft Partner Conference
  • Internal usage licenses of Microsoft products for staff
  • MSDN subscriptions for developers and testers
  • TechNet subscriptions for IT professionals
  • Ability to use the Microsoft Partner Network branding
  • Access to ISV Royalty program

The partnership with Microsoft has greatly assisted the growth of QSR International over the past 7 years through empowering our people with relevant information, access to technology, and helping us deliver better products to our customers. The only weakness of the partnership has been with the usage of outsourced telesales Partner Account Managers who lack established connections within Microsoft Corp, struggle to understand your business, and turnover every 3-6 months. I have learnt personally that developing connections within Microsoft has to occur through peer networking and attending conferences. There are a lot of great people within Microsoft and these are the people you need to be connecting with, the Microsoft Partner Network is not a replacement for this, but does help you gain some recognition.  Overall, a highly recommended partnership for ISVs involved with Microsoft technologies.

Forecast: Cloudy

November 7, 2010

Cloud Computing is considered a disruptive technology destined for accelerated adoption over the next few years.  Gartner Executive Programs’ 2010 CIO Survey identified that Cloud Computing is the number 2 technology priority for worldwide CIOs.  IDC estimates that spending on Public Cloud Services was 4% ($16.5 billion) of overall IT spending in 2009 and will grow to 12% ($55.5 billion) in 2014.  The following chart from Google Trends shows how searches for Cloud Computing has risen rapidly and has surpassed searches for Virtualization.

Google Trends - Cloud Computing vs. Virtualization

This week I attended the Cloud Expo in Santa Clara.  The conference was well represented by Cloud Computing providers (75 exhibitors) showing a diversity of approaches and opinions on what constitutes Cloud Computing.  There are 3 common types of Cloud Computing services and they are typically used as follows:

  • Software as a Service (SaaS) – consume it
  • Platform as a Service (PaaS) – build on it
  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) – migrate to it

The most valuable conference sessions of Cloud Expo that I attended were ‘How to Monetize SaaS Beyond Subscriptions’ presented by Scott Swartz (MetraTech CEO), ‘The Move is On: Cloud Strategies for Business’ by Tim O’Brien (Microsoft Senior Director of Platform Strategy Group), and ‘Which “aaS” is Right for You?” by Max Coburn (Hubspan Software Architect) and Margaret Dawson (Hubspan Marketing Vice President).

Last week I attended the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference (PDC) in Redmond.  PDC is described as the definitive Microsoft event focused on the technical strategy of the Microsoft developer platform.  What made this PDC unique was that it held at Microsoft Corporation and provided an opportunity to see the campus where many products are developed.  Having attended the previous 3 PDCs, this year’s conference was short on new product announcements, but strong on message.  The focus was firmly on Windows Azure, Windows Mobile and Developer Tools.

The keynote was presented by Steve Ballmer (Chief Executive Officer) and Bob Muglia (President of the Server and Tools Business).  Steve presented an overview of Microsoft’s ecosystem of devices (Windows 7, Windows Phone 7, XBOX 360) connected (Internet Explorer, HTML5) to the Cloud (Windows Azure, SQL Azure, Bing, Office 365, XBOX Live, Windows Live).  This is the realization of the vision presented by Ray Ozzie at last year’s PDC of 3 screens (PCs, phones, and TVs) connected by cloud services.  The real surprise was the emphasis of HTML5 over Silverlight, raising the question of which technology to develop new applications with.  I spoke to several Microsoft employees about this and they answered consistently that it a similar question circulating within Microsoft as many projects are currently under development in Silverlight.

PDC10 Keynote - Steve Ballmer

Bob presented on Cloud Computing, focusing specifically on the benefits of developing Apps on a Platform as a Service (PaaS) as opposed to a traditional platform.  Bob said “Only Windows Azure delivers general-purpose PaaS, which gives developers the breadth of services needed to allow them to focus on their applications and not the underlying infrastructure or virtualizing machines”.  Bob announced the Virtual Machine Role for Windows Azure allowing the Windows Azure platform to easily host existing applications that run on Windows Server 2008 R2, and announced the Windows Azure Marketplace and DataMarket (formerly known as Project Dallas).

I was invited to attend a PDC10 workshop for Windows Azure on the weekend.  The workshop provided 1:1 product team consulting, hands-on labs, and small group interactive sessions.  The Microsoft product team were great to interact with and the day was extremely valuable.  I can confidently say that Windows Azure has matured rapidly since its release at the start of this year and is now the best PaaS to develop new applications against.

Reflections on Microsoft TechEd 2010 & Business Intelligence Conference

June 11, 2010

This past week I attended the co-located Microsoft TechEd 2010 and 2010 Business Intelligence conferences in New Orleans, Louisiana.  The co-location of the conferences was a great initiative as it allowed the 10,000 attendees to mix sessions from both conferences.

TechEd 2010 Keynote

The day 1 keynote (TechEd) was presented by Bob Muglia (Microsoft President of the Server and Tools Business).  Bob discussed the continued evolution of Windows Azure with support for .Net 4.0, IntelliTrace debugging, and new tools within Visual Studio 2010.  SQL Azure has continued to evolve with increased storage limits, geospatial data, and data synchronization.  Bing Maps SDK was released to enable the visualization of data in maps.  Service Pack 1 was announced for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 for release in July 2010.

The day 2 keynote (Business Intelligence) was presented by Ted Kummert (Microsoft Senior Vice President of the Business Platform Division).  Ted talked about managed self-service analytics and how PowerPivot provides users an Excel-like look and feel on the desktop that enables a variety of data sources to be related easily with high performance across high volume.  A demonstration of PowerPivot was given showing instant sorting and filtering of 2 billion rows of data.  Most of the keynote focused on the Microsoft BI technologies and their integration, these being Excel, SQL Server, SharePoint, and PowerPivot.

The most valuable sessions of TechEd 2010 that I attended were ‘Agile Planning’ presented by Peter Provost (Microsoft Senior Program Manager) and ‘Tough Lessons Learned as a Software Project Manager’ presented by Gregg Boer (Microsoft Principal Program Manager).  Both of these speakers shared their experiences managing projects and what they had learnt.  Gregg presented on 7 key project management learnings, those being:   

  • prioritize ruthlessly, cut judiciously
  • it’s not enough to understand what, you must understand why
  • aggressive schedules do not motivate
  • politics are dumb, ignoring politics is dumber
  • your project is at risk – are you handling it?
  • it’s not a popularity contest
  • you work with people – not resources

Other extremely interesting sessions of TechEd 2010 that I attended were ‘Business Intelligence Overview: Decisions, Decisions, Decisions’ presented by Donald Farmer (Microsoft SQL Server BI Management Program Manager) and ‘So Many BI Tools, So Little Time’ presented by Dan Buloss (Symmetry Corp President).  Both Donald and Dan presented some interesting conceptual models about business intelligence; two of which I have reproduced below:   

Business Intelligence and Analysis (Donald Farmer)

Reporting Spectrum (Dan Buloss)

The hidden gem in the rough of TechEd 2010 was ‘Build Your Own Cool Visualizations Using DGML’ presented by Suhail Dutta (Microsoft Program Manager).  Suhail showed how to use Directed Graph Markup Language (DGML) to visualize architectural dependencies using Visual Studio, as well as visualizing your own specific data.  The problem with this feature is that it can only be used within Visual Studio; it would make a great control for user applications to visualize and explore data. 

These are my thoughts after attending TechEd 2010 over the past 4 days and I look forward to sharing and implementing what I learnt.

Reflections on Microsoft PDC09

November 20, 2009

This past week I attended the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference (PDC) in Los Angeles.  PDC is described as the definitive Microsoft event focused on the technical strategy of the Microsoft developer platform.  Having attended PDC in 2005 and 2008, this year’s conference seemed to be more about fulfillment and refinement of existing directions and strategies, rather than any shift in direction or strategy.

The day 1 keynote was presented by Ray Ozzie (Chief Software Architect) and Bob Muglia (President of the Server and Tools Business).  Ray highlighted Microsoft’s broad vision to support 3 screens – PCs, phones, and TVs – all connected by cloud services.  Last year, the broad vision was to support 3 screens – PC, web, and phone; where Windows 7 was announced to support the PC, Windows Azure was announced to support the web, and no announcements were made regarding the phone.  This year there was little new information about the PC and no new information about the Phone and TV – though we were told that details about Windows Mobile 7 will be announced at the MIX10 conference in March 2010.  Windows Azure was announced to go live on 1 January 2010 and a cloud computing project ‘Dallas’ was announced.  Dallas is a data repository for content brokerage and discovery, in competition to IBM’s Smart Analytics Cloud.

The day 2 keynote was presented by Steven Sinofsky (President of Windows and Windows Live), Scott Guthrie (Corporate Vice President of .Net Developer Platform) and Kurt DelBene (Senior Vice President of Office Business Productivity).  Scott announced the beta of Silverlight 4.  Kurt announced the public beta of Microsoft Office 2010, Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010, Microsoft Visio 2010, Microsoft Project 2010, and Microsoft Office Mobile 2010.  Steven highlighted advancements in performance and interoperable standards being developed for Internet Explorer 9.  It was interesting to see the demonstration of delivering video to an iPhone using Silverlight Streaming given Steve Ballmer’s dislike of the iPhone.

The best advancement of the developer platform at PDC09 was the continued developments in Silverlight.  Silverlight 4 introduces support for drag/drop, right-click, print, media handling, clipboard, and rich text.  There is now support for the Google Chrome browser and extended out-of-browser capabilities.  I assume that Silverlight will become the common user interface technology in the future to support all 3 screens (PC, phone, TV).

The frustration of PDC09 was Windows Azure.  Azure has improved significantly (particularly with  SQL Azure) since it was first announced at last year’s PDC, but disappoints due to the lack of support for Virtual Machines and the business model for international organizations.

Given that most organizations have existing web applications that could benefit by moving them into the cloud, but the cost of redevelopment is not justifiable, then Virtual Machines are today’s low hanging fruit for cloud computing.  Microsoft said they will support Virtual Machines in Azure at a future date; however this is something already available from competitor cloud offerings.

The Azure business model for companies outside of the United States is not as competitive as it should be.  For instance, my organization resides in Australia and we currently use Amazon Web Services S3 for customer downloads.  The cost of storage today using S3 is AUD$0.161 (USD$0.15 * 1.07) per GB whereas the Azure cost of storage will be AUD$0.188 (USD$0.15 * 1.25) per GB, being 17% more expensive.  The cost of data transfer out today using S3 is AUD$0.182 (USD$0.17 * 1.07) per GB whereas the Azure cost of data transfer out will be AUD$0.188 (USD$0.15 * 1.25) per GB, being 3% more expensive.  Furthermore, Australian organizations are excluded from the initial go-live date of January 2010 and must wait until April 2010.  Microsoft got poor publicity in the media on their pricing of Windows 7 in Australia, and really has no excuse using a segmented regional based business model when the cloud is a borderless global based business model.

The hidden gem of PDC09 was the overview and demonstration of the Microsoft Semantic Engine.  The Semantic Engine unifies search, structured querying, and analytics over structured and unstructured data.  This will componentize this fragmented technology space, enabling developers to provide business insights into data to support better decision-making.  It goes beyond existing components like Lucene by supporting both text and non-text, such as audio, video, and images.

These are my thoughts after attending PDC09 over the past 4 days and I look forward to trialling the new betas.