Posts Tagged ‘Silverlight’

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.