Three screens, a cloud & a conference …

In the same week as the Chrome OS announcement (I wonder if Google did that on purpose? :-)) Microsoft have been running the 2009 edition of their Professional Developers Conference (PDC). PDC is easily the best conference Microsoft puts on – all the latest and greatest out of Redmond is on full display and it’s really the only time you get to see just how innovative and bleeding edge Microsoft can be (especially for their huge development community). PDC doesn’t run every year – it’s a special event that only occurs in years when there is something new to show off, but if you ever have the chance to go to one you should – it’s definitely on my Conference Bucket List. (The most famous PDC would probably have to be PDC 2000 when .NET was unveiled and released into beta – I still remember being jealous of people that went to that conference and came back with .NET preview CDs).

This year’s PDC hasn’t been quite as big as some but has still been a great insight into the future of Microsoft development tools and technologies. Ray Ozzie laid out Microsoft’s strategy for the coming years as being one of “three screens & a cloud”: mobile devices, PC’s & TV all interacting, communicating & collaborating via the web. This is exactly what we believe too & it’s nice to see such a strong push towards cloud computing from an organization that still relies so heavily on the desktop (though it’s slightly ironic for Microsoft to push mobile when the only cloud Microsoft’s mobile strategy seems to have gone up in is smoke).Some of the more interesting bits out of PDC this year for us have been:

  • ASP.NET MVC 2: we use ASP.NET MVC for any new projects at Xero including Xero Personal. ASP.NET MVC is a fantastic advancement in the rapid development of web applications and with each release it seems to be getting better and easier to use – the beta of V2 is now available so download it here.
  • Internet Explorer 9: IE9 looks very promising – the focus has been on performance, more standards support especially for newer standards like HTML5 & CSS3, use of hardware acceleration for smoother graphics and rendering, CSS selectors and lots more. At the moment they still only get a 32 on the Acid test (the browser I’m writing this blog post on gets a 100 and it’s been fully released for five months now) but it’s still very early days for the IE9 team and it sounds like standards and performance are the big focus (which they need to be!). Check out the IEBlog for more info.
  • Windows/SQL Azure: Azure is Microsoft’s attempt at getting into the world of elastic cloud computing (ala Amazon EC2). There has been a lot of announcements surrounding Azure at PDC 09 – I found this blog post which aggregates most of it in one place: http://oakleafblog.blogspot.com/2009/11/windows-azure-and-cloud-computing-posts_16.html
  • Silverlight 4: ever since Silverlight 3 was released I’ve been impressed with it’s capabilities and what it means for building and delivering applications over the web. I don’t want to go into it too much here but if I was building a line-of-business application for enterprise deployment I would probably choose Silverlight over any other technology. With Silverlight 4 they’ve taken the next step and created a mature and compelling set of technologies that will no doubt challenge Flash in the future. For more info go to: http://silverlight.net/getstarted/silverlight-4-beta/

One of the new features that Silverlight 4 will deliver is Google Chrome support. Right now Chrome does not run Silverlight – you can can run it in Firefox, IE and Safari and with Chrome support that will round out the big four. But what about Chrome OS? There is no official word on Chrome OS support for Silverlight at this stage (the question was asked at last week’s Chrome OS press conference) but if Silverlight is not supported then that will put a serious dent in Silverlight adoption as an open web technology. For an application like Xero that needs to be available anywhere, anytime, everywhere and all-the-time, mobile devices such as laptops, netbooks, tablets and phones are key devices for us to support completely and openly. Will be interesting to see what happens next.

One Comment

Adrian Pearson
November 11, 2009 at 10:30 pm

Hi Craig, thanks for the update. Was there any mention at PDC about the Office Live Small Business environment – i.e. developing from OLSB as a base [it’s built on Sharepoint, I understand)?

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