Thoughts on PDC 2009

image I’ve read a few articles that appeared on my Tweet stream regarding PDC this year and unfortunately they took a rather negative point-of-view. I’m always surprised when I read stuff like this:

Not since PDC 2003 has Microsoft talked so much and said so little. As I listened to the keynotes and have reviewed the sessions, words "series finale" repeatedly popped into my head — like a TV show coming to its end after a long run.

- Joe Wilcox
10 things about Microsoft’s PDC 2009: The good, the bad and the ugly

Unfortunately, to me that article reads very negatively and while I’m not quite sure what’s wrong in Joe Wilcox’s world to write such a piece I hope whatever it is it improves as things aren’t nearly as dreadful as he leads on.

I was in Orlando in 2000 when Microsoft announced the .NET framework which was clearly an inflection point though, rather somewhat messaged, they eventually delivered on Steve Ballmer’s Developers! Developers! Developers! message. I think we may reflect on this year’s PDC as an equally important inflection point as Microsoft delivers on a far more effective and cohesive cloud computing strategy than last years “services” effort. I didn’t attend PDC last year though I tried to grok their cloud strategy and left me wanting particularly when compared to what Amazon offered roughly a year ago which was Windows truly running in a cloud.

moves it does deliver on a number of fronts while at the same time it seems there were some obviously missing pieces though Microsoft stands on much firmer ground than they have in past years with Windows 7 being very solid with lots of new and interesting features and Internet Explorer 8 is a solid browser now that there’s lot’s of competition (Chrome, Safari, Firefox). Btw, I’ve more or less switched to using Chrome as my browser of choice from Firefox v3.5.

Some of the highlights I took away from this year’s PDC…

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Windows Azure ContainerWindows Azure was the major announcement at this event and compared to last years nebulous and confusing messaging which I never understood this year was very clear. To drive home the message Microsoft parked a Azure container right in the convention hall for people to browse in an around. Now, of course, these kinds of containers are not new nor unique to Microsoft but I think it delivered a clear message that their cloude (that’s the spelling they used this year) is real and happening right now. They plan to start billing Feb 1 for their cloud services. In contrast to last year, MS will host user customized VM’s in the cloude similar to what Amazon has offered for awhile now albeit on the latest MS OS rather than Win2003.

Windows Azure ContainerWhile support for custom VM’s running in the cloud is cool, perhaps the most immediately useful part of the Azure story may well be SQL Azure with it’s support for TSQL using existing tooling which is particularly interesting as it offers a “near” immediate use for Microsoft’s cloud services. I think this offering may also put pressure on ISP’s hosting MSSQL to offer more competitive pricing because Microsoft’s offering looks very compelling:

Web Edition Relational Database for $9.99/month includes:

  • Up to 1 GB of T-SQL based relational database
  • Self-managed DB, auto high availability
  • Best suited for Web application, Departmental custom apps.

My blog is hosted at discountASP.NET which costs $10/month for half the disk space. That’s not to say there aren’t other distinguishing factors between the two offerings but clearly our choices have expanded.

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Next was the Silverlight Beta 4 announcement which, in my mind, has clearly become Microsoft’s preferred UI platform trumping both WinForms (no surprise) and WPF. At ScottGu’s keynote he mentioned Microsoft has quickly pushed out three Silverlight releases in 22 months and that the quick pace was going to continue with his announcement of the availability of beta 4. The latest release nearly places Silverlight on the same level as WPF for developing native Windows applications just checkout the “Move beyond the browser” section on the above SL Beta 4 link. The other really important piece was ScottGu’s mention that many of the new features of SL 4 are in direct response to user feedback. That’s key and illustrates that Microsoft is listening and tuned into the developer community which is what’s going to drive the adoption of technologies like SL and more importantly, at least for Microsoft, Windows 7.

That gets to the laptop announcement where Microsoft enabled every attendee of PDC to start developing Windows 7 applications immediately. A great move IMO, one that further underscores Steve Ballmer’s developers message. If you don’t buy just look at the GUI builder Lino demonstrates here that Apple provides for iPhone development as used by Mono Touch. You can’t tell me that that’s a good tools story, it’s at least a decade behind Microsoft if not more.

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Speaking of tools, PDC 2009 was all VS.NET 2010 and there are many exciting new features both in .NET 4 and on the tooling side for developing WPF and Silverlight applications and services. Rather than rehash a lot of what’s been covered I’d point you to this blog post which does a nice job of covering a lot of “what’s new”. In many ways I see Microsoft weaving a more integrated development experience as many of the technologies they’ve introduced over the several years are maturing and with 2010 we’re getting much more tightly integrated tooling and as a result a far better developer experience.

Be sure to checkout the new features in WCF 4 and check out Mark Miller’s coding guitar and for those of you Delphi guys, yes that’s the same Mark.

What’s Missing

The biggest hole was Mobile, a problem I believe might have been inadvertently highlighted during ScottGu’s keynote when he attempted to demonstrate what will be a very cool streaming feature on an iPhone that failed to work though they tried four different phones. In fact, the iPhone made an appearance in both Keynotes something I really never thought possible when on day one, Vivek Kundra, the US Chief Information Officer demo’ed an Azure based jobs application on the iPhone. I saw a lot of people with Apple devices like iPhones and Macbooks myself included but this was still very surprising.

The End

Falafel Software Booth PDC 2009 Wrapping up, I really enjoyed the week at PDC especially being there with John Waters and Lino Tadros from the Falafel team. We laughed a lot (BTW, not safe for work) and generally had a good time meeting lots of people at the Falafel booth.

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2 thoughts on “Thoughts on PDC 2009

  1. Accidentally, I ran into the same article but wasn’t too surprised. Press in general love to hate MS, even when it is totally unreasonable and unjust. It’s like you not cool if you say anything nice about it or something :) I haven’t been at PDC but watched live stream and now going through recordings, to me it looks like great event.

  2. Hi Ruslan,
    Thanks for the comment. I agree the press tends to want to find the negative in anything MS does and I think with regard to deve tools they’re (the press) often out of touch as Microsoft has done some impressive work since .NET 1.0 rolled out and with the foundation they’ve built it’s allowing for things like rapid SL releases. Granted it doesn’t mean their hitting it in all areas, they’re way late in the game on SL as compared to Flash and who knows where Mobile is headed. I do know that the laptop they gave out is exactly what I’ve been wanting in a netbook and I hope they can convince Acer to SKU it for anyone to purchase.

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