Mink Machine

MSDN Live 2007 hits the road again

It has only been seven months since the last roadshow but the MSDN Live team is on the road again. Just as last time, a lot was said about ASP.NET AJAX, Silverlight and rich clients.

Microsoft are very good at making it sound as if they invented all technologies in the world. And it’s quite understandable, since which name would sound more intuitive for newbies who just need a browser tool: Internet Explorer or Firefox? Do you want to explore the Internet or do you need a burning animal for some reason?

Microsoft renamed their Ajax technology from codename Atlas into ASP.NET AJAX, and suddenly everyone understood what it was. I guess several people also believe that this “Ajax” thing is something new and cool invented by Microsoft. (Ironically, the building blocks of Ajax were actually created by Microsoft in 1998.)

Sometimes all it takes is a cool-sounding name: WPF/E was named Silverlight and suddenly everyone and their grandmother were talking about it.

Apple at Microsoft roadshow My fearless colleague brought a Mac to the Microsoft event.

Well, what about MSDN Live then? Fredrik Normén described a few tricks he’d learned about ASP.NET AJAX. He demonstrated techniques for writing object-oriented JavaScript code with the ASP.NET Ajax Library. It is a way for Microsoft to make server-side developers feel at home even at the client side. With JSON and the IntelliSense addition to VS2008 I think this could attract several developers, but I fear it will open up for proprietary client-side code.

Another topic was using the abstraction API for browser detection, but I still feel that browser detection techniques belong to the previous millennium.

Chris Klug from Jönsson & Lepp (not the snowboard pro) talked about Silverlight. He happily mixed 1.0 and 1.1 code, but be careful if you try it out since 1.1 is only available on VS2008, and you don’t want to install VS2008 betas on machines with VS2005 installed.

It feels like the development trend of Microsoft is a bit like Lego. Instead of making simple but efficient building blocks, they focus their efforts on making slick premade objects. Beautiful yes, but it stalls creativity and flexibility. This is very obvious in the click-and-drag mentality of today.

The final session was held by Robert Folkesson and Johan Lindfors. They discussed RIAs and the future of Web Forms after the release of WPF. Last time I heard web standards and DHTML mentioned in the same sentence, and this time I heard Frontpage uttered as a designer tool. Oh please. IFrame snippets were generated from Expression Encoding, ready for mindless pasting into innocent web pages. I still feel that the Expression suite, however skillfully developed, is a toy. I wonder if any developers in the real world will use this suite to create advanced projects?

Anyway, sorry for that little rant. There was also talk of Acropolis getting ditched last week, but Parallel FX Library lives. It enable developers to utilize multi-core processors by subtle use of delegates. It will likely be included in .NET 4.0.

I also wrote a summary in Swedish here: MSDN Live 2007


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