Upcoming Ottawa Windows 7, Windows Phone 7 & Silverlight Events

Tue Nov 30th 2010 at 5:00pm

Windows Phone 7 Developer Briefing

Thu Dec 2nd 2010 at 11:45am

Silverlight Firestarter (with roadmap announcement)

Thu Dec 2nd 2010 at 8:30am or 5:00pm

Building Awesome Apps for Windows 7! Community Tour

You can stay for the Windows 7 and Silverlight events on Dec 2nd at the same venue!!

Details below…

Tue Nov 30th 2010 – Windows Phone 7 Developer Briefing

Get Your App in Gear – Register today and join us at the Windows Phone 7 Developer Briefing

Join us for an informative Windows Phone 7 Briefing to learn more about developing on Microsoft’s latest mobile platform. The briefing will cover the two application frameworks available for Windows Phone 7, where to find developer resources, how to submit apps into Marketplace, and much more!

Register here:

Ottawa, On – November 30, 2010 at 5pm

AGENDA
Registration
5:00pm

Start
6:00pm

Introduction
Apps with Silverlight
Break/Q&A
Games with XNA
Next Steps/Q&A

End

9:00pm

Apps with Silverlight
Silverlight provides standard user controls and an event-driven model suited to building apps that bring information to the user. In this session, you’ll see an app or two built right in front of you, and learn about many aspects of Silverlight development for Windows Phone, including controls, laying them out, the model-view-viewmodel pattern, resources, themes, data binding and data templates, making asynchronous web requests, LINQ to XML and more.

Games with XNA
XNA is a game loop-based framework that makes it easier to build 2-D and 3-D games where gameplay, graphics and sound are key. You’ll watch the construction of a 2-D game and in the process learn about XNA’s game loop, resources, screen management, sprites, getting input from the accelerometer and touchscreen, collision detection, making use of game code libraries and other aspects of game development with XNA.

Next Steps
You’ve now had a taste of developing for Windows Phone with both Silverlight and XNA. What now? At this session we’ll cover where to get the tools and hardware, where to find additional developer resources such as tutorials, books and communities, how to register with the App Hub, how to submit an app to Marketplace and even talk about ideas for new apps.

Thu Dec 2nd 2010 at 12pm – Silverlight Firestarter (with roadmap announcement)

Come to the Microsoft Ottawa office on Dec 2nd 2010 @ 11:45 am ET sharp to watch the future of Silverlight unfold. 

On Dec 2nd 2010, Microsoft is running the all-day Firestarter event about Silverlight.  It opens with a keynote from Scott Guthrie (Corporate VP of the Developer Division) on the Future of Silverlight and features various sessions from renowned speakers.   It’s like another day of PDC just for Silverlight. 

We’ll be watching and discussing the morning portion of the live event as a group.  Colin Melia (Microsoft MVP for Silverlight), will be there along with Microsoft’s Christian Beauclair to discuss the event and answer questions.

Silverlight is THE developer platform for rapidly building and deploying UI- and media-rich data-connected business and consumer applications for the web, the desktop and the phone.  It’s available today.  Microsoft has invested and will continue to invest in Silverlight, and in products that use it including LightSwitch, Lync, Windows InTune, the new Azure Portal, etc.

No registration is required.

100 Queen Street (the World Exchange Plaza – with underground parking)

Suite 500 (5th floor)

Ottawa, ON

K1P 1J9

AGENDA
Welcome
11:45am

Live Broadcast start
12:00pm

End – continue watching at home

4:45pm

What is the Silverlight Firestarter?

· An Event. A one day, global, live streamed and on demand event keynoted by Scott Guthrie.

· Training. New self-paced labs and walk through videos.

· Interactive. Watch live and ask the Silverlight product team and local experts questions during the event.

· Why Silverlight? Silverlight is a powerful development platform for creating engaging, interactive user experiences for Web, desktop, and mobile applications when online or offline.

Full streaming event details – http://www.silverlight.net/news/events/firestarter/

Thu Dec 2nd 2010 – Building Awesome Apps for Windows 7! Community Tour

Windows® 7 represents an amazing opportunity for application developers. Since shipping just one year ago, more than 240 million licenses of Windows 7 have been sold. (That’s roughly seven copies of Windows 7 sold every second!). Windows 7 is also an amazing platform. Through integrated capabilities through the Windows Taskbar, sensors, text, and speech, it blends the best technology, innovation, and creativity to empower developers to create awesome apps.

Join Kate Gregory or Richard Campbell in five cities in Canada for the Building Awesome Apps for Windows 7 tour. Come hear how you can start taking advantage of the capabilities of Windows 7 in your new/existing applications TODAY. (Registration is free).

Register here:

Ottawa, On – Dec 2nd 2010 at 8:30am.

Ottawa, On – Dec 2nd 2010 at 5:00pm.

AGENDA
Registration *
8:30am/5:00pm

Start
9:00am/5:30pm

A Lap Around the Windows® API Code Pack

Building Touch-First Applications with Windows® 7

Q&A

End

11:30am/8:00pm

A Lap around the Windows® API Code Pack

The Windows API Code Pack for the .NET Framework is a managed library for building applications that light up on Windows 7. It provides access to new user interface features (taskbar jump lists, libraries, sensor platform and more) as well as "behind the scenes" features that make your applications more aware and responsive (restart and recovery, power management and more). This is a must-have library for developers targeting Windows 7 with managed code. In this session, you’ll learn how to quickly incorporate the Windows API Code Pack into your applications to take advantage of features in Windows 7.

Building Touch-First Applications for Windows® 7

In Windows 7, innovative touch and gesture support enable a rich and natural interaction with applications. Are your applications ready to support this new wave of PC form factors? Are they finger-friendly to support interactions and gestures on Windows 7? This session highlights the new multi-touch gesture APIs and explains how you can leverage them in your applications.

Got questions about this event? Email John Bristowe (Sr. Developer Evangelist, Microsoft Canada) – john.bristowe@microsoft.com / @jbristowe / blogs.msdn.com/cdndevs

*Light refreshments and snacks will be available

Microsoft Announcements at Steve Ballmer’s CES 2010 Keynote

This post was updated live during the keynote on Wed Jan 6th 2010.

All the juicy information on the keynote is below, but first, I’d appreciate 30 seconds of your time to support my session submissions for the Microsoft Mix 2010 conference by voting (follow the link, select a session, add to ballot, back up to repeat for other sessions, then submit the ballot)…

Looking to learn more about the Windows Azure Platform, Silverlight, Windows Touch or Windows Identify Foundation?

If you’d like to see these sessions in person at Microsoft’s Mix 2010 conference or the recordings that will likely be made available for free later on, please vote for the sessions before January 15th 2010, by going to the site, adding the 3 sessions to you ballot and submitting it

Background

Microsoft’s focus for the event

  • Screens woven into the fabric of our lives, specifically the PC and TV experience
  • Cloud – approach that combines power of client and cloud
  • Natural User Interface

Product/Service Announcements

  • Bing will be default search engine and MSN default homepage for HP PCs in 42 countries
  • HTC HD2 with Windows Mobile 6.5 exclusively through T-Mobile in the USA (more to say at phones at Mobile World Congress in Feb 2010)
  • Mediaroom 2.0 – IPTV solution for service providers such as AT&T U-verse (US) – live & on-demand content to the TV, Xbox, PCs (Windows 7 Media Center) & Windows Phones, enabled with Silverlight and IIS Smooth Streaming.
  • New slate form-factor PCs with Windows 7 coming in 2010 – will anyone notice once Apple releases their tablet?
  • Lots of cool games coming to Xbox in 2010 inc. Halo Reach (prequel to Halo 1), Crackdown 2, Fable III, COD MW2 content packs & Alan Wake (… a psychological action thriller delivered in episodes)
  • Xbox Game Room will have 1000+ old-style arcade games (with collaborative showdown) released over next 3 years starting in the spring.
  • Xbox Project Natal scheduled to be available for the 2010 holiday season – no new demos however

Demos/Information

  • Video of Seth Meyers from Saturday Night Live ‘thanking technology for everything is does for us’ (with comic sarcasm) – not sure there was a point to that…
  • There are 39 Million Xbox consoles around the world and 500M+ games sold ($20B+)
  • 11 Million users brought to Bing
  • Windows 7 had 3000 engineers, 50,000 partners and 8M beta testers
  • PC sales jumped nearly 50% the week Windows 7 launched
  • In 2009 33% more PCs sold at US ‘Black Friday’ (traditional retail sale day) than in 2008
  • Windows 7 All-in-ones shown: Lenovo A300 (thinnest on market), Medion Touch, Sony Vaio L
  • Windows 7 Laptops shown: Asus, MSI, Dell Adamo XPS (thinnest on market with very fast wake-up), Asus NX90
  • Windows 7 (‘full version’) Netbooks shown:  Lenovo, Acer, etc.
  • Windows 7 Gaming machines shown: HP NV15, Toshiba X505
  • Windows 7 3D Gaming machine shown: ASUS G51
  • Windows 7 on small-form-factor PCs shown: Acer Aspire Revo, Dell Xeno HD
  • Demo of digital reader with interaction and text to voice – Blio (1M+ books)
  • Demo of SkyDrive, Device Stage, Windows Live & Office 2010
  • Demo of Bing Maps zooming in with StreetSide
  • Demo of Ceton CableCard in Windows 7 Media Center – recording 4 HD channels at one time
  • Demo of what else you can do on the PC while watching TV on it (playing in background) – with horrible audio ‘stuck-record’ repeating glitch ;).
  • Demo of Windows 7 Media Center front-end to CBS (US TV Network)
  • Windows 7 slate form-factors coming in 2010 shown: Pegatron, Arcos & HP, with a video of the HP prototype specifically, with Kindle software running
  • Another Seth Meyes video on the ‘history of things that have happened in technology’… yawn…
  • Between Xmas and new year Xbox LIVE had 2.2M concurrent members online – busiest week ever
  • 20M+ Xbox Live users
  • A new member each second last week
  • A 1/3 of Xbox Live time is on non-gaming activities like buying extra songs, avatar clothing, etc.
  • 20M people have logged into Facebook, Twitter & last.fm, via Xbox Live
  • Demo of Xbox doing HD movie rental with instant streaming

Get further basic details from the MS press release, as well as a further press release about Natural User Interfaces (Voice, Touch and Beyond)

2010 New-Year Prediction: Silverlight + Azure = The New Windows

It has probably not escaped many of you that Windows’ market share (and that of related editions) is being eroded and is potentially under threat to varying extents in some markets as we role into 2010. 

  • iPhone is whipping ‘Windows phones’ such that Windows Mobile 7 will likely be a do or die mission in in 2010 (or more realistically 2011)
  • Android is nibbling at Windows phones too
  • Zune is nowhere near iPhone
  • Netbooks with non-Windows OS installs are creeping into the remaining markets
  • Mac is constantly barking its commercials
  • LAMP is still thriving
  • Google is trying to satisfy basic user requirements will a wafer-thin OS or by being OS-independent

I think however, that Microsoft has the opportunity to really drive adoption of Windows, but not in the way it has before.  The real opportunity for Windows’ continued prosperity lies in the cloud.  Even though this may happen, I do not however think it will be seen as a success – at least not initially (and doomsayers for Windows will jump on this).  The resulting public attitude will probably really grate at Microsoft for some time.

The money may continue to stream in because Microsoft has (or is now planning) a story whereby more people can begin to use, or will continue to use Windows but it would be more so Windows Azure (not the client OS) and they will not be paying for it directly.  The indirect payment may lead to less consumer-based visibility, which may create a negative trend in public opinion (which is what matters in today’s Internet-temperature-measured society).  Few people care how their cool app works.  Azure may be a great back-end for a web-based iPhone app, but it would probably be seen as a point for iPhone/Apple, not Windows/Microsoft.

Microsoft has a ‘Good, Better, Best’ mantra for client richness, but it has previously focused its attention on the ‘Best’, aka Windows ‘proper’.

An application with a Windows 7 client and a Windows Server + Windows SQL Server back (and other servers), and perhaps Office apps as optional clients, is the ideal for Microsoft revenues, but Microsoft is starting to see that serving the ‘Better’ experience is necessary and potentially even more profitable if they can’t get you to effectively subscribe to a ‘Windows’ license by helping to make sure your application/service provider uses Azure.  These providers are paying the real fees to Microsoft while collecting their own revenue stream from users through fees and/or ad-supported revenues.

Silverlight equates to a compact yet rich UI experience that will broaden in future versions and is, or will be, available on many platforms, serving as a great gateway to the Windows Azure Platform.  WPF applications on Windows available via ClickOnce installations (or as XAPs via IE/Firefox) also represent revenue suckers on the tentacles to Azure.    Ray Ozzie flat-out said at PDC09 that Internet Explorer 9 and Silverlight (preferably on Windows 7 of course) are the future for all 3 screens.  That of course leaves IE9 on Windows (or the lesser IE versions on other Windows platforms) or other browsers as the ‘Good’ option which again can also be services on the back-end by Windows Server or Windows Azure.

Microsoft has of course already been collecting service-provider style licensing fees via its SPLA program.  My company has been a licensee for some time in fact.  A cohesive and (almost, but not quite yet) affordable cloud offering for small ISVs opens up the flood gates to licensing Windows (in it’s Azure form, along with SQL Azure) to many more end users who can be consuming ‘Windows’ on any platform, even a Google Chrome browser.

To make this work, Microsoft really needs to up its game for developers in terms of tools and offerings…

It doesn’t help that Silverlight tool support in Visual Studio has been non-existent; forget Expression Blend that developers haven’t had the time or perhaps money to conquer.  WPF applications have also been few and far between; likely for similar tool-support reasons.

Visual Studio 2010 may be just in time, and Microsoft is clearly taking no chances, having recently announced a delay to the RTM in order to improve performance.  This is the first version of the IDE using WPF and Microsoft can’t have poor IDE performance be the reason that developers shun VS2010 en mass.  Adoption of 2010 is crucial because Microsoft has invested energy into integrating tools for their new technologies/platforms and making them easier to target (e.g. SharePoint 2010 and Azure).  The announced delay seems like the smartest move to me.

The included Azure consumption units being added to MSDN Subscription are a tiny and insufficient token.  The initial offering for the highest level subscribers covers one Windows Azure server for 8 months and then goes down.  This simply isn’t high enough to encourage people to get something off the ground.

Microsoft needs to do well with Windows Mobile 7.  This is rumoured to have a Silverlight-based interface which would be more of a plus if the tools had matured already.  If Microsoft could get all the Internet-connected apps for WM7 to be hosted on Azure, maybe they could give away the WM7 license?  You currently need a non-free Visual Studio edition for client-based Windows Mobile development.  Perhaps adding a free Visual Mobile 2010 Express Edition would help push things along?

So the more precise prediction is that Silverlight+Azure = Windows in terms of revenue to many more end-users (who may not be on Windows or have no prior computer), as well as potentially preventing loss of net revenues if people move off the Windows Client.  It may be hard to measure initially like Obama ‘creating or saving’ x million jobs.  It may not happen in 2010, but the seeds must be sewn in 2010.  The real key advocates for this maneuver are the ISVs and service providers and its (and the predictions) success or failure will ride on motivated these parties are to go down this route as well as how easily they can execute it.  Microsoft has to do more to provide solid timely tools, communicate the benefits, educate developers and provide substantial/usable offers for Azure adoption.  Microsoft has not announced a PDC 2010 which means it falls to Mix (not clearly a transition-to-cloud conference) and TechEd conferences (often seen as more IT Pro than developer), regional evangelism, local evangelism and blogs 😉 to help them along…

Microsoft Tech Days Canada

Today was the 2nd and final day of Microsoft’ Tech Days conference in Ottawa (the 6th city on the 7-city tour).  I had the opportunity to speak about two great topics:

What’s new in Silverlight 3

This talk focused on new features in Silverlight 3.  It was clear that many people have yet to take a look at any version of Silverlight.  This made for a fun challenge – trying to explain new features, while also explaining Silverlight basics, and say how it compares to JQuery with HTML 5.  Ottawa’s government-worker-centric population may explain the results of my straw-poll survey with the audience.  The snow-storm in the morning made a little dent in attendance, and given the audience make-up, a general introduction session for Silverlight would likely have received a bigger audience (and would probably still do so a year from now when talking about what’s new in Silverlight 4).

Optimizing your apps for the Windows 7 user experience. 

This session seemed to get a very positive response, most likely due to the fact that the Windows API Code Pack is available which provides managed wrappers to the Windows 7 native APIs such that making use of new Windows 7 features (like the Taskbar) is practically trivial.

 

It was a great experience working with the Microsoft Canada guys and my friends in the community.  I look forward to doing so again next year on topics such as Silverlight 4, Azure, Office 2010, VS2010/.NET 4.0, and hopefully in multiple cities.

PDC09 Announcements – Day 2 Keynote

Blogged live – now completed.

Check out further PDC coverage

Background

  • Everything is about 3 screens (desktop, phone and TV) and the cloud.
  • Day 1 focus – Backend, i.e. Azure.
  • Day 2 focus – Office, Silverlight & Windows focus on Day 2.
  • Microsoft emphasis will be on IE + Silverlight for all 3 screens – desktop, phone and TV.

Announcements

  • Not going to announce Windows 8 stuff in the interests of being ‘responsible’ and ensuring that what is disclosed is actionable – not ready for that yet.
  • FREE Windows 7 ‘PDC laptop’ (Acer machine with Microsoft’s preferred software image, resistive multi-touch, accelerometer) available to all paying PDC attendees (!!!).  Conditions apply ;).  Is this Oprah?
  • ‘3 weeks’ into IE 9 development – Standards progress (HTML 5); performance improvements in JavaScript; Hardware-accelerated DirectWrite/Direct2D Graphics & Text
  • IE9 already on 32/100 on Acid3 test, up from 20/100 on IE8
  • Channel9 videos on IE9 being posted today
  • Silverlight will be used this Winter for Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show and Winter Olympics
  • Silverlight will be used by Bloomberg, National Instruments, Siemens (medical diagnostic imaging)
  • Silverlight now on 45% of the world’s internet-connected devices (up from 33% in the summer)
  • Silverlight 4 – Media, Business Applications, Beyond the Browser
  • Silverlight 4: Webcam & Microphone on the machine (including raw access); multi-cast streaming; offline DRM support
  • Silverlight 3 media framework on codeplex this week
  • Next version for IIS Media Services will support IPhone clients as streaming client – see iis.net/iphone.
  • Silverlight 4 introduces support for: printing; rich text; clipboard access; right click; mouse wheel; implicit styles; drag/drop; bidi & rtl; html hosting (including content as brush); commanding/mvvm; additional controls (including rich text)
  • Silverlight 4 includes: compile once, use in both SL and .NET 4; UDP multicast (p2p); rest protocol enhancements; improved WCF support (inc. TCP channel support); RIA Services; works better with OData (Astoria)
  • Visual Studio 2010 Silverlight support: WYSIWYG Design Surface (not news), XAML IntelliSense Improvements; Improvements for Data Binding, Layout & Styles; WCF RIA Services Integration
  • Silverlight 4 offline includes: Windowing APIs; Notification popups; HTML hosting; Drop Target
  • Silverlight 4 offline ‘elevated’ includes: Custom Windows Chrome, Local File System, Cross-Site Network; Keyboard in Full Screen Mode; Hardware Device Access; COM Automation of local objects (and location APIs).
  • Silverlight 4: Twice as fast; 30% faster startup; new profiling support
  • Silverlight 4 supported on Google Chrome.
  • Silverlight 4 still under 5MB to install.
  • Will ship the Silverlight 4 Facebook-integration demo as reference sample
  • 70% of voted-for Silverlight 4 features (including 9 of top 10) included
  • Silverlight 4 Beta – announced as NOW AVAILABLE!!!!!!! at http://silverlight.net/getstarted/silverlight-4-beta/ and see http://channel9.msdn.com/learn include (what’s new)
  • Silverlight 4 RC – No Date
  • Silverlight 4 Final Release – No Date (I think perhaps March 22nd with VS 2010)
  • Office 2010 Beta and SharePoint 2010 Beta general availably announced – http://www.microsoft.com/office/2010/en/default.aspx – no new announcements yet though
  • Silverlight can use client-side object model to talk to SharePoint 2010
  • Office 2010 Mobile available on Windows Market Place for Mobile on 6.5 devices
  • Outlook Social Connector (part of Office 2010 Beta): Get social networking in Outlook with people info, history, activities; SharePoint 2010 Provider, Windows Live Provider in 2010; Linkedin Provider in 2010; has general SDK for making providers

Demos/Information

  • Silly video from Windows Management Team about collecting feedback/error report information – new non-lethal torture methods? 😉 – complete with entertainment-only disclaimer
  • Lots of telemetry data from the Windows development cycle – they even monitored stuff like number of presses on Start button and Aero Snap/Shake uses.
  • They analyzed the audio of the audience at the last PDC – best reaction was to the new Windows 7 slider control for UAC levels.
  • Various usability study videos cut out from live feed to protect IP.
  • Various demos of W7 new hardware-supporting features – touch, sensors, hardware-accelerated encoding, directx 11, etc.
  • Using yesterday’s IE9 build: Acid3 test results’; GDI vs. Direct2D smooth text rendering and animation; Bing maps jittery in software vs. smooth in hardware (60fps)
  • Recap video of SketchFlow in Expression Blend 3.
  • Silverlight 4 demos: video/image capture from local webcam; live preview of effects on webcam capture (incl. chromakey, bulge effect based on sound level, alien effect) using pixelshader effects; opensource barcode scanning with demo of scan of barcode goes to amazon page.
  • Silverlight 3 Demo (not shown on live stream) of PVR functions including pause and slow motion on live and pre-recorded events.
  • Silverlight 4 Demo of rich text control (including direct copy from grid selection in Excel)
  • Silverlight 4 Demo of Bing, Flash and even Silverlight hosted inside Silverlight including using it as a live brush (!!!).
  • Demo of VS2010 features for Silverlight 4: RIA data services; OData in data sources (and drag/drop to design surface); datagrid; implicit styles; new resource picker; new databinding picker; client-side validation from entity attributes
  • SnapFlow Silverlight app that allows building of online business applications hosted on Azure: DirectBuy example; HR example
  • Silverlight 4 Demo of elevated app integrated with Facebook including: local automation of Office; webcam photo upload; supper thumbnail listing performance; drag and drop of pictures; direct device photo import (!!!)
  • Demo of SharePoint 2010 Development with race track engineering/telemetry app: SharePoint on Vista/Win7; Sandbox solutions; VS Debugging; Read data from Azure; SP 2010 & Excel 2010 Client Object Models in Silverlight; show telemetry against video playback

PDC09 Announcements – Day 1 Keynote

Blogged live – now complete – curiously Bob Muglia’s closing remarks were cut off on the live feed.  Very much looking forward to the Silverlight stuff tomorrow.

Check out further PDC coverage

Background

  • Everything is about 3 screens (desktop, phone and TV) and the cloud.
  • Day 1 focus – Backend, i.e. Azure.
  • Day 2 focus – Office, Silverlight & Windows focus on Day 2.
  • Microsoft emphasis will be on IE + Silverlight for all 3 screens – desktop, phone and TV.
  • Ray Ozzie wants you to bet on Windows 7, IE8, Silverlight, Windows Azure, SQL Azure, 3 screens and a cloud
  • Bob Muglia talks at length about moving existing applications to the cloud (‘move, enhance, transform’) – partnering with Avanade & Accenture
  • Cloud application aspects being covered at PDC Self-Service, Elastic, Service-Orientated, Federated, Scale-Out, Staged Productions, Always Available, Multi-Tenant, Failure Resilient

Microsoft Announcements

  • Azure platform going live Jan 1 2010, but no charging until Feb 1 2010 – this is not news btw
  • Azure projects are available in Visual Studio 2010
  • Windows Azure has RESTful service APIs to manage configuration
  • Windows Azure Pricing: $0.12ph (1×1.6GHz/1.75MB); $0.24ph (2×1.6GHz/3.5GB); $0.48ph (4×1.6GHz/7.0GB); $0.96ph (8×1.6GHz/14GB)
  • Windows Azure now supports fast CGI support, PHP, MySQL
  • Azure – auto geo-replication in pairs – 3 pairs (NA, EU, Asia) going live in Jan 2010
  • Azure Storage Updating features – entity group transactions, snapshot, copy
  • Azure Storage Accessing features – block blobs, page blobs, leases
  • Azure Storage Serving features – shared access signatures, custom domain names, content delivery network (CDN)
  • Azure Storage – X-Drives – NTFS-like drive access to cloud storage
  • SQL Azure – Fuller DB, T-SQL, Stored Procedures, ADO.NET, works against Excel, support from SQL Server Management Studio (2008 R2)
  • Some customers will be able to go live today including WordPress
  • Microsoft PinPoint – catalogue of products and services targeting developers and IT (showing in Azure portal and partner network, and later into online portal for IT)
  • Codename “Dallas” (completely on Windows Azure and SQL Azure) open catalogue for data (public and commercial) with uniform discovery, trial and licensing – touted as a game-changer
  • ADO.NET Data Services (Astoria) also now known as OData.
  • Project “Sydney” – connects Azure platform to existing private data-centre services together
  • Windows Azure creatable images (with admin access) coming in 2010 (Windows base, customise, snapshot, deploy)
  • AppFabric (Windows Server Beta 1 available now & Windows Azure Beta 1 in 2010) – create high availability, scale-out, multi-tenant, manageable apps (especially using WCF and WF) covering caching, Workflow hosting, monitoring, service bus, service hosting, access control – formerly called “Dublin”?
  • Windows Identify Foundation RTM
  • Go-live license for Visual Studio 2010 Beta 2 & .NET Framework 4 beta 2 – this is not news
  • Oslo now SQL Server Modeling Services
  • The stack is now: Applications – Exchange/SharePoint; Dev Tools – VS; Programming Model – .NET Framework; App Services, Windows Server/Azure AppFabric; DB – SQL Server/Azure; OS – Windows Server/Azure; Management – System Center
  • System Center Cloud Beta in 2010
  • SQL Server 2008 R2 RTM in 2010
  • Visual Studio 2010 & .NET 4.0 RTM March 22nd 2009 – this is not news

Demos

  • Seesmic.com demo of Twitter client using Silverlight and for Windows with WPF – will become a platform soon
  • WordPress (who hosts 10 million blogs) demo on Azure and how it can scale easily
  • OddlySpecific.com (from creators of ICanHasCheeseburger, FailBlog & PunditKitchen) launched today on Windows Azure & SQL Azure – also can use CDN
  • Codename “Dallas” – Showing discovery (by catalogue); explore data with REST, AtomPub, etc. and Excel 2010 PowerPivot; demo of service proxy it can build for you; 3D (!!) demo of mars image exploration – underwhelming reaction from audience
  • US Federal Chief Information Officer – talking about democratising information (like GPS and NASA Pathfinder);  http://beamartian.jpl.nasa.gov; Career finder application on mobile device (via data.gov) – yawn (despite the profound implications)
  • Silly fictional video about the cloud starring Bob Muglia – groan
  • Azure Low-level access (Don Box & Chris Anderson) – Windows Azure application in low-level simple C++ (and assembler!); Azure SQL accepting T-SQL from SMSS to create pdc ‘talks’ table and insert rows; Show OData javascript app (using o-auth wrap to .NET Services Access Control Service) on ‘talks’ table
  • Kelly Blue Book (kbb.com – 14M unique per month in 2 data centres) Silverlight App (showing filtering and zooming) – showing flexible cost model with Windows Azure; less than 1% code-base change plus Azure config file; also using SQL Azure (using same mechanisms as before) and showing SQL Azure Data Sync – most scripted/stiff demo of the keynote.
  • Video of how customers can use Azure platform: Dominoes (peaks on Superbowl and Friday nights); Siemens; RiskMetrics
  • Project “Sydney” demo – connection of Azure application to private data-centre SQL database
  • Increasing functional of the Tailspin travel app (.NET 3.5) with .NET 4.0 and VS 2010 tools: showing VS 2010 multi-monitor; using ASP.NET MVC diagram; adding single sign-on quickly with Windows Identity Foundation (uses AD token service); new find-in-files window; client-side validation with ASP.NET MVC 2; Intellitrace shows trace (e.g. ADO.NET) and allow navigation back to code that produced the trace; add AppFabric to use distributed memory cache feature; automated web-app UI test(!) which shows that the memory cache improved performance; new Windows Workflow 4 designer; AppFabric exposes WF 4 through a web service automatically with tracking UI shown in IIS Manager; MSDeploy integrated with Visual Studio for each single-file publish/deploy (to staging/live)
  • Moving Tailsping travel app (as enhanced above) seamlessly to Azure; creating an app model with designer in VS 2010 by adding web role, AppFabric role and database role and associating with projects; published to Azure (using Windows Identity Foundation to allow federation of AD identity); use System Center Operations Manager (SCOM) to monitor Azure application and help check for SLA violations

Win 7 RTM on an Intel X25-M (2nd gen) SSD

Back in July as Win 7 RTM’d, I got a new Dell Studio 14z notebook and at the same time, ordered an Intel X25-M 80GB 2nd gen drive – SSDSA2MH080G2C1.

Despite the back-order status on the SSD, the supplier assured me they would be coming into stock on the date indicated on their website.  My delivery date came and went and the supplier was none-the-wiser.  I eventually discovered that there had been a recall on the drives.  Don’t you hate it when you know more about this stuff than the supplier?  Where’s the value add?

Out of the blue, I received the drive last week, about 10 weeks late…

I didn’t think I’d have time to install it before next week, but waiting for a furnace service and testing some long-running workflow code provided the opportunity, because… using an SSD (especially this one) makes everything fast!

Here are the immediately noticeable benefits:

  • Windows 7 Pro 64 installed in about 12 minutes (excluding interaction)!
  • Windows 7 boots in under 15 seconds!
  • There is no HDD noise.
  • Hibernate and resume is super fast.
  • Applications launch very very quickly.
  • Installs are very quick.
  • The Win 7 WEI data transfer sub-score if 7.8, just 0.1 below the max.

The only bad part of the experience was the slight moment of panic when I thought I’d broken a motherboard connector (but hadn’t) for the keyboard (which had to be out of the way to swap the hard drive easily).  The drive has a SATA interface and a 2.5” drive form factor (including an extra layer of plastic to fill out its size to match regular drive depth).

Of course there’s the cost.  This drive was ~CDN$250 for 80GB.  I use 10,000RPM Raptors in RAID 0 on my desktop (yes I know its risky – that’s what back up for).  Despite the SSD cost, I may go for 2xSSD in RAID 0 for when I move from Vista to Win 7 on there.  I may also build a 4xSSD RAID10 setup for my hyper-v server’s VHD storage – should be interesting.  The price of these things can only come down.

There are no fancy benchmarks here – just a happy customer.  I have not had a chance to try any serious application use yet.  I use the machine for couch-development and presentations and will be installing Visual Studio and SQL Server (64-bit).  I will also try the new Virtual PC.  Perhaps more on that later.

A Peak at My Presenting Experience with Windows 7 RTM

So last night, I did a presentation on programming and extending SQL Server Reporting Services.  I may post more on that later.

I installed Windows 7 RTM (Pro x64) last Thursday when it came out to MSDN/TechNet subscriber because, well…, it’s kinda cool to use the new stuff.

I had no issues with SQL 2008 Dev SP1 (you are warned when you install the RTM that it’s not compatible and need the SP) and VS 2008 Pro SP1.

The latest Flash player, Adobe Reader and Silverlight 3 (surprising not in the RTM) all worked just fine.

I also used SlySoft’s Virtual CloneDrive (for opening .ISOs) without issue.

Three things I learned while doing the presentation in relation to Windows 7.

  • Either learn the new shell icons or set the taskbar to show text, not just icons – you don’t want to be guessing which thing is which because…
  • Aero Peak is not your friend for presenting.  While Vista added LivePreview (live pop-up thumbnails of applications that appear just above the task bar which you hover the cursor over the taskbar items), Window 7 includes Aero Peak.  By default applications with 2+ instances open (2+ IE, Visual Studio or Explorer instances that I needed open) have just one taskbar icon and you see multiple thumbnails above each icon when you mouse-over each one.  You can click on a thumbnail to switch to (and restore if necessary) it’s application window.  This is solid, but if you hover your cursor over one of these thumbnails, after a split second, the new Aero Peak feature kicks in.  All the other windows become just rectangular outlines and the window for the thumbnail you are over is the only window showing.  Even if the window is minimised it temporarily shows in its restored position.  Now roll to the other thumbnails and everything switches.  This sounds great for a single user, but it can be potentially confusing and jarring for the audience.  I liken this to when you are in a movie theatre and you hear random interrupting sounds from other people.  Those people don’t find the sounds annoying because they are controlling them, but to others it’s a bit random.  You really need to know which window is which or avoid Aero Peak unless you really need it.
  • Practice with extended desktops if you are going to use it and have things set up ahead of time and/or move the taskbar to the projected screen.  I had a prompt script open in Word on my laptop screen and had the main show projected from the extended screen.  This is nice because the audience sees things full screen, but it does mean you have to manage windows.  If you are going to say “I’m going to open…" you don’t want a window management pause while you drag across a screen that has launched on your laptop screen.  Also, when this setup is combined with Aero Peak/Live Preview activity, the audience cannot see the thumbnail interaction and so don’t know why there’s a less-than-smooth window-flicking experience occurring on the projected screen.  Therefore, it’s better to have the taskbar on the projected screen and/or avoid Aero Peak.

Netbooks Will Be Huge… in 2010

I’ve been surprised when attending a number of local developer community events that there haven’t been more laptops in use by attendees.  Perhaps the lack of free Wi-Fi was a factor.  One hears of various other events where many attendees have them and they are ‘Tweeting’ away.

However, I’m aware that university students have been bringing notebooks/laptops into classes for some time and increasingly so.

Separately, the netbook form-factor has become more popular lately.  Of course there was the UMPC, but it seems that the lack of a keyboard, or a regular one at least, along with the price-point over $1000 would easily put off purchasers.

Netbook (currently without a Microsoft update to pass a spell-check) computers are coming in around the $300 to $500 mark and now typically include an Intel N270 processor, 512MB to 1GB of RAM (2G is creeping in), a 8GB to 64GB SSD or small HDD with 100s of GB and an 8.9” to 10.1” screen.  Acer, Dell, LG & HP are some of the major brands selling them, typically under a ‘Mini’ moniker.

The major choice with a netbook is whether you go with a Ubuntu or Windows XP.  Yes, XP, not Vista.  Vista can be just too ‘fat’ (in the popular editions) to work well or at all (especially with smaller SSD drives), even though the hardware generally includes a GMA 950 graphics chipset for Aero Glass.  Search the web (including YouTube for videos) and you’ll see many current netbook owners successfully loading on the Windows 7 Beta or RC.  It has been reported by many that Microsoft is touting Windows 7’s netbook-friendliness.  It was also recently reported that Microsoft will sell discounted copies of Windows 7 Starter and Home Premium (like it did with specific XP editions) to OEMs if hardware falls within a new maximum specification.

Let’s quickly look at the likely usage profile for a netbook user, considering it’s capabilities.  The netbook user will IM, Tweet, blog, use Social networking web sites and software, do other web browsing, and perhaps use Office or more basic software.  Perhaps they’ll even play the odd low-spec casual or arcade game.  Much of this activity requires Wi-Fi availability.  Does this not describe typical student computer activity? Imagine students following slides or taking notes in lectures and doing web-based social activities in cafes, bars and other public places.  Don’t most campuses now have Wi-Fi?  Doesn’t the netbook represent a price drop of up to 50% compared to a laptop which is way over spec and form-factor for these activities?

So are there limitations for other activities that prevent use by students?  Well the keyboards can be a little cramped.  It’s usually necessary to get a 10”+ screen to get a usable keyboard layout with keys at 92% of regular size.  They don’t come with optical drives.  Depending on hard disk space, movies and other material can come along on disc and aren’t really needed for most of the activities above.  Also, things like Live Mesh and other services mean you don’t necessarily need everything loaded all the time.  Yes, I know students sit in lectures and watch movies with headphones on instead of listening, but just a handful.  The resolution is limited – often 1024×576 – which is enough for DVD movies but not 720P without down-scaling (which requires CPU or GPU power along with decoding).  However, it’s big enough for most of the core activities, and higher resolutions are now appearing for 10”+ screens.

OK, so the netbook form-factor is looking like a viable and student-price-friendly computer for on-the-go and learning locations.  Huge numbers of students all around the world are currently waiting for acceptance letters.  There are two big snags:

1.  As mentioned above, there are things that make the netbook computer unsuitable as a main machine for various groups of users.  This will come down however, to what kind of student or person you are.  If you like movies, software development, graphics stuff, playing WoW, CPU/GPU-intensive stuff and generally ‘vegging’ in front of your computer, you may have a budget decision.  If you do, then depending on if you already have a computer and whether you will be living at home or in a dorm, this may or may not be an issue.

If you live at home, commute daily to university and have a desktop computer then a netbook computer is the ideal mobile compliment.  If you have a notebook then you may not want to lug it every day (especially if its big), so a netbook may still be appropriate.

If you will live in dorms (likely the majority) then you will not have far to lug your notebook computer.  If you are making a decision for attending this year, it could be between a single mid-sized laptop or a more power laptop/desktop plus a mini – though clearly the latter is more expensive.  Depending on how you make your trip from home to the dorms each season, a desktop + mini may be an option that is the same price as a do-all mid-sized notebook computer.

Services like Live Mesh and others will no-doubt facilitate the multi-computer owner lifestyle.

I’ve mostly been talking about university students.  High-school students almost all live nearby their school or take a bus, so a netbook computer is a great compliment to whatever type of computer they have at home and may be an adequate single or even first computer.  This is another thing (like mobile phones) that school administrators will have to figure out how to deal with.  It’s a pity that the majority of education authorities are generally so behind on leveraging computer use that they will not be able to make use of the additional learning potential from these devices and are likely going to spend their time on rules to prevent the playing of games or even use of such devices at all.

2. Windows 7 is expected to RTM within a few months and Microsoft has confirmed retail availability for the end of the year.  This has been widely translated to an October release.  Most students wouldn’t want to invest in an XP machine for four years this August or September (unless they know it can be upgraded and how to do that without extra money).  People I’ve met with retail experience tell me that back-to-school is bigger than December.  As a netbook OEM I’d want Windows 7 by July to be selling in August/September.  Microsoft has been under-promising (though most watchers didn’t buy it) and over-delivering (if you believe the under-promising) lately, and many Windows 7 RC reviewers believe the product is basically ready to go.  It is possible that Windows 7 will come out early.  Two months from RC to RTM – possible but very tight.  Microsoft is apparently going to provide a free-upgrade to Windows 7 offer in July which helps somewhat.

Computer retailers are increasing carrying less desktop stock and more mobile stock.  There are a number of netbook computers on display, though they are largely the same small number of models in a variety of colours – so these things have some personalisation about them too which makes them more attractive to soome.  It’s likely that the current economy status is keeping their stock levels down too.  Come Aug/Sep this stock will grow, and retailers are deciding in the next two months which products they will carry.  Retailers, netbook/notebook OEMs and Microsoft are likely looking at this and wishing they could make Windows 7 happen as soon as possible.  Dell for example, is touting the Latitude 2100 for students.  This may be a shot in the wilderness until the Windows 7 free-upgrade is available, and would need to apply to XP purchases too if Microsoft expects any significant number of people to buy a netbook including XP with the hopes of moving to Windows 7.

In all likelihood, netbook sales will start taking hold this december and next year, when battery life, resolution, processing power and SSD storage price point have all improved.  I expect 2010 to be the real ramp-up for netbooks as standalone and first computers for some and complimentary computers for others using an increasing number of synchronisation services.  I also imagine that we’ll start seeing more computers, in netbook format, being brought to high schools or even provided by a small number of forward-thinking schools. 

Microsoft Keynote at CES 2009 Featuring Steve Ballmer

Announcements:

  • Windows 7 Beta available now to Technet & MSDN subscribers
  • Windows Live Essentials RTW available now for XP, Vista and Windows 7 Beta (including Messenger, Mail & Photo Gallery)
  • Partnership with Facebook for Windows Live users.  Can share updates
  • Partnership with Del – Live Essentials and Live Search will be pre-installed on machines worldwide
  • Partnership Wih Verizon – Live Search on Windows Mobile phones in US

Other announcements:

  • Halo Wars (with Teen rating) with release date of Feb 28th 2009 (and downloadable demo on Feb 5th)
  • Halo 3 ODST later in the year
  • Kodu – game creation for kids and XBox 360.