Tech-Ed: Gates' Farewell to Developers Focuses on Silverlight, Velocity, Oslo

Microsoft's founder and chairman kicked off Tech-Ed with a keynote that took an opportunity to look back, as well as provided a glimpse into the future.

In what will likely be remembered as his send-off to developers, Microsoft founder and chairman Bill Gates today kicked off the annual Tech-Ed Conference with a keynote that took an opportunity to look back, as well as provided a glimpse into the future.

Gates, who is giving up his day-to-day role with Microsoft on July 1, took to the stage one last time to take the wraps off a grab bag of developer-related technologies and updates. Among them were new details about the next betas of Silverlight 2 and Internet Explorer 8 (IE 8), as well as new enhancements around Visual Studio and SharePoint.

Also launched -- but not touted in Gates' keynote -- is an in-memory cache platform for distributed applications. Codenamed "Velocity," the project aims to boost the performance and reliability limits of enterprise applications.

Speaking to an audience of more than 5,000 developers in Orlando, Fla., Gates waxed nostalgic as he recalled three decades worth of computer development.

"When I think back on the early days of development when we were all programming in DOS, and then take a look at what we can do now with technologies like the .NET Framework, it simply amazes me how far we've come," Gates said.

Appearing on stage with Microsoft Developer Division Senior Vice President S. "Soma" Somasegar, as well as technical fellows David Campbell and Brian Harry, Gates demonstrated a number of Microsoft development solutions aimed at enabling enhanced user interfaces, more capable data-driven applications and better management of enterprise-scale software projects.

Gates also gave a plug for SharePoint Server development, revealing that Visual Studio 2008 extensions for Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 v1.2 will provide a simplified development environment for shops looking to extend their WSS and Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) deployments.

Data Layer
Joined by Harry, Gates discussed new tooling to help developers model and architect applications. New architecture tooling in Visual Studio Team System (VSTS) lets developers check application flows, drill down into the architecture layer and validate program code against the architecture design. Harry also noted that VSTS will let developers automatically check for architecture design violations at check-in.

As part of the demo, Harry showed off an upcoming IBM DB/2 database connector, which will allow developers to do DB/2 development directly within the VSTS Database Edition IDE. Developers can refactor DB/2 database code directly from within VSTS-based projects.

"You no longer have to manage two IDE environments for doing your application development," Gates said. "This is a big step forward."

Gates also trumpeted the Oslo project, the ambitious application modeling and repository effort first announced in November of last year. The first Oslo CTP is scheduled to arrive at the Professional Developers Conference (PDC) in October.

Microsoft also announced a new CTP of the Microsoft Sync Framework for Windows Mobile. The Sync Framework enables collaboration and offline functionality for devices, services and applications.

Gaining Velocity
One of the notable surprises at the conference was Project Velocity, which aims to streamline and enhance access to disparate data sources for high-performance applications that are spread across large clusters of computers. Microsoft has released the first community technology preview (CTP) of the forthcoming distributed in-memory application cache platform.

Also announced during the keynote was the release of Silverlight 2 beta 2, available for download this week. The latest cut of Microsoft's cross-platform rich Internet application platform is now available under the Go Live license, enabling dev shops to start working on public-facing Silverlight applications.

Somasegar demoed Silverlight 2 applications, including the Crossfader music video app that showed advanced interface effects and streaming low-bandwidth video playback. He also demoed integration with Expression Designer, showing how developers can tune application design from the Expression tooling.

Microsoft has updated tooling for Silverlight developers, announcing both the Expression Blend 2.5 June 2008 Preview and Microsoft Silverlight Tools beta 2 for Visual Studio 2008.

Finally, attendees also learned that IE 8 beta 2 will be available in August. IE 8 will usher improved support for Web standards, as well as two new features Gates emphasized: "Activities," which lets users gather things they do on the Web in a single place, and "Slices," which enables Web site owners to drive focus to a specific portion of their pages.

About the Author

Michael Desmond is an editor and writer for 1105 Media's Enterprise Computing Group.

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